Monday, February 27, 2012

On retronyms

On retronyms, from Bryan Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day:

When roller skates were invented in the 19th century, it became necessary to refer to the kind used on ice — originally just “skates” — as “ice skates.” When cars began appearing on turn-of-the-century roads, old-style carriages came to be called “horse-drawn carriages” to distinguish them from the new “horseless carriages.” In the 1910s, when sound first came to be synchronized with motion pictures (in “talking movies” or “talkies”), the original type of movie came to be known as the “silent movie.” That is, nobody ever referred to “silent movies” until sound was added to the newer type.
And speaking of silent films: I was very happy to see the Michel Hazanavicius’s The Artist do so well at last night’s Academy Awards. I love everything about The Artist but its typography.

Wikipedia has a list of retronyms.

[Bryan Garner, author of Garner’s Modern American Usage (2009), offers a free Usage Tip of the Day. You can sign up at Orange Crate Art is a Garner-friendly site.]

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