Tuesday, August 23, 2011


One source of new words in our language is retronyms. These develop when, due to changing technology, it becomes necessary to modify an old word in order to specify what we are talking about. I'd been thinking of doing a post on retronyms for a few weeks, then discovered today a short blurb on the subject in the September Readers Digest (Canadian edition, page 26). Their definition: "new terms coined to distinguish existing objects or ideas from innovations improving or replacing them."

The RD blurb (it wasn't an article, just a page filler) gave several examples, so I had to think of different ones. Here is my list.
  - film camera
  - incandescent light bulb
  - land-line telephone
  - steam locomotive
  - standard or manual transmission
  - organic farming 
At one time all cameras used film so the "film" designation only became necessary with the invention of digital cameras. Similarly with light bulbs, telephones and the rest, there used to be only one type.

Please write in and add your examples to the post as comments. Note: to send a comment you may have to  register with Blogger. If you don't want to do that, just send them to me in an email and I'll post them for you. sghingston@sasktel.net


  1. I think I am all caught up now. Great reading. All of them.

  2. The Reader's Digest list included: day baseball (before stadium lighting all games were in daytime), wooden bat, snail mail, whole milk, broadcast TV (vs cable), silent movies, natural turf, analog clock, black-and-white TV, rotary telephone, and acoustical guitar.

  3. My sister Evelyn heard another one the other day on TV: a "physical book".