Discovering Retronyms: Making Sense of Changing Language

Have you ever noticed that sometimes we need new words to describe things that have been around for a while?

This is where retronyms come in.

They’re like special words we use to tell the difference between something old and something new.

Back when I was young, my mother would cook in the oven. The word “oven” was enough to describe it.

But as time went on, things got fancier in the kitchen.

We now have microwaves, convection ovens and conventional ovens.

So, we had to come up with new words to explain which kind of oven we meant.

And think about telephones.

Way back, when we had only one type of phone at home, we just called it a “telephone.”

But then mobile phones and wireless phones showed up.

Suddenly, the old telephone needed a new name— “landline“—to distinguish it from the newer phones.

These examples showcase how retronyms are born out of necessity.

They bridge the gap between the original and the new, helping us avoid confusion in a rapidly changing world

So, next time you hear a retronym, remember it’s a cool way language keeps up with all the amazing changes in our lives!


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Foto Christine Sparks

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