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AWADmail Issue 61December 16, 2001
A Weekly Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Other Interesting Tidbits about Words and Languages
From: Selma (selmaATglobalnet.co.uk)
I love your site. Instead of Christmas cards this year, I am sending your gift subscription. Probably 50 of them.
From: Anu Garg (garg AT wordsmith.org)
Be sure to read the transcript of last week's hilarious online chat with Richard Lederer.
From: Elizabeth Glover (elizabeth.gloverATharpercollins.com)
"And here are some other retronyms I pray will never come to pass... nonelectronic book..."
Too late for that, I'm afraid. Picking up from the world of on-line versions of many magazines and newspapers, we have the term "print edition," though I prefer the more colorful "dead-tree edition." (I have heard some wags use the sardonic term "dead-electron edition" for out-of-date information on the Internet.)
Fortunately, publishing houses still refer to books as "books" and "ebooks" within the industry. I think we do have a retronym, however, in "hardback (or hardcover) book." There was no need for that term until paperbacks were first printed.
From: Dan Taylor (grrldanATaol.com)
Here's my new favorite retronym: "Biomale/biofemale" meaning someone who was born into the sex that they identify with. This one is used mostly in the trans community, but is gaining more acceptance.
From: Canaan King (ckingATucsd.edu)
One of the fun aspects of being older and logoleptic is using the example of "wireless remote" to explain retronyms to the younger folks who have no idea there was ever anything but...
From: Jeffrey W Comer (jwc_dbx_solutionsATyahoo.com)
I enjoyed the word of the day for Monday, the 10th of December: retronym, a revisionist renaming of a previously commonly-accepted label.
Living in Virginia, one of my favorite retronyms involves the naming of Civil War battles which occurred in this state 140 years ago. One that comes to mind immediately is "The First Battle of Manassas", also known as "Bull Run" to the federalists. Of course, when the battle was fought and subsequently concluded, no one could have known there would later be a "Second Manassas".
On a larger scale, society had the dubious pleasure of referring to the armed conflicts of 1914-1919 as "The Great War". It was only the unfortunate inability to address the war's base causes that eventually gave us the retronym we all know today, "World War I".
From: Wayne Hathaway (wayneATdiamondsandjeans.com)
Along the line of retronyms, I like to observe the different default values for terms depending upon the part of the country and so forth.
For example, I grew up in Texas and now live in California. In Texas, if you said "skiing," it meant water-skiing; you had to specifically say "snow-skiing" if that's what you meant. In California, of course, it's the opposite. And in California, "polo" means water polo; you have to say "horse polo" if that's what you mean.
From: Becky Finn (sampickypawsATpowersurfr.com)
I love this one! Here's another possible future retronym: Gas powered vehicle. Or what about: Above-ground domicile...
From: Jo Purifoy (jodoyle1ATairmail.net)
My favorite involving a heteronym: In 1963 I worked at the Army Depot in Fort Worth, Texas. Our typewriters had instructions for changing the ribbon printed on the inside of the cover. I noticed the girl next to me, ribbon in hand, staring at her open typewriter cover. When I asked what was the matter, perplexed she said, "What does the direction of the wind have to do with the ribbon?"
From: Donald Cooper (dcooperateATyahoo.com)
I've seen signs posted hereabouts (San Francisco) and elsewhere that tell us not to "...throw trash or refuse". Although I'm guessing this is merely a redundant message, the authoritarian subtext troubles me.
From: Anu Garg (garg AT wordsmith.org)
The topic of aptronym brought a flood of responses. Among the most common were Dr. Payne/Paine or Dr. Hertz as the names of doctors or dentists. Many wrote back with examples of inaptronyms -- names eminently unsuitable for the profession, such as Cardinal Sin. Here are some selections:
I've always known this relationship as nominative determinism. This term
implies some sort of causative relationship between a person's name and
their interests, which is not so hard to believe. Someone called Harry
Bird, for example, may be teased by others asking about birds to such a
degree that he takes an interest in birds to counter the teasing, and so
the name becomes apt.
True name of a firm of solicitors (=attorneys) in Sligo in the West of
Ireland, to be seen on a brass plate by their door: Argue and Phibbs.
Dr Richard (Dick) Seed -- pioneer of reproductive technology, wants to
You can add these other real people:
Thank you - now I have the technical term for my surname!
A well-known gynaecologist in Melbourne is called 'Dr Fingers.'
Lake Speed, NASCAR driver.
I once had a neighbor named Dr. Dick Bone, an osteopath.
Local (Palos Heights, IL) aptronyms include Yankelovich the dentist and
Beaupied the podiatrist. Not necessarily English, but the concept works
in translation. Up the road in Worth, IL is Hooker's Bait Shop---the
sign logo features a curvaceous and suggestive fish.
There's a Patricia Feral who's an animal rights activist in the Stamford,
The fellow who ran our local hardware store (St. Matthews Hardware in
Louisville KY) for umpteen years was named George Hammer. George died
several years ago and is succeeded by his son, Pete Hammer.
Here in Minnesota we have had problems with deformed frogs. The frog
expert at Southwest University of Minnesota is Professor Hoppe!
I just wanted to share that we have in our small community (Parsonsfield,
Maine) a veterinarian named Dr. Beever and a physician named Dr. DeKay.
My last name, Kauppi, is Finnish and has a definite ethnic pronunciation.
Since my great grandfather came to America, the pronunciation has been
anglicized to "copy." After getting my PhD and only finding adjunct
teaching jobs, I took some editing courses and then did freelance
"copyediting." A publisher hired me after a few months and I became a
development editor (editing for content and logic and not grammar and
style). Though I am no longer a "copyeditor" per se, I still frequently
edit on hard "copy" and have the occasion to "copyedit" authors to improve
their style. I am truly amused and pleasantly astonished by the coincidence
between the pronunciation of my last name and my editorial duties. I'm
even more delighted that there's a word to describe this phenomenon.
To add another real life aptronym, my dentist name is Dr. Tom Fillar.
Sir Russell Brain, famous English neurologist
My favorite aptronyn is that of a recently retired dentist here in Fort
Lauderdale by the name of Dr. Hertz.
My truck's new tires from Firestone make driving smooth and pleasurable.
The name of the mechanic, an aptronym I'll never forget, is Roland Cruz.
I had a tattoo done by a man with the last name "Payne" and I know
a body piercer named "Lance". It's much funnier afterwards, trust me.
I recently had a tooth removed by an oral surgeon named 'Dr. Slaughter'.
My Methodist minister is Rev. D. Goodenough.
While perusing aptronyms, I was reminded of some nonaptronyms. One from
my home town - advertising himself as a "painless dentist" - whose name
was Dr. Aichen. Another, an architect for whom I used to work whose
moniker was Haack. One can only wonder what such names do - statistically
speaking - for one's professional publicity.
From: Phillip Rowland (phillip.rowlandATza.stemcor.com)
The bastardisation of English by advertisers also troubles me. There is a nursery school/day care centre close to where I live called "Klever Kidz". How these kids will ever become clever when their first learning centre is so named is a wonder to me.
Think like a wise man but communicate in the language of the people. -William Butler Yeats, poet, dramatist, essayist, Nobel laureate (1865-1939)