No sir, YOU say potato, now you've ruined the suspension of disbelief!
August 24, 2010 9:19 AM   Subscribe

Is there a word similar to anachronism for when a writer uses a dialect or jargon in the wrong person, ethnic group or similar?

I am not talking about using a word when the word didn't exist at that time, - like groovy in the 1800s - I would assume that that is a subcategory of anachronism. But say a writer uses a regional or dialect word that a real speaker of that region or dialect wouldn't use. Say a writer has an American call a truck a "lorry" and not in an ironic way. The writer just forgot that American say "truck."

The source of this query isn't as obvious as the made-up one. I am reading Col Tóibín's Brooklyn, and he describes some Irish people being supporters of Wexford (A hurling team, IIRC) and an American from Brooklyn states he is a supporter of the Brooklyn Dodgers. I don't think he meant it in a joking, mimicking, ironic way, I just think Tóibín might have forgotten that Americans would say "fan." Assuming I am correct, what is that called?
posted by xetere to Writing & Language (24 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I would call that an anomaly, or an inconsistency.
posted by grizzled at 9:24 AM on August 24, 2010

well, grizzled, an anachronism is an inconsistency of time. I am wondering if an inconsistency in dialect, argot, or jargon has a special name.
posted by xetere at 9:26 AM on August 24, 2010

posted by Sys Rq at 9:29 AM on August 24, 2010

I believe that it doesn't. But perhaps someone else knows of one. We shall see.
posted by grizzled at 9:31 AM on August 24, 2010

posted by Iridic at 9:31 AM on August 24, 2010

"Anatopism" is defined as an object out of its proper place, such as the inclusion of a gun in a historical novel set in the Roman Empire. It could metaphorically be included to include phrasing that is out of its proper place, but that is no more specific to linguistic error than my original suggestion of inconsistency. Admittedly, anatopism is the more erudite choice.
posted by grizzled at 9:34 AM on August 24, 2010

If a speaker by mistake/design uses a British term rather than an American one, I'd generally call that an Anglicism/Britishism/Briticism. I speak both English and German, and when I use a German-flavored construction in my English, I say, "Oops, that was a Germanism."

In this case, I suppose it's an Irishism.

There are enough professional linguists here on the green to correct me if I'm wrong.
posted by sister nunchaku of love and mercy at 9:36 AM on August 24, 2010

Again, solecism is similar but not exactly what you are looking for. A solecism would include use of language that is considered offensive or impolite, rather than being wrong for the particular region or culture in which it is being used. If you addressed Queen Elizabeth II as "hey lady!" that would be a solecism but not an anatopism.
posted by grizzled at 9:37 AM on August 24, 2010

"Anatopism" is defined as an object out of its proper place, such as the inclusion of a gun in a historical novel set in the Roman Empire.

Are words not objects?
posted by Sys Rq at 9:39 AM on August 24, 2010

This is turning into quite a debate. Sys Rq asks me if words are not objects, although I already addressed that point. Yes, words can be regarded as objects and hence, the the appearance of a misplaced word can be called an anatopism, however, that's not really what xetere is asking for; he has already made the point that he is looking for a word that SPECIFICALLY refers to such linguistic errors. Anatopism, like inconsistency, is a word which INCLUDES those kinds of errors but is not a specific name for them.

The other suggestion, of a Britishism, Germanism etc., does work, although it is not a general term for this kind of error since you have to use a different word for each nationality whose language or idiom has been used incorrectly. The question remains: is there a general term for this kind of error?
posted by grizzled at 9:46 AM on August 24, 2010

It could metaphorically be included to include phrasing that is out of its proper place, but that is no more specific to linguistic error than my original suggestion of inconsistency

But, "anachronism" functions the same way:
a thing belonging or appropriate to a period other than that in which it exists, esp. a thing that is conspicuously old-fashioned

That is, it is not specific to linguistic error and yet he asked for an equivalent word.
posted by vacapinta at 9:55 AM on August 24, 2010

I'm sticking with anatopism. It's the same as anachronism, except that it's in space rather than time.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:00 AM on August 24, 2010

(where "rather than" equals "and/or")
posted by Sys Rq at 10:01 AM on August 24, 2010

Yes, "anachronism" is not specific to linguistic error, but xetere is asking for a word that IS specific to linguistic error. I already went through this with him. I would describe that kind of error as an inconsistency, and xetere replied that yes, it is an inconsistency, but I want a word for that specific kind of inconsistency. The same problem applies to the use of the work anatopism. Anatopism would include linguistic errors (if we regard words as objects) but it is not specifically about those kinds of errors and indeed, is more normally used to describe errors that involve physical objects rather than linguistic objects.
posted by grizzled at 10:02 AM on August 24, 2010

Fine, stick with anatopism. It's a good word. I'm sticking with inconsistency. Both are equally applicable and both are equally lacking in the specificity which xetere would like to discover.
posted by grizzled at 10:03 AM on August 24, 2010

I would simply call this a usage error.
posted by YamwotIam at 10:11 AM on August 24, 2010

Malcolloquialism! (It doesn't exist, but it ought to.)
posted by mittens at 10:13 AM on August 24, 2010

Thanks Grizzled, you hit it right on the head and in fact, explained what I am looking for better than me - and this lively discussion leads me to believe that there is no word that conveys this concept.

Yes, I was wondering if there is a specific word for a linguistic inconsistency that would convey that the word is used out of context for the nationality, ethnic group, economic group, dialect group what have you for the speaker.

What anachronism is to time, and anatopism is to space, then ??? is to speech.

Perhaps we just call it a verbal anatopism or maybe I'll just go and coin one myself. Hmm, analectism? No, shades of Confucius, anadialectism? analinguism?
posted by xetere at 10:13 AM on August 24, 2010


Yeah, don't use that one.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:15 AM on August 24, 2010 [5 favorites]

Sys Rq, guess not!
posted by xetere at 10:23 AM on August 24, 2010

You know, I actually like the word anatopism, and I believe that you did contribute to this discussion by bringing it up, I just don't like to be told to shut up when I have been making accurate observations about the various linguistic nuances of this particular query. But anatopism is not specifically about words that don't belong in a specific culture in which they are introduced. It is about objects, and although a word can be considered to be an object, it is not a physical object, it is an intellectual object, which is not the context in which anatopism is normally used. I actually doubt that you could discover a literary citation in which the word anatopism is used to describe an incorrectly used word. It is used to describe physical objects which don't belong in the setting where some careless author has placed them. Whereas, the term inconsistency, which was my original proposal all the way back at the beginning of this discussion, applies perfectly. Incorrectly used words of this sort are inconsistencies. That is exactly the problem, that the word is not consistent with the cultural context in which it has been placed. It is at least as applicable as anatopism (and easier to understand as well, which is an added bonus unless you are writing an academic paper, in which case you would use the less familiar term to display your erudition). OK?
posted by grizzled at 10:45 AM on August 24, 2010

The term "linguistic anachronism" certainly exists. "Lingiustic anatopism" gets no google hits, but it seems like it would completely transparent and mean what you want.
posted by nangar at 10:53 AM on August 24, 2010

I think that this question is not going to come back with a nice, nuanced word as an answer simply because there is very little reason for the word to exist in the first place. Words like anachronism and anatopism exist to explain fantastic elements that writers put in their stories, something that is both very common and deliberate. The situation that xetere is looking to explain with this word, however, is both very uncommon as well as inadvertent.

Now, something being uncommon and inadvertent doesn't necessarily exclude it from meriting its own word. We can see words like malapropism describing a usage that is uncommon and inadvertent, but the context in which it is used is also understandable. The person using the term necessarily is more knowledgeable about the subject than the person he is referencing with the term. With this word that xetere is looking for, though, the person who would be using this term is in all likelihood a non-professional using it to describe an error that was made by a professional in his/her craft. So in all, this would wind up being 1) uncommon, 2) inadvertent, and 3) almost completely devoid of purpose.

Sorry, I don't think you are going to get a better answer than the terms we already have to describe the writing of other non-professionals. I would go with YamwotIam and say "usage error."
posted by GooseOnTheLoose at 11:45 AM on August 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Dude, if we have words for the plastic tips on shoelaces, I'm pretty sure we have a reason to have a word for misplaced slang or linguistic discordance in dialogue.
posted by redsparkler at 12:47 PM on August 24, 2010

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