Is there a general term for phrases like "landline phone"?
February 13, 2014 11:35 AM   Subscribe

I could swear that I have seen this on AskMe before, but I can't find it for the life of me. Is there a word for the situation in which something that used to be representable by a single word now needs two (or more) words? Like how "telephone" now sometimes has to be retroactively qualified as "landline phone" because of the advent of "mobile phones." "Analog watch" would be another example, I guess.
posted by slenderloris to Society & Culture (19 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

A retronym is a type of neologism that provides a new name for something to differentiate the original from a more recent form or version.

Advances in technology are often responsible for retronym coinage. For example, the term "acoustic guitar" was coined at the advent of electric guitars, and analog watches were thus named to distinguish them from digital watches.
posted by CathyG at 11:37 AM on February 13, 2014 [23 favorites]

Exactly! Thank you!
posted by slenderloris at 11:42 AM on February 13, 2014

If you want more examples, "snail mail" used to be just regular mail before email came along. Similarly, a paper/print/dead tree copy used to be just a copy before electronic copies existed.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:46 AM on February 13, 2014

Acoustic guitar is my favorite.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 11:48 AM on February 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Day baseball!
posted by harkin banks at 12:07 PM on February 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

Not exactly what you asked, but in the same vein: when we say something like, "Oh, not an e-book, a book book" or "and he called me using his phone phone, not his cell phone" that's called contrastive focus reduplication.
posted by komara at 12:15 PM on February 13, 2014 [37 favorites]

Ice hockey, given the advent of roller hockey?
posted by HoteDoge at 1:09 PM on February 13, 2014

Field hockey is as old as ice hockey as far as I can tell so the distinction was always needed there. But as long as we're on sports, all Olympics were Summer Olympics until 1924.
posted by sparklemotion at 1:25 PM on February 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

"Film camera" vs. digital.
posted by jessicapierce at 1:27 PM on February 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

"brick and mortar store"

(Don''t know if you're actually looking for more examples, but this is fun.)
posted by neroli at 1:39 PM on February 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

And an fun acronym for "landline" is POTS. Plain Old Telephone Service. We've used this at the phone company since the early nineties.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:55 PM on February 13, 2014

"Desktop computer" is a good one, also "Tube TV".
posted by emptythought at 2:29 PM on February 13, 2014

"whole" milk
posted by robverb at 6:00 PM on February 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Parallel ATA
posted by Confess, Fletch at 6:34 PM on February 13, 2014

'Manual' and 'wired' are good prefixes that indicate a retronym, e.g. manual-focus lens or wired microphone. Other examples include standard transmission, top-loading washing machine, and gas range.
posted by a halcyon day at 7:38 PM on February 13, 2014

I don’t think that "gas range" counts as a retronym as there were solid fuel “ranges” first, so “coal-fired range" would be the retronym in that case.

Endless other examples ranging back a long way — sailing ship once the steam ship had been invented, black and white tv after the advent of color (same for movies and photographs, and for that matter computer monitors).
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 8:43 PM on February 13, 2014

leaded gasoline
mechanical computer
analog computer
mainframe computer
wired network
assembly/machine code
hard copy
unbleached flour
lambskin condom
handblown glass (and possibly 'handmade' or 'artisanal' anything, or at least anything produced before industrialization, similarly any 'authentic' or 'traditional' cuisine when contrasted with its 'modern' or 'hybrid' variants)
folk music (as in field recordings, not Woody Guthrie), folk tales
wood ('stick') framed (houses)
'real' wood furniture, floors, etc (and similarly 'real' marble, stone etc)
conventional war[fare] (esp. when in a binary pair w/nuclear war or WMD -- less so when paired w/'unconventional warfare' meaning anti-insurgency etc.)

probably not as intended, but:
stay at home mom
white male voters (i.e. when used as a demographic in U.S. polls; and other similar constructions)
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:43 PM on February 13, 2014

Depending on how far back you go, the retronym could be either "conventionally-grown produce" or "organically-grown produce".
posted by sesquipedalia at 4:34 AM on February 14, 2014

hardcover book (upon the advent of paperbacks, not ebooks)
posted by timepiece at 9:58 AM on February 14, 2014

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