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Retronyms at Three Roads Blog
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Retronyms

According to Schott’s 2008 Desk Almanac:

Retronyms are terms that has been created to clarify an exiting word rendered ambiguous by evolutions in technology or social practice.

I’m currently reading Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” which is a beautifully written and thoroughly researched lament about our evolution (or degeneration) from eaters of food to consumers of “food-like products.”

With that book in the forefront of my consciousness, the following retronyms, listed in the Feb. 1 entry of my Schott’s page-a-day calendar, took on a timely significance:

  • Organic food
  • Conventional oven
  • Free-range eggs
  • Fruit in season

These terms came into being with the advent of the industrial food supply. Before chemical fertizers and factory farms and free trade agreements and cheap oil, all food was organic, free range and/or seasonal.

And it was cooked in a conventional oven.

Now we must specify.

[UPDATE]

In the near future, we may have to add a modifier to ‘cheeseburger.’ As in, “This conventional cheeseburger is much better than the canned cheeseburger I had yesterday.”

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