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The Daily Need

Word of the day: Retronym


What I learned at work:  During an interview about green design for our Climate Desk podcast, Dwell magazine editor Aaron Britt dropped a word on me I hadn’t heard before: Retronym.  It means, “a word or phrase for something that now has to be specified because it is no longer identifiable in its original state.”  For example, the retronym “acoustic guitar” exists only because there are now electric guitars. Other retronyms include digital clock, sit-down restaurant, black-and-white photo. You get the idea.  Britt believes green design is a retronym because once upon a time homes were built with the environment in mind as opposed to how they are built now.  The invention of the word has been attributed to former NPR president and Robert Kennedy press aid,  Frank Mankiewicz, circa 1980.  Thinking of retronyms is a good time killer and I believe a great Scrabble word if you get lucky.

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