What's the difference between classical and classic? Should we say classic content in textbooks or classical content in textbooks?
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First, we should look at the definitions (from Google)
In both cases there is a sense that classic/classical relates to something typical or held in some kind of esteem (classic cars are outstanding, Greek and Latin are considered important and prestigious to learn). However, classical is used to describe things that are much older than things which are merely "classic". Classic Rock music is from the 70s while Classical music is from centuries ago.
In the case of a textbook, it would depend on the contents of the textbook, such as whether the textbook is describing something with a long tradition (classical algebra) or whether it is a particularly well-written example fondly remembered by the students who used it (a classic text about algebra).
The adjective classic is defined as 'exemplary of a particular style' or 'exhibiting timeless quality'. For example, a 'classic car'.
The adjective classical, in the sense you describe regarding textbooks, means 'of or pertaining to established principles in a discipline'. For example, 'classical mechanics'.
So to answer your question, 'classical' would be the word to use.
‘The Cambridge Guide to English Usage’ has a good article on this. Here’s an extract:
The article goes on to consider the use of classy, concluding that:
(FWIW, I like to think of music being divided into formal and informal, rather than classical and popular.)
protected by tchrist Mar 1 '15 at 18:40
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