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I'm wondering if there is a name for words which describe a function where the thing described doesn't relate to the reality of the function anymore. Examples:

  • dial, as a verb. "Dial the phone". Dial phones are largely unused now.

  • footage, used to describe a video recording. Large digital now.

  • filming, used to describe the act of making a video recording.

This is almost like a retronym, but is kind of the other side of that coin. An important aspect here is that there is an etymological disconnect. If in some distant future "dial" is still being used, someone studying the word itself might be completely baffled as to why it was being used unless told that phones used to have them.

"Holdover" is close. However, the definition of holdover as

"a person or thing surviving from an earlier time, especially someone surviving in office or remaining on a sports team"

suggests that entity doing a job in the ways of those times. Consider the difference between "Karl" and "Karen" who are typesetters. Karl still sets brass sorts into lines and turns them into lead slugs, he's a holdover. Karen used to do that, but now she flows the text into InDesign. She's still called a typesetter, but she's not exactly a holdover, since she's moved forward with the technology.

I'll admit it's a fine point I'm making here.

Any ideas?

This might be a duplicate of Word that means "outdated name"

marked as duplicate by Tonepoet, Cascabel, JJJ, Reinstate Monica, Edwin Ashworth single-word-requests Jun 11 at 19:06

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  • 1
    I don’t think there is an actual word for this, so a neologism may be called for. How about ‘obsolonym’ or ‘obsoletonym’ (or perhaps even ‘obsolesconym’, though I guess that would be the preceding stage where the word used is in the process of becoming divorced from what it describes). – Janus Bahs Jacquet Nov 8 '13 at 20:15
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    This is a related post, and the answer to that question was holdovers: english.stackexchange.com/q/72520/18655 – JLG Nov 8 '13 at 23:33
  • Hmm, that's a pretty good entry. Perhaps this ought to be considered a duplicate of that. – Hack Saw Nov 9 '13 at 1:56
  • @Janus Bahs Jacquet How would you form the adjective? Would it mean that I shall shortly be reading my obsolonistic newspaper from my Kindle? Or, since it is only the 'paper' part which is thus, will it be my 'news-obsolonistic-paper'? Or should I call it my 'newsdigital'? In view of the fact that I shall be breaking my fast, when I have not consciously fasted, at the same time, does any of this have any place, other than in the etymology entries in dictionaries? – WS2 Nov 9 '13 at 7:55
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    (Superior to my previous suggestion is anachronym, which I just thought of, and subsequently found as a suggestion in the question linked to as a duplicate.) – Janus Bahs Jacquet Nov 9 '13 at 19:43

I think that the word you are looking for is "anachronism".

  • But it is only an aspect of the particular technology which is anachronistic. Telephones are still very much with us, as is movie photography. It is only in the way we describe making a call, or operating a video camera that we employ an 'anachcronistic expression'. So I think at the very least we would need to use those two words. But other possibilities exist - see below. – WS2 Nov 8 '13 at 21:04
  • I think one would have to be over-fastidious not to allow Bob's answer from a fair consideration of M-W's various definitions: anach·ro·nism noun \ə-ˈna-krə-ˌni-zəm\ : some thing (such as a word, an object, or an event) that is mistakenly placed in a time where it does not belong in a story, movie, etc. // : a person or a thing that seems to belong to the past and not to fit in the present [bolding mine; something one word in M-W] – Edwin Ashworth Nov 8 '13 at 21:42
  • Of the two answers, by Bob and bib, I select one by @bib. In fact, in my opinion, anachronism is not the right word here. – Włodzimierz Holsztyński Oct 23 '14 at 3:44

Perhaps a relic

a person or thing that has survived from an earlier time but is now outmoded

Or perhaps vestige

A visible trace, evidence, or sign of something that once existed but exists or appears no more.

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