I'm looking for a word/phrase/idiom referring to a very common phenomenon: something was born out of a requirement or restriction, but then after the requirement or restriction has been removed, the thing (or a variant of it) continues to be used, for other reasons.


"lol" in spoken English. The written phrase "lol" was born out of the need to convey the laughing sound in writing. But now, some people use the phrase when speaking (perhaps to "signal an informal, gossipy mode of expression", as the link says).

Minecraft toys. Pixelation is used to create images on a computer screen. Minecraft-inspired physical paraphanelia have a pixelated appearance (because it's cool or whatever).

Cordless jump roping. The jump rope was invented to serve as something to jump or skip over. But now, some people prefer to jump but not jump over something. Yet, they still want to hold something in each hand and perform the rope turning motion (to give their arms a workout).

Domesticated cats. Cats were domesticated to keep mice away. But now, many people don't have a problem with mice, but they still have cats (for companionship).

Neckties. Neckties originaly had practical purposes, but now they are worn for other reasons.

The word(s) can refer to either the process of change, or the thing that goes through this process of change.

Outlive one's usefulness? Not really, because that implies that the thing no longer has any use. Vestigial function and artifact have the same shortcoming.

Become an end in itself is ballpark, but this implies that the thing has intrinsic value, whereas the things I've listed above have extrinsic, not intrinsic, value.

Maybe something like functional metamorphosis.

  • Certainly one of the words you're looking for is habit. Another is custom, which is sort of the social version of habit. And the whole thing is wrapped up together with language and economics as culture. Take your pick. Jul 31, 2022 at 2:08
  • @JohnLawler Thank you, but I feel like those words are too general. What I have in mind is quite specific, even though it appears in a variety of contexts. (It is as if someone were looking for, or trying to remember, the phrase "cultural appropriation", described it to someone here, and someone else suggested "culture".) Are you suggesting that there does not exist a word or phrase that refers to what I have in mind?
    – Dan
    Jul 31, 2022 at 8:23

1 Answer 1


Carry over is a common phrasal verb that can be used and the two senses defined in Lexico as below are applicable:

1 Extend beyond the original area of application.

2 (carry something over, carry over something) Retain something and apply or deal with it in a new context.

Here is a relevant example I've found in a bbc.com article from 2018:

OMG is another example of text-speak that has carried over into actual speech...

In many different examples, it can be explained as "the idea/practice has carried over (into)...".

  • 1
    Speaking of written language carrying over into spoken language, I knew a guy who would write, "He said, and I quote, ..."
    – Dan
    Jul 31, 2022 at 10:48

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.