Sunday, May 27, 2012

Word of the day: “cisgendered”

I used to keep a list of things like acoustic guitar when I came across them -- neologisms necessitated by intervening inventions, a roundabout way of designating what was once taken for granted and named with a single word.   These came to be dubbed “retronyms” -- a happy coinage.  For example:

Timothy Noah, Slate 12 II 01: "The New Yorker gives online readers more than half the contents of the current issue, which we must now refer to using the retronym "print issue"."

Since the immortal god Wikipedia has a very good list of such things, I’ll let this collector’s hobby drop, and refer you to theirs:

Even so, there is a distinction to be made  that Wiki does not draw:  namely, between
(1) coinages <X Y>, designating what used to be called <Y> simpliciter, and where <X> supplies appropriate semantic differentia.  These are the commonest: wired phones/corded phones/landlinesFrench franc; etc.
(2) coinages where the <X>, in its original sense (the sense it still had when it was applied to form the new <X Y>), seems truly redundant, logically applying even to the newly invented object from which our Y is being distinguished.  Thus, unless it is a fake stage-prop, a guitar is necessarily “acoustic”, i.e. ‘emitting a sound’;  this applies quite as much when the sound emitted by the guitar is electrically amplified.  Or again: eating apple.  As opposed to what, Lord help us?  To baking apple, it turns out;  but of course you eat these too, once they come out of the oven.
(This category is psychosocially poignant, as it shows folks confronting new distinctions, not intersective-analytically, but naively, in their linguistic overalls.)

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Two new ones, not yet listed in Wiki: 

* p-book, with “p” from “print”;  as opposed to e-book.
* cis-gendered, as opposed to trans-gendered.  (The cis-vs-trans terminology stems from chemistry.)  In time, no doubt, we’ll have to check this off  as a box on official application-forms.   Along with many another as-yet-undreamt, as each new paraphilia lobbies its way into state-directed establishment.
Note:  You might expect that heterosexual was itself a retronym, but it seems to have been coined in tandem with homosexual, in 1892. (Source: Webster's Collegiate.)

On the horizon (you heard it here first):  disgendered, denoting the latest fad in paraphilias; learn all about it here.

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