retronymsFor me, as, I suspect for most people my age (mid-60s), signs that aging is upon us sometimes come out of nowhere. A few years ago, I received an email from a woman who commented on an interesting event both of us had attended and signed her name with “LOL (her name)”. I was taken back because I only knew her slightly and even though I am indeed charming, saying what I thought was “Lots of Love” seemed a bit strange. I apparently had missed the memo about “Laugh Out Loud.” My kids thought it was hilarious.

I get Snapchat and Instagram confused. Sometimes I repeat stories. I don’t recognize the names of most of the currently popular bands.  I think about the hereafter. If you missed that joke, it’s walking into a room, forgetting why, and wondering, “What am I here after?” My kids don’t think that’s hilarious.

A few weeks ago, I came across another way to feel old – retronyms. A retronym is a term created from an existing word when previously there had been no need for one. For example, “live music.” Before recorded music was invented in the early 20th century, the term “live music” was unnecessary – all music was live. We use it now to distinguish it from recorded music. The same for “organic food.” Until the invention of additives and preservatives and chemical fertilizers and insecticides, all food was organic. There was no need to modify the word “food.”

Here are some of my other favorite retronyms:

Acoustic guitar
Silent film
Cloth diaper
Regular coffee
Prop plane
Analog watch
Landline
Snail mail

The last three in particular make me feel old because to me it wasn’t that long ago that there were no digital watches, cell phones, or email.

And here’s one more retronym – home care. Almshouses and homes for the elderly and infirm housed older adults in the 18th through the mid-20th centuries. But beyond those squalid places for the very poor with no family support, nursing homes didn’t appear in the US until the 1950s. The first assisted living facilities came in the late 1970s.  For most of our history, we’ve cared for older adults at home. All care was home care.

photo credit: shermaniac oh, boy. package with cacophony of postage stamps via photopin (license)