Verbal skiamorphs
Posted: 04 July 2007 09:35 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Inspired by Faldage’s pointing out that we still “dial” a number on a ‘phone, even though ‘phones no longer have dials, (nor do they ring any more, but we still refer to “ringing someone up"), I was wondering if there was a name for words that have lost touch with the reason for their coining, apart from the clumsy expression I have used for a header. (I can’t even check how skiamorph is spelt, since I’ve lost my access to the online OED.)
(weeps softly)

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Posted: 04 July 2007 09:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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As far as I can tell, it’s not in the OED. I’ve tried variant spellings and come up empty. (Incidentally, in the process of searching I realized there was no entry for one of my oldest and dearest friends, sciomachy - shadow boxing. I remember coming across it as a callow youth and the term lodged in my brain and has been resident ever sice. I’m surprised by its absence.)

I do recall we had a long thread on such words, my contribution being telegraph pole, the term still used in England for poles which for many an age have carried telephone lines rather than telegraph.

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Posted: 04 July 2007 10:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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There is a word skeuomorph from architecture that describes a stylistic feature that once had a use but is now purely decorative.

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Posted: 04 July 2007 10:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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It’s skeuomorph, and it isn’t in my SOED although it does have a wikipedia entry, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skeuomorph.

I find I still speak of “taping” a TV programme even though in our household we now copy them on to disk.

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Posted: 04 July 2007 11:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I do recall we had a long thread on such words

Right, I remember adding ‘sailing’

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Posted: 04 July 2007 12:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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The OED definitions for skeuomorph:

1. An ornament or ornamental design on an artefact resulting from the nature of the material used or the method of working it.
1889 H. COLLEY MARCH in Trans. Lancs. & Cheshire Antiq. Soc. VII. 166 The forms of ornament demonstrably due to structure require a name. If those taken from animals are called zoomorphs, and those from plants phyllomorphs, it will be convenient to call those derived from structure, skeuomorphs.[...]

2. An object or feature copying the design of a similar artefact in another material.
1938 Proc. Prehistoric Soc. IV. 82 This necklace type is best known in jet from northern Britain, where it has..provided the type of which the gold lunula is a skeuomorph. 1943 Antiquity XVII. 7 Stone skeuomorphs of wooden fences. [...]

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Posted: 04 July 2007 01:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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The long thread.

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Posted: 05 July 2007 12:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Thanks, everyone for the spelling of skeuomorph.  I take it from the lack of suggestions that there is no word for verbal ones, then.

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Posted: 05 July 2007 03:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Isn’t it simply an anachronism:

1. something or someone that is not in its correct historical or chronological time…

Can’t the “something” be a word or phrase?

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Posted: 06 July 2007 12:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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No, surely many of these usages are different from, or at least more specific than, just anachronisms. Some of them amount to metaphors, in which we say in effect “this electronic buzzer is performing the same function as a metal bell would, so let’s call it a doorbell”. I agree with the OP that these are verbal skeuomorphs, and perhaps that’s the best term for them.

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Posted: 06 July 2007 12:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Skeuomorphs are something completely different, as can be seen by the definition. It comes from the Greek skeuos, meaning ‘vessel’, and morphe, meaning ‘form’. I can’t see how it fits what we’re talking about, even in a metaphorical sense.

‘Skiamorph’ may not be in the dictionary, but it obviously derives from the Greek skia, meaning ‘shadow’. It doesn’t take much imagination to see the ‘shadow’ of old dial phones behind the verb ‘to dial’.

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Posted: 07 July 2007 01:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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kurwamac - 06 July 2007 12:29 PM

Skeuomorphs are something completely different, as can be seen by the definition. It comes from the Greek skeuos, meaning ‘vessel’, and morphe, meaning ‘form’. I can’t see how it fits what we’re talking about, even in a metaphorical sense.

I was thinking of the use of the word given in the Wikipedia article :

In the modern era, cheaper plastic items often attempt to mimic more expensive wooden and metal products though they are only skeuomorphic if new ornamentation references original functionality, such as molded screw heads in molded plastic items.

kurwamac - 06 July 2007 12:29 PM

‘Skiamorph’ may not be in the dictionary, but it obviously derives from the Greek skia, meaning ‘shadow’.

Does it?  How handy!  I’m afraid that my only source of the word “skeuomorph” was BBC Radio 4 long, long ago, so my rendering “skiamorph” was purely phonetic, influenced by the known spelling of “morph”, but perhaps “verbal skeuomorphs” could be “skiamorphs”! (if that’s not just too damn confusing)

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Posted: 08 July 2007 11:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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’Skiamorph’ gets about 14,000 hits, most of which (at a very cursory look) seem to refer to words, although some of them seem to assume that it somehow derives from ‘skeuomorph’.

I don’t think it does: examples of ‘skeuomorph’ referring to words seem to be thin on the ground as compared to the literal meaning. It would be interesting to track down early examples of ‘skiamorph’ in the hope of finding out what was the thinking behind it.

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Posted: 08 July 2007 12:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Having googled “skiamorph” also (and found a reference to this thread! I’m on Google! Fame!) I found this citation:

“One person’s Rolodex is another person’s electronic skiamorph” by Bill Atkinson, Globe and Mail, 1996.02.10.

It does look likely that “skiamorph”, with its impeccable Greek ancestry, could be a separate coining.

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