Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Vocabulary of the future

Science fiction writers often seem to use new words or terms for the inevitable next generation of technology, like '3D So-Vi' for television or 'time teller' for clock. The problem is that words have momentum that's hard to overcome. People were referring to "ice boxes" long after they required no ice. I frequently say I'm going to rent a video when I mean a DVD. I've even heard a television referred to as a "picture wireless". If those terms persisted, then "television" and "clock" will, too, and, English being English, the simplest word is likely to win.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - But how will you know it's the future unless they have weird words for things?
PPS - I think the jet packs will give it away.


Lingi said...

I don't know if we will have new words for "old" things in the future. I mean, "time teller" for clock sounds like somebody who doesn't know a clock would describe it. Like, if you would have to explain the idea of a clock to someone from the past. I think there will constantly be some new things people will invent that have some freaky names, but I don't believe that certain terms will change to completely new words.

PS I'd appreciate a good jet pack;)

John said...

Yes, there will be new inventions that need new names, and those names wouldn't make much sense to us living before that time. But as old inventions persist, grow and change, their old names tend to be carried with them. Some (bad) science fiction authors seem to think we will look at the clocks of tomorrow and say "Well, maybe once upon a time they called this a 'clock', like my parents did, but this is so much more! It needs a new name ..."