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What are retronyms and how are they important to the development of English?

The language category known as retronyms refers to phrases created because an existing term that was once used alone needs to be distinguished from a term referring to a new development or variation, such as "snow skiing," and "conventional weapons." We use them and create them almost every day, but most people do not even know what they are. And don't reach for your dictionary; you probably won't find them there! In its early years, television was just television. But with color television came the retronym "black-and-white TV' and with digital television we now have the retronym "analog TV." It is like being confronted with a "rotary phone" and having no idea how to use it. A "full-service gas station" that offers "free air" almost seems like something from a bygone era.

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