Archaic Terms For Modern Contraptions

Considering we Brits have been responsible for some of the greatest inventions in history, we have a peculiar habit of using quaintly old-fashioned terms for our technology. Here's some of the best...
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Considering we Brits have been responsible for some of the greatest inventions in history, we have a peculiar habit of using quaintly old-fashioned terms for our technology. Here's some of the best...

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Considering we Brits have been responsible for some of the greatest inventions in history – TV, the jet engine, cat’s eyes, the internet, the bouncing bomb – we have a peculiar habit of using quaintly old-fashioned terms for our technology.

‘Wireless’, for instance now has a range of applicable meanings; you find it used in connection with everything from mobile phones to computers to energy transfer. Yet we insist on saying ‘wireless’ when we mean ‘radio’. Radios that don’t need wires haven’t been a novel concept for decades, but still we steadfastly apply the moniker. We may as well go the whole hog and call them ‘crystal sets’ or ‘magic box it make noise’.

Almost thirty years after they became popular ‘Walkmans’ are still apparently everywhere. Except they’re not, that’s just what many people insist on calling iPods. We don’t record TV programmes, we ‘tape’ them despite no-one having even seen a tape for years now.

Radios that don’t need wires haven’t been a novel concept for decades, but still we steadfastly apply the 'wireless' moniker to them.

Best of all, my 70-year-old dad still walks round his living room looking for ‘the clicker’. Anyone under 40 will have absolutely no idea what he’s on about as TV remotes haven’t ‘clicked’ since the late 60’s. Just before the turn of the Millennium, we managed to move him into the 1970’s and got him saying ‘zapper’ for a while, but it didn’t take.

It seems as though we tend to stick with the name of a piece of technology that we learned when it first emerged. It’s like a deliberate attempt to be as unaffected by marketing as possible – ‘You call it iPod if you want, lad, but it just does the same thing as a Walkman. I’m not learning another name for it.’ It’s a very admirable trait and utterly at odds with other countries; the Americans, the Swedish, the Japanese, would all make a distinct effort to know and use the exact technical term for the latest piece of wonder-kit, right down to the model number. We pick the most basic, obtuse and archaic term we can and stick with it no matter what. Anything to wind people up.

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