Monday, December 05, 2005

"Whitelists" and "Snail-Mail": Analogical Formations

Didn't William Safire retire? Oh well, I guess not: his latest piece at the New York Times Magazine delves into a class of words referred to by linguists as analogical formations. These are terms, generally involved with technology, that come into being as a logical necessity after a given term in widespread usage demands an opposite term. For example, once the word "blacklist" became a relatively common way of describing a function to stop unwanted emails or software applications, the word "whitelist" was coined to describe senders or applications that are, if you will, pre-approved.

Other examples he gives:

software (the word "hardware" came first)
multislacking (from "multitasking")
rightsizing (management)
dumbsizing (labor)

I might add "snail-mail" for conventional mail, which only became commonplace after email became the standard method of written communication.

Another rather crude analogical formation is "meatspace," which refers to the flesh-and-blood world, as opposed to "cyberspace." It was coined after "cyberspace" became a widespread term. I should add that while I've never actually heard "meatspace" spoken aloud, Google turns up 326,000 hits for it, so I gather it has started to stick.

Like snow... Or egg?

Any other analogical formations you can think of?


Hirak said...

The best phony often used in India (and elsewhere?):
'prepone' from postpone

Amardeep said...

Yes, Prepone! Exactly the kind of thing I was looking for.

I also realize I forgot to mention "firmware," which has become an essential high tech neologism. Every high tech gadget -- from Ipods to Cellphones -- runs on firmware.

DJ Drrrty Poonjabi said...

An "acoustic guitar" was simply a guitar until Les Paul came around.

I believe "horseless carriage" also qualifies as an analogical formation.

asuph said...

hi amardeep,

interesting blog... curious about softcopy vs. hardcopy... did they come together into usage?

in fact there is lot of interesting stuff on your blog, going by the subjects alone ... will check as and when I get time.

keep writing,
asuph (

aquamarine said...

how about Splog-Blog?


Amardeep said...


I actually haven't heard "soft-copy." But hard-copy is certainly an earlier usage, so its analogical formation would be "soft-copy."

And Aquamarine, what is a "splog-blog"?

Neale said...

How about the very Indian "prepone" which sprung from postpone?


Jonathan said...

There's the unbirthday, invented by Disney I believe. That gets 74,300 hits on Google.

As a matter of fact, it's my unbirthday today.

msingh said...

I don't know if it falls within the realm of analogical formations, but may I suggest "ofi" - "one-off strain injury" as opposed to rsi