The item pictured above used to be called a guitar. Then this item-

-came along. And now the first item is now called an acoustic guitar, to differentiate it from the second item, an electric guitar.

This used to be known as a clock

– until this –

– came along. Now an analog clock describes a clock with an actual face, compared with a digital clock.

There’s a whole bunch of these, called retronyms, a term the late New York Times wordsmith William Safire believed had been around for 30 years, but in the dictionaries for far less time. Here is a list of retronyms.

This used to be known as a stewardess, but now is a flight attendant.

This used to be known as a fireman, but is now a firefighter.

The language has become more gender neutral.

Perhaps, the greatest area of change involves place names. A lot of this took place in Africa in my lifetime, where locations that used to be colonies are now independent countries. Also, in the Western Hemisphere, British Honduras became Belize, British Guiana became Guyana and Dutch Guiana became Suriname.

Sometimes the local politics or internal struggles affect the nomenclature. Ceylon is now Sri Lanka, e.g. and the Democratic Republic of the Congo used to be Zaire. Cambodia has had a couple other names.

Some formerly divided countries re-merged, such as Germany and Vietnam. In Africa, Tananyika and Zanzibar joined to create Tanzania. Conversely, other countries broke into two or more parts. Bangladesh was once East Pakistan. Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and especially the Soviet Union are no more. Egypt and Syria merged to form the United Arab Republic in 1958, but got a divorce in 1961. Here is a list of some countries that have had name changes.

One of name changes I remember most, though, was a city; Peking became Beijing, explained here; likewise, a description of the change from Bombay to Mumbai, something I admit I occasionally forget. Of course, St. Petersburg, Russia has been Petrograd and Leniningrad.

Three of the four schools I’ve attended in my life have changed names. Binghamton Central High School merged with Binghamton North to become Binghamton High School in 1982. Both my State University of New York undergrad school, New Paltz, and my grad school, Albany, have undergone a number of name changes; the former in 1828 as the New Paltz Classic Academy, and the latter as the New York State Normal School in 1844. My first school, Daniel S. Dickinson, has long ago been razed.

Finally, THE song of name change, first a hit by The Four Lads, way back in 1953. Listen to Istanbul (not Constantinople) by They Might Be Giants.

Feel free to share your favorite name changes.

ABC Wednesday – Round 7

39 Responses to “F is for Former Names”

  • Yes, names are always changing to reflect changes in our appreciation of things.
    Excellent subject.

  • Leo says:

    yes Roger, names change along with our impressions I think.. a lot of old n new u’ve shared with us.. πŸ™‚

    My ABC Wednesday Post

  • Ann says:

    What an interesting subject. I enjoyed reading about all the name changing. Fantastic F Day information.

  • Terrific and fascinating post as always, Roger! And a great one for the F Day! Hope you’re enjoying a Fantastic, Fabulous week!


  • photowannabe says:

    When we visited St. Petersberg in 1983 it was called Leningrad. I’m afraid I still call it that.
    This is a fascinating subject. Nothing seems to stay the same. Some change is good and some not.

  • Carver says:

    Former names is a good idea. Both are beautiful guitars.

  • Leslie says:

    Even in Canada – eh? The northern territories used to be comprised of Yukon and the Northwest Territories. Now there’s a third one called Nunuvet and it’s so confusing! I think I need to take a class in Geography just to learn the new names of countries around the world. *sigh* Very inFormative post. πŸ˜€

  • RuneE says:

    My favourite is the charlady who became a parquet cosmetologist.

  • Molokai Girl says:

    I never know what to expect from you, but it is always original and informative and thought provoking!
    Fascinating indeed.
    And then, there is the finances involved in all logistics of name changes.
    And, perhaps, frustration in some cases.

  • carol says:

    What a great idea for a fun post, Roger. I do own an acoustic piano and a digital piano. I prefer the acoustic piano; but Oh, that digital piano…flip a switch and all the songs loaded in are played for your listening pleasure….

  • Hildred says:

    Oh dear, it is hard to get used to all these changes when one gets ancient – Constantinople had such a romantic ring to it, – but Istanbul??? Well, the song helps with that one at least. How can we popularize all the rest…

  • Mara says:

    I remember learning about some mission project in Upper-Volta when I was in primary school. But when I tried to look it up a few years later, the whole country was gone! Turns out it’s now called Burkina Faso! It’s not nice to confuse children so!

  • tom the mayor says:

    What about the planet Pluto, which now has been erased from the list of planets, I myself was named Bennett at birth, but have always used Tom or Tommy or Thomas.

  • robert says:

    One continues to be amazed by the entries of you. Surely a theme I would have thought of.
    Please have a great Wednesday.

  • Gayle says:

    I have a friend who changed her name from Rachael to Sarah (her middle name) after 35 years. It feels very odd to call her Sarah.

  • vernz says:

    yeah, it evolves along with time and space … interesting..

    My ABC Wednesday here
    And Here Too
    hope you can drop by, Have A Nice Day!

  • Tumblewords says:

    It keeps us on our toes, I guess. Although I’m prone to stumble over the new names. Excellent and informative F post!

  • Rajesh says:

    Great comparison between past and the new. Time is surely changing.

  • Lily says:

    Great post Roger. & a nice idea for today’s letter F!

  • Gattina says:

    That’s very true ! I am already not a genius in geography but now with all these new countries I am completely lost ! The former Soviet Union or Russia has now I don’t know how many little countries, the same with Yougoslavia ! I have a blogfriend living in a certain Mumbai and didn’t know where it was ! and why did Peking become Beijeng (too complicated)

  • Bonjour Roger!
    I’m enchanted by that guitar in the second shot.You had a great idea ( and different ) for this post, very creative!And thanks so much for the support and your kind comment in my blog.
    We are from Brazil but now living in Luxembourg.
    Hugs and happy Wednesday

  • Julie says:

    That was terrific to read, Roger. Thank you. I have not heard of the term ‘retronymn’ before but shall add it to my lexicon from here on out.

  • A rose by any name smell just as good, a guitar by any name sound as good?

    My teaching room used to be next to the music room, now they have moved. I miss their music, but sometimes when you hear the same music and songs 5 hours a day, 5 days a week, it gets too much.

  • john says:

    Raymond Williams would have had argued that names of things ultimately reflect the social and economic changes and the surrounding power dynamics of that society. Hence the changes in National names reflect the collapse of the European empires or the change to more gender neutral names reflect the rise in feminism. The electric guitar is linked to the development of the big bands in the the 30’s, which where shaped by economic drivers of the depression. I’m new in town and I post from various blogs so last week my E was a 50-word story called The Prince of Darkness is a gentleman. This week my F is a poem called The final seaside trip. Thanks for dropping by. I hope you have a good week!

  • Cheryl says:

    This was absolutely fabulous. I’m going to grab that retronym link and save her for when I get older and more gray. I like the old names the best and I’m sure that’s all I’ll remember!

  • Wendy S. says:

    Every time I read one of your posts I learn so much. Way better than being in school. Frankly and Frankenstein (esp. “Young Frank..”) is also one of my fave. movies…Hmmm, perhaps another post. Thank you for another great post, Roger.

  • Willa says:

    Another informative post from you.Thanks for another Free lesson for today. πŸ™‚

  • carolyn Ford says:

    What a GREAT post!

  • LisaF says:

    Original and unique take on F-day. I remember learning the original names for many of the world’s countries in school. Guess you can add policeman (police officer) and telephone (land line or cell?) to the list as well.

  • Reader Wil says:

    Some Former names are not so complicated as the new ones! Thanks Roger!

  • jabblog uk says:

    Everything evolves! Interesting post, Roger, and I enjoyed the video πŸ˜‰

  • Manang Kim says:

    It’s awesome to learn how name evolves. Before there is only one race that I use to check when asked, Asian. Now there is Asian, Pacific Islander and there is another name that I couldn’t remember. Anyway, I prefer to check Asian ^_^ Happy Wednesday!
    ABC Wednesday

  • magiceye says:

    very interesting post!

  • Great F-post !
    You sure can wonder why everything has to change names like that !

    ThankΒ΄s for your comment at my blog !
    And NO the doll is not allowed to drive the Edsel πŸ™‚

  • kat says:

    yeah..some names have change like the spelling of my name…the old generation they spelled it as Catherine but the new generation, they spelled it Katherine…

    great topic of F…

    Thanks for the visit.

  • dhemz says:

    wow! glad to know….thanks for sharing Rog…great to be here and thanks for coming by!

  • chrisj says:

    I loved that video! I remember the song very well. I want to remember that new word retronyms. I like it. But my memory being what it is… Though it does make sense as a word.

  • jay says:

    A most excellent post, Roger! Loved it! Of course, I’m old enough to remember when a good proportion of the globe was pink, so I’ve seen a lot of name changes in my years.

    I hadn’t heard the term ‘retronyms’, but it certainly fits. And I enjoyed the song. πŸ™‚

  • yamaha says:

    I study a good deal of blogs just lately and yours is one particular with the best. I enjoy studying your posts – clear and very well written. Your page goes straight to my bookmarks. I got some good inspirational thoughts after reading it.

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