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NTNU - Norges teknisk-naturvitenskapelige universitet   
Ansvarlig redaktør: Informasjonsdirektør Kåre Kongsnes   

Teknisk ansvarlig:   
Erik Prytz Reitan

Stewart’s corner 


There are two meanings of the term retronym. First, spelling a word backwards to create a new word. A good example of this is the retronym yob, a negative term for a male youth, formed by spelling boy backwards.  
The second interpretation of retronym is having to find a new name for something because technological or other developments have made the original name confusing and inadequate. An example is television. If you want to describe what was originally television you have to use the retronym black-and-white television, as today television means colour television. The same has happened in the film industry where the retronym silent movie is required if you mean what was originally a movie. Once mail only had one meaning within communications, now the retronyms snail mail and paper mail are common to avoid confusion with electronic mail. The same goes for watch (retronym: analog watch), text (retronym: hardcopy), type-writer (retronym: manual typewriter) even Coke has its retronyms: real Coke and Classic Coke. New retronyms are rapidly entering English. Two recent additions are: eyeball search and natural language. Possibly Mr Clinton's public statement that he did not have sex with a young White House assistant will eventually produce a new retronym: full-participation sex. 

Tricky words 

biannual, biennial, biennale 
Biannual means two times a year. As some people confuse biannual with biennial, it is possible to replace biannual by semiannual, half yearly or every six months: «The project will be funded on a semiannual basis».  

Biennial means every two years: «This plant did not flower this year as it is a biennial». If you feel readers could make the above confusion, biennial can be replaced by every second year or every other year.  

Biennale means a large exhibition or music festival, usually arranged biennially. A group in NTNU that coordinated the first Trondheim Biennale in 1998 is now planning the se-cond Trondheim Biennale for 1999. 

loose, loosen, lose 
Loose, pronounced /lu:s/, means to release or detach. If you untie dogs, you set them loose. You can also talk about «a loose tooth», or «loose change» (Norw. småpenger). 

Loosen, /lu:sn/, means to make something looser: «His new shoes were killing him until he loosened the laces».   

Lose, pronounced /lu:z/, means failing to find something: «He is always losing things and would lose his head if it was not screwed on». Lose also means being deprived of something. «Use it or lose it» advised an English expert on male sexual problems. Dagbladet managed to mix up lose and loose and the above expert was reported as saying: «Use it or loose it» (16 October 1998).  

city, town 
City is more than merely a large town. It may have legal status that comes from the monarch, as in Britain, or from the state, as in the USA. Most cities have a cathedral and/or a university. Size is usually, but not always, important. One of the world's financial centres has over a million people working there, but the City of London is only one square mile and has a population of about 6 000. There are also quite small cities in the American West. In other parts of the English-speaking world many large towns are called city without any legal rights or royal charter. It follows from this that in Norway: Oslo, Bergen and Trondheim should be correctly termed cities. Tromsø and Stavanger are also usually considered cities, but most other urban settlements in Norway are best termed large towns, towns or small towns. An example of this confusion is «Longyearbyen with 1600 inhabitants … is now a small but modern city» (UNIS Guide, 1998-99). 

Town is often used for places that are larger than villages but smaller than cities. Sometimes part of a city is called a town, as in «the old town». The size of towns is often used as a concept as in «small-town America». In BE, town is also used for the whole of London: «The talk of the town». Note that in BE, there is no article in expressions that refer to London like «we have a small flat in town». If you said «we have a small flat in the town», this means any town apart from London. 

Enlightening zoo-English 

Notice in Stockholm Zoo:  Please do not feed the animals. They may get sick of being fed by the public. 
Notice in a Budapest zoo: Please do not feed the animals. If you have any suitable food, give it to the guard on duty.