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An update on my thinking in regard to anachronistic signs. Nerd alert: If you are not into etymology and / or linguistics of ASL (as part of the ASL learning process) just scroll on past folks. Read some other post. Seems to me there is a difference between:

1. An anachronistic sign (a sign from an earlier time period that would look out of place if used now).

2. A depictive sign that is currently used but is based on something that is no longer current.

The old two handed sign for "telephone" is a true anachronistic sign.

Meaning? If you were to do that sign today it would be an anachronism (a time-displaced sign). It would be as if a Deaf person from the early to mid 1900's were to have time traveled to the current time period and signed "phone."

The sign COFFEE (using the coffee grinder cranking movement) is a currently used sign that happens to have a clear etymology (we know its origin).

The sign COFFEE is not an anachronism. If you see someone sign COFFEE you do not think,

"Wow! Did you time travel here from the past?" The sign COFFEE is not an anachronism but it does depict something that if you came across it being used in real life you would consider the object to be an anachronism. If you see your friend sign "COFFEE" you don't think that your friend has been time traveling. So the sign is not an anachronism.

Many of the signs we have been labeling as anachronisms are not in and of themselves anachronisms.
They could be considered "anachronistic" because they "involve" or "have something to do with" anachronisms but the signs themselves are not considered time displaced.  A sign can be in use for a hundred years and still be the "current" sign for a concept.

We do not have a concise label for "currently used signs that happen to have a clear etymology based on the depiction of something that would be considered an anachronism if it were appear before us in real life at this time."

I'm going to coin (invent or make up) a word now to refer to modern signs that depict time displaced things, ideas, or processes:


"Hand-cranked coffee grinders" are considered anachronistic in the United States. If you see one you will likely think, "Oh that is a cool old-fashioned device!" I'm going to coin (invent or make up) a word now to refer to modern signs that depict time displaced things, ideas, or processes: "anachrodepictive."

COFFEE is an "anachrodepictive" sign (to young people and non-coffee-snobs who have not seen a real life coffee grinder). It is anachronistic in the sense that it depicts a technology form from a different time period (that seems time displaced to the individual person who is only used to electric grinders). COFFEE is therefore "anachronistic" (to some people) but as the currently accepted sign for COFFEE the sign itself is not an anachronism.

TELEPHONE-[two-handed_version]-[anachronism] is an anachronism. (It is both anachronistic and an anachronism.)



COMPUTER-[reel-to-reel version] is:
1. Anachrodepictive because it depicts (shows) a technology which if appeared in front of you today in real life would seem time displaced.

2. Anachronistic in the sense that it is anachrodepictive.

3. Not quite yet a full anachronism (to me) because I literally saw someone use the sign last weekend.

4. Could be considered an anachronism to some people who haven't seen the sign in years and would wonder just how freaking old you are if they saw you using it.

The challenge here is that these two words mean different things:


All anachronisms are anachronistic but not all anachronistic signs are anachronisms.

All cats are animalistic but not all animalistic creatures are cats.

See: Anachrodepictive


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