Wordcraft Community Home Page
Ghost words

This topic can be found at:
http://wordcraft.infopop.cc/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/932607094/m/3330045566

August 17, 2013, 20:26
Robert Arvanitis
Ghost words
Is there a term for "culture ghosts?"

I mean things like the "save" icon, shown as 3.5 inch diskette. No longer in use, but still the representation.

Likewise the motion of dialing a phone, or rolling down a car window.

Somehow these "artifacts" seem more poignant as reminders, ghosts, than etymologies which are merely obscure.


RJA
August 17, 2013, 21:43
Kalleh
Oh, those are great culture ghosts! Playing a VCR is another.

I don't know a word though. Does anyone? There must be one.
August 18, 2013, 10:50
Robert Arvanitis
Kalleh:

There's a closely related effect - the "echo" of "artifacts."

When more people smoked, cars came equipped with cigarette lighters, in cylindrical sockets.

So battery chargers were shaped as cylinders, to fit the lighters too.

Now, far fewer people smoke, but since there are so many cylinder-chargers, car makers continue to install the otherwise obsolete lighters.

This resembles, but is not the same as, the "installed base" phenomenon of economics. "Installed base" may give a first-mover an advantage in a market (think VHS vs. Beta).

The "echo" effect is persistence of an artifact for an entirely different reason.


RJA
August 18, 2013, 11:52
Proofreader
One of my favorite scenes in a movie was from Mon Uncle, by Jacques Tati, where the uncle, seated in his nephew's new Chevrolet, has the cigarette lighter pointed out when he tries to light his pipe. He inserts the lighter,ignites his pipe, then vigorously shakes the lighter and tosses it out the window, like a discarded matchstick.


Give a man a fish and he can eat for one day; give a man a fishing pole and he will find an excuse to never work again.
Nollidj is power.
August 20, 2013, 01:39
arnie
This is closely related to skeuomorphism. Although modern versions of items no longer require certain features they will still retain them.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
August 20, 2013, 04:57
bethree5
We may need another word for the return of culture ghosts in the Great Recession, cf crank windows in the Chevy Spark.
August 20, 2013, 21:03
Kalleh
Wow, skeumorphism is a complicated word!

Thinking back to cultural ghosts, remember cigarette holders? And really there aren't that many ashtrays these days. I remember when that would be a good gift for people. Not many people smoke pipes anymore either, at least with plain tobacco. Wink Our house is more then 100 years old, and in the living room is this strange, built-in wooden piece with lines of holes. We think it might have been for pipes?
August 21, 2013, 03:13
Robert Arvanitis
Arnie -- home run! (if you'll permit a US archaism...)

The skeuomorph seems to be a deliberate design decision, but in the article, we can follow a link to "path dependence." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Path_dependence

That next entry may be of special interest to this group. It explains, for example, the habit of placing punctuation inside quotation marks, a ghost of the needs of casting metal type. Likewise the preservation of the "qwerty" keyboard.


RJA
August 21, 2013, 06:09
zmježd
the habit of placing punctuation inside quotation marks, a ghost of the needs of casting metal type

I had never heard this story before. Do you have a reference? AFAIK, the placement of punctuation marks within or without quoted text is arbitrary. I do know that usage between the US and the UK varies. The rest of Europe uses diffrerent marks and conventions also.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
August 21, 2013, 09:35
Geoff
quote:
Originally posted by bethree5:
We may need another word for the return of culture ghosts in the Great Recession, cf crank windows in the ]Chevy Spark.[/url]

Given the rise in robotics, maybe there's now such a thing as mechano-atavism - so soon might be.


It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society. -J. Krishnamurti
August 21, 2013, 10:36
arnie
quote:
I had never heard this story before. Do you have a reference?

Robert's link on Wikipedia (under Other Examples) mentions it, but gives no references.

As zmj says, UK usage differs so I can't see that there's a practical reason relating to hot metal type as suggested on that page.

The QWERTY keyboard is a good example, though. It was introduced with keys in that particular order to avoid the keys jamming, was was a deliberate attempt to slow down really fast typists. That's no longer a problem, of course, but attempts to introduce other layouts have more or less come to nothing.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
August 21, 2013, 20:46
Kalleh
The U.S. system of summer vacation is one, too, I believe. There are a few theories on why students take three months off during the summer, but none of them are valid any longer.

BTW, above I had mentioned pipes no longer being seen - just today I saw a man walking down the street using a pipe. Funny how that goes; I hadn't seen a pipe in years.
August 22, 2013, 02:11
arnie
I don't know about US school summer vacations, but as usual there's nothing new under the sun. The Roman poet Martial wrote on this, telling schoolmasters not to work the kids too hard, almost two thousand years ago.
quote:
Aestate pueri si valent, satis discunt
If during the summer boys are healthy, they learn enough
See more.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
August 25, 2013, 12:41
Robert Arvanitis
Had occasion this weekend to rent a car.

As noted earlier, there was a cylindrical socket for charging. But instead of the usual flap cover, it held a perfect plastic simulacrum of the electric lighter.

Fully non-functional of course, but in amusing detail; life's latest skeumorph.


RJA
August 25, 2013, 14:41
Robert Arvanitis
By the way - none of the under-30 crowd wear watches anymore. It's on their phone-pad-laptop.

But everyone knows the "index finger tapping the opposite wrist" signal of impatience over time.

Another cultural ghost of the absent watch.


RJA
August 25, 2013, 23:20
arnie
That signal is also used when asking someone the time. Cue someone fishing out their phone to look it up ...


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
August 26, 2013, 21:07
Kalleh
Really expensive watches are coming back for the 30 somethings, though, so I am not sure I agree about watches.
August 27, 2013, 05:52
Proofreader
Eventually iPads will shrink to the size of watches so they can be worn on the wrist instead of being carried. Of course, the screen will be miniscule, which means all users will have to either wear magnifying glasses or have a jeweler's loupe available (probably attached to their forehead, like a doctor's). Then everyone will look like Secret Service agents, talking into their hands.


Give a man a fish and he can eat for one day; give a man a fishing pole and he will find an excuse to never work again.
Nollidj is power.
August 27, 2013, 06:17
Robert Arvanitis
Perhaps so, Proofreader.

On the other hand, boomboxes got really big, physically, in the 1980s.

And today, the i-series seems to be growing rather than shrinking. Ever see someone trying to take a self-picture with a comically large device?


RJA
August 27, 2013, 06:31
Proofreader
Anthony Weiner wants everyone to buy a tablet so when he sends his pictures things look much bigger than they actually are.

slightly off topic, but have you ever gone to get on an elevator and found people already standing there waiting? Of course, you have. And even though they got there ahead of you, did you think they must have been incredibly stupid so they didn't push the button? So you push it to make sure the elevator starts to work. And get a mass of disapproving looks. Then you get the opportunity to give one of your own to the next person who pushes the button.


Give a man a fish and he can eat for one day; give a man a fishing pole and he will find an excuse to never work again.
Nollidj is power.
August 27, 2013, 07:03
Robert Arvanitis
Actually still on point, proofreader...

Amusing to note which things, though non-functional, give people comfort.

Elevators where for security, you preselect the floor and it tells you which elevator to take. Those still have buttons for the type-A pushers.

OR the Disney monorail. Fully automated but still has a "driver" up in front. Seems passengers are nervous otherwise. A human skeumorph.


RJA
August 27, 2013, 08:16
Geoff
quote:
Originally posted by Proofreader:
Then everyone will look like Secret Service agents, talking into their hands.
Or like the Borg from Star Trek.


It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society. -J. Krishnamurti
August 27, 2013, 08:44
Proofreader
A friend got a job at the local hotel many years ago when they required an elevator operator. His job was to ride all night pushing buttons and making sure the elevator stopped even with the floor. One night I went to see him for some reason and we were talking as the elevator traveled up and down. He wasn't too happy with the job and some of his passengers.

As we were talking, the door opened to this heavily-made up woman: fur coat, evening clothes, high heels, with a haughty manner.

Apparently to indicate her ability o converse with the serfs, she said to my friend, "Tell me, is this Providence a very big town?"

"Yes," he said. "It is the biggest in the state."

"How many people live here?"

The elevator had reached the lobgy and the door opened. My friend said, "I don't really know. Let me check." He stuck his head out and said, "One, two, three, four, five...."

The manager brought his check later that night.


Give a man a fish and he can eat for one day; give a man a fishing pole and he will find an excuse to never work again.
Nollidj is power.
August 27, 2013, 19:17
Kalleh
I'll be interested to see how those new Google glasses work. I am not optimistic that they'll be popular. However, people didn't think the iPad would be popular, either, and now everyone is producing them, which irritates me because they were Apple's idea.

Thanks for reminding me of the Boom Box, Robert. People used to walk around with those big lugs, instead of today's iPods.
September 02, 2013, 05:00
Robert Arvanitis
Just as we explore the idea of word ghosts, and cultural memories, it seems xkcd got the same feeling...

http://xkcd.com/1259/


RJA
September 02, 2013, 06:13
Proofreader
There's a hit movie about a haunting in a local house. The movie has caused some idiots to go to the cemetery near the house to destroy the grave marker for the woman who supposedly haunted the house. Other than the testimony of the woman who owns the house and is making a mint off the movie rights, there is no evidence that the lady ever did anything which would make the descration permissible.


Give a man a fish and he can eat for one day; give a man a fishing pole and he will find an excuse to never work again.
Nollidj is power.