For some time Dr. Boli has been thinking of building a glossary of a particular kind of term in English. He has no term for this kind of term, and perhaps readers can suggest one. He calls the phenomenon “word drift,” but “drifted words” seems too awkward as a term for the terms affected by the phenomenon.
The terms Dr. Boli has in mind are terms that are misapplied through ignorance of outdated technology. As we forget how old things worked, related but distinct terms drift into the wrong categories.
For example, “SLR camera,” as we see in this demonstration page for a WordPress theme, has come to mean “35-millimeter film camera.” The stock photo shows a rangefinder camera.
From the Independent Publisher 2 demo page. Reproduced for the purpose of criticism and comment.
Originally the term “SLR” (short for single-lens reflex) was invented precisely to exclude rangefinders and every other kind of camera where the photographer did not compose the shot through the taking lens. When not used by professional photographers, the term has drifted into meaning almost the opposite of what it was meant to mean.
Similarly, the term “upright piano” usually refers to spinet or console pianos in classified advertisements. In the days when every house had a piano in the living room, the term “upright” was used to exclude those other vertical pianos: an “upright” was a piano at least 48 inches tall. Piano technicians still use the term that way, but few non-musicians under forty grew up in a house with a piano, and what Dr. Boli still thinks of as the incorrect use has become the majority usage.
The word “tape” has come to refer to any long flexible consumable thing inserted in a device. It is used for “ribbon” when eBay sellers have a typewriter to hawk. It is used for “film” when they talk about cameras.
An antique movie camera is often described as a “camcorder.” A unifocal lens on an old camera is called the “zoom.” The lens cap is called the “shutter.”
Dr. Boli is sure his readers can come up with many other examples of word drift, and he invites them to do so. But what shall we call these drifted words?