I seem to be one of the few users of the word skiamorph, referring to a term used for an obsolete form even after it is replaced by a new form. One “dials” a phone that has nothing but buttons, for example. I didn’t coin the word, which actually comes from architecture. But the other day, I did run across the original news clipping that taught me the word: “One person’s Rolodex is another person’s electronic skiamorph” by Bill Atkinson, Globe and Mail, 1996.02.10. (I see that my esteemed colleague Grant Barrett caught that one shortly after it came out.) Anyway, Atkinson writes:

Even the computer on which I write these words has a skiamorph or two. An L-shaped arrow on its Enter key points down and to the left, tracing the return path of a manual typewriter platen…. Excellent new materials such as aluminum, prefinished steel and self-adhesive vinyl are too self-conscious to appear in their own guise, and come tarted up with fake wood grain.

Actually, now that I reread the piece, it ain’t that great. Nonetheless, the word is.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2006.07.16 13:13. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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