The Proper Use of ANACHRONISM

Here is a very fine article which offers wise counsel and it is written by a skilled attorney who is unusually caring and compassionate.

What bothers me about the article is the use of the word “anachronism.”

When I hear the word “anachronism” I immediately think of something like Shakespeare’s play about Julius Caesar mentioning that a clock sounded. Obviously there were no clocks in Caesar’s day. The mention of a clock during a period prior to the clock’s invention is an ANACHRONISM. Mind you, a clock in and of itself is not an anachronism but rather the MENTION of a clock in an inaccurate context.

If we refer to this article on ANACHRONISM we will see that there is also a secondary meaning:

IF you were to walk into an office and see someone writing with a goose quill pen, periodically dipping it in an ink well, then that too is an anachronism. It may be that this person is eccentric or affectacious.
The quill pen and the ink well are not in and of themselves anachronisms but rather the active use or employment of them at a time when one would expect to see a pencil or ballpoint pen.

If one strolls through a museum, one is not gazing at anachronisms but rather at artifacts from a bygone era. When you visit Egypt and tour the pyramids you are not seeing anachronisms. IF you should learn that a governor or a president or prime minister or a dictator were having a pyramid constructed for their entombment then that indeed would be an anachronism.

Now if we examine the article in question, it commences with a colorful array of items which catch the reader’s attention as oddities, then the author mentions that all such items are anachronisms and finally, now that he has the reader’s attention and curiosity aroused to a high pitch, he proceeds to make his REAL point by likening such old fashioned artifacts to the feelings and emotional baggage which people bring with them to divorce cases.

Our author is perfectly correct in pointing out that the love and affection we once felt or our anger and resentment at some sleight or infidelity are no longer appropriate to nurture in our heart but should be placed aside, released, and replaced with reason, compromise, practicality. We need to make peace with the past and move on.

But, herein lies another problem. The reader is left with the suggestion or intimation that our feelings and emotions are anachronisms. I disagree. Homer’s Iliad opens with the Greek word for RAGE “Mainen aide Thea” (Sing, O Goddess, of the RAGE [of Achilles].)

It is my feeling that FEELINGS and EMOTIONS can never properly be called anachronisms since for one thing they never go out of style and secondly if YOU feel anger or resentment or jealousy or attraction then YOU ACTUALLY FEEL those emotions and they are exactly the same kind of emotions felt in the time of Homer. Our technology had advanced but our psycho-dynamics remains perennial and unchanged throughout the eons.

I think the author could have achieved his goal and avoided the problem by listing the items and calling them antiques which would suggest that they no longer fit in and are “out of place.”



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