Anachronism (from the Greek ἀνάana, "against" and χρόνος khronos, "time"), is a chronological inconsistency in some arrangement, especially a juxtaposition of person(s), events, objects, or customs from different periods of time. The most common type of anachronism is an object misplaced in time, but it may be a verbal expression, a technology, a philosophical idea, a musical style, a material/textile, a plant or animal, a custom or anything else associated with a particular period in time so that it is incorrect to place it outside its proper temporal domain. An anachronism may be either intentional or unintentional.
- Anachronisms are the most common and most insidious disease of science fiction and fantasy. They can take many forms, popping up at all the least convenient times, and sometimes leaving authors and editors scratching their heads over how to fix ones they have found or how to apologize for ones discovered by readers. An anachronism is an unintentional mistake in chronology...two fun examples: The space shuttle Dr. Floyd takes to the space station in 2001: A Space Odyssey is operated by Pan Am, an airline that went out of business in 1991.
Stephen King’s The “Green Mile” is set in the fictional |Cold Mountain Penitentiary in Louisiana in 1932, and prominently features death row inmates executed by means of the electric chair. But the electric chair was not used in Louisiana until 1941.
- Philip Athans, R.A. Salvatore in: The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction: 6 Steps to Writing and Publishing Your Bestseller! , Adams Media, 18 June 2010, p. 167.
- HANDKERCHIEF, n. A small square of silk or linen, used in various ignoble offices about the face and especially serviceable at funerals to conceal the lack of tears. The handkerchief is of recent invention; our ancestors knew nothing of it and entrusted its duties to the sleeve. Shakespeare's introducing it into the play of "Othello" is an anachronism: Desdemona dried her nose with her skirt, as Dr. Mary Walker and other reformers have done with their coattails in our own day --an evidence that revolutions sometimes go backward.
- His movements, his clothes, everything about him, seemed slightly out of place in this assembly. He spoiled the pattern; like Alvin, he was an anachronism.
- Queen Elizabeth's Day
Anachronists! I rest on this,
Whoe’ver may count it schism;
Mere by-blows are the world and we,
And time within eternity
A sheer anachronism.
- John Davidson in: Fleet Street Eclogues, Dodd, Mead, 1895, p. 198.
- Friedan: A celebration of women's bodies is all right with me so long as there is no denial of the personhood of women. I suppose sometimes women are sex objects -- and men are too, by the way. It's the definition of women just as sex objects that bothers me. Women can celebrate themselves as sex objects; they can celebrate their own sexuality and can enjoy the sexuality of men as far as I'm concerted. Let's have men centerfolds. [..] Playboy's centerfold is fine. It's holding onto your own anachronism and it is not pornographic, though many of my sisters would disagree. It's harmless. [...] Playboy strikes me as an odd mixture of sex -- sometimes juvenile --- and forward intellectual thoughts.
- Sometimes I hear the world discussed as the realm of men. This is not my experience. I have watched men fall to the ground like leaves. They were swept up as memories, and burned. History owns them. These men were petrified in both senses of the word: paralyzed and turned to stone. Their refusal to express feeling killed them. Anachronistic men. Those poor, poor boys.
- And so the popular poet usually leads a marginal existence in literaiy life. His fellow poets look on him as an anomaly or an anachronism. Reviewers find him eminently unnewsworthy. Publishers see little prestige attached to printing his work. Critics, who have been trained to celebrate complexity, consider him an amiable simpleton
- Dana Gioia in: Can Poetry Matter?: Essays on Poetry and American Culture, Graywolf Press, 1 September 2002, p. 84.
- At this purely subjective rating, therefore, Religion must be considered vindicated in a certain way from the attacks of her critics. It would seem that she cannot be a mere anachronism and survival, but must exert a permanent function, whether She be with or without .intellectual content, and whether, if she have any, it be true or false.
- All plays about historical events deal both with the past and with the present. Anachronism is thus, in one form or another, the necessary condition of their being. Not even the most learned historian could avoid it, because the past is only partly knowable, because we cannot wholly detach ourselves from our own time, and because any presentation of the past in the contemporary langaugewill involve accommodations.
- Michelle Martindale in: Shakespeare and the Uses of Antiquity: An Introductory Essay, Routledge, 15 July 2005, p. 94.
- ...when, in the Trojan debate, Hector cites Aristotle's Ethics, we receive a shock of anachronism which is surely deliberate. It is inconceivable that Shakespeare thought that Aristotle lived before the Trojan War (even if unlearned he was no Trimalchio or Bottom) and the effect of violent disjunction is quite different from that of trivial anachronism, like the reference to Milo, a famous Greek athlete of the sixth century BC
- Michelle Martindale in: "Shakespeare and the Uses of Antiquity: An Introductory Essay", p. 95.
- Shakespeare’s historical ‘mistakes’ [Anachronism] like the notorious ‘sweaty night-caps’ and striking clock in Julius Ceasar, are a blemish in his plays
- Michelle Martindale in: "Shakespeare and the Uses of Antiquity: An Introductory Essay", p. 121
- Anachronisms could be justified as a means of bringing the past to life and making the representation convincing to the audience. (This has always been the norm in religious paintings, providing a means whereby the Biblical story is made to live anew). Anachronism was also sanctioned by the practice of Roman poets like Virgil, who included in the Aeneid customs and objects which clearly did not belong to the heroic world of primitive Italy that he was describing.
- Michelle Martindale in: "Shakespeare and the Uses of Antiquity: An Introductory Essay", p. 122.
- All plays about the past must be to some extent anachronistic; all the more so one like Christopher Fry’s “The Lady is Not For Burning”, in which a partly pseudo-Elizabethan language is used for the expression of some distinctly modern thoughts.
- Michelle Martindale in: "Shakespeare and the Uses of Antiquity: An Introductory Essay", P.122-23.
- Anachronism is still one of the most obvious faults when the unqualified (those expert in other disciplines, perhaps) attempt to do history.
- Arthur Marwick in: The New Nature of History: Knowledge, Evidence, Language, Lyceum Books, Jan 1, 2001, p. 63.
- Camels as a means of transportation abound in the Old Testament. When Abraham sends a servant to look for a bride for his son Isaac, that servant chooses Rebecca. And why? Because of her kindness in offering to water the camels. That's just one of dozens of camel cameos in the Bible, mostly in the book of Genesis, but scholars have long suspected that those camel caravans are a literary anachronism.
- Renee Montagne in: Carol Meyers Archaeology Find: Camels In 'Bible' Are Literary Anachronisms, npr.org, 14 February 2014.
- War is becoming an anachronism … There are two systems, the past and the future. The present is only a painful transition. Which must triumph? The future, will it not? Yes indeed, the future! That is, intelligence, industry, and peace. The past was brute force, privilege, and ignorance. Each of our victories was a triumph for the ideas of the Revolution. Victories will be won, one of these days, without cannon, and without bayonets.
- Napoleon I in: Napoleon in His Own Words: From the French of Jules Bertaut, A.C. McClurg & Company, 1916, p. 133.
- Thanksgiving is not an anachronism whose time is past. It is much more than a holiday to celebrate a meal shared between the Pilgrims and Native Americans. It is a time to reflect and be thankful for what we have--not for what we cherish, desire or envy.
- Although there are other heresies in The General Theory, along with puzzles, opacities, loose ends, confusions, errors, exaggerations, and anachronisms galore, they do not detract from the book's relevance to our present troubles. Economists may have forgotten The General Theory and moved on, but economics has not outgrown it, or the informal mode of argument that it exemplifies, which can illuminate nooks and crannies that are closed to mathematics. Keynes's masterpiece is many things, but "outdated" it is not.
- Examining deliberate anachronism, particularly in film adaptation, reveals that being faithful to the original can require removing it from its context. Through eradicating or neglecting historical background, anachronistic adaptation is able to free the themes from the text by demonstrating the universality that made the artwork so valuable in the first place; it is a necessary and paradoxical reversal.
- Jane Potthast in: For Infidelity: Reconsidering Aesthetic Anachronism, PopMatters.com, 18 September 2013.
- ...to understand the paradoxical play of anachronism and fidelity on a more substantial level, it is better to look at a few film adaptations that are more complex than the recent The Great Gatsby, and further removed from their original context. The most obvious of these are Shakespearean adaptations, and the reason for this is because these are the most deeply laden with universalities in our entire body of Western literature. I will invite the reader to a consideration of the concept of historical removal as a subversive fidelity through brief summaries of Akira Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood (1957), and Lurhman’s Romeo and Juliet (1996)
- Jane Potthast in: "For Infidelity: Reconsidering Aesthetic Anachronism".
- ...some anachronisms are so oft-repeated on screen that they've become the norm. For instance, the idea that Roman legionnaires wore leather armour is a cliché that originated with the sword-and-sandal epics of the 1950s, and bands of marauding Injuns never "circled the wagons" in the old west.
After all, film and TV require some suspension of disbelief. I suppose the thing to remember about anachronisms is that everybody makes mistakes.
- This dread group of moviegoing vigilantes is dedicated to suppressing anachronism now so freely engaged in by screenwriters...
Anachronism is the placement of a word of the present in the mouth of a person of the past. The newly organized time police have asked me to help them put a stop to it because the practice is subverting our society's orderly sense of sequence...
”In 'Schindler's List,' writes Eric Myers of New York, in the space of 10 seconds, the character played by Ralph Fiennes refers to a scam twice, then says, 'Who's scamming who?' This, in Germany during World War II?
- William Safire in: The Way We Live Now: 3-26-00: On Language; Anachronism, The New York Times, 26 March 2000.
- There seems an anachronism in the history of this person. Ratcliffe [Jem], among other escapes from justice, was released by the Porteous [Jock] mob when under sentence of death; and he was again under the same predicament when the Highlanders made a similar jail delivery in 1715. He was too sincere a whig to embrace liberation at the hands of Jacobites and in reward was made one of the keepers of the Tollbooth.
- Sir Walter Scott in: The Novels of Walter Scott: With All His Introd. and Notes, Volume 2 , R. Cadell, 1850, p. 339.
- It is necessary, for exciting interest of any kind, that the subject assumed should be, as it were, translated into the manners as well as the language of the age we live in."
- Sir Walter Scott in: in: “The Novels of Walter Scott: With All His Introd. and Notes, Volume 2”, p. 469
- Justifying the use of anachronism in historical literature.
- A soldier is an anachronism of which we must get rid. Among people who are proof against, the suggestions of romantic fiction there can no longer be any question of the fact that military service produces moral imbecility, ferocity, and cowardice
- Bernard Shaw in: William English Walling Socialism as it is: A Survey of the World-wide Revolutionary Movement, Macmillan, 1918, p. 410-11.
- Then, suddenly, you're there, outside a dark-faced building, a brownstone anachronism that stares back dully with the defiant expression of the moronic and you have an impending sense of being challenged
- There is no such thing as natural law, the expression is nothing more than a silly anachronism … There is no such thing as right, except when there is a law to forbid a certain thing under pain of punishment. Before law existed, the only natural thing was the strength of the lion, or the need of a creature who was cold or hungry, to put it in one word, need. ~
- Yet, strange to say – though it is undeniable that the universal armaments and destructive wars which are ruining the peoples result from that one feeling — all my arguments showing the backwardness, anachronism, and harmfulness of patriotism have been met, and are still met, either by silence, by intentional misinterpretation, or by a strange unvarying reply to the effect that only bad patriotism (Jingoism, or Chauvinism)...is evil, but that good real patriotism is a very elevated moral feeling, to condemn which is not only irrational but wicked.
- I am not so serious
this passion is plagiarism
I might join your century
but only on a rare occasion
I was taken out before the labour pains set in
And now behold the world's worst accident I
am the girl anachronism!
- Anachronisms in movies get a bad rap from historians...That “thwack!” you hear in the theater whenever King Arthur (who lived in the 5th century, if we give him the benefit of the doubt on whole “really existing” thing) clanks onto the screen in full plate armor (invented in the 15th century) is some historian having a facepalm moment.
- A. Bowdoin Van Riper in: Hollywood, History, and the Art of the Big Anachronism, PopMatters.com., 26 September 2013.
- Even historians, though, recognize that not all anachronisms are created equal. We don’t (well, most of us don’t) sit there in our local multiplex or on our couch obsessively checking Hollywood’s latest vision of Way Back Then to see if the US flags have the right number of stars, the stamps on the letters are the right denomination, or the car license plates are the right color. We also get (well, most of us do) the whole concept of “Hollywood reality”.
- A. Bowdoin Van Riper in: "Hollywood, History, and the Art of the Big Anachronism".
- Anachronisms have their uses. A film can teach the audiences more about certain historical eras by deliberately getting a few selected details wildly, absurdly “wrong” than by getting them right. Call it the Big Anachronism: The detail that’s so over-the-top wrong that audiences start wondering why the filmmaker did it
- A. Bowdoin Van Riper in: "Hollywood, History, and the Art of the Big Anachronism".
- The Big Anachronism isn’t a particularly a subtle instrument, but it’s a versatile one. Used over and over in rapid succession—as in Mel Brooks’ Robin Hood: Men In Tights — it works as a form of (low) comedy. Tossed in casually, at the edges of the main narrative, it rewards the older, better-informed, or more-attentive viewer. Set up artfully, it can draw that viewer’s attention to things that are uniformly funny on the surface and subtly thought-provoking beneath it. It can even work, quite successfully, in an awkward, clanking train wreck of a movie like Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991).... Big Anachronisms exist to overcome uncertainty, and to eliminate any question of whether or not you’re supposed to notice.
- A. Bowdoin Van Riper in: "Hollywood, History, and the Art of the Big Anachronism".
- There are too many camels in the Bible, out of time and out of place. Camels probably had little or no role in the lives of such early Jewish patriarchs as Abraham, Jacob and Joseph, who lived in the first half of the second millennium B.C., and yet stories about them mention these domesticated pack animals more than 20 times. Genesis 24, for example, tells of Abraham’s servant going by camel on a mission to find a wife for Isaac. These anachronisms are telling evidence that the Bible was written or edited long after the events it narrates and is not always reliable as verifiable history.
- For anyone who grew up with Sunday school images of the Three Wise Men from the East arriving astride camels at the manger in Bethlehem, whatever uncertainties there may be of that story, at least one thing is clear: By then the camel in the service of human life was no longer an anachronism.
- John Noble Wilford in: "Camels Had No Business in Genesis".
- Raphael may have heaped anachronism on anachronism in the 'School of Athens,' and thus have given occasion for the many erroneous interpretations which this picture [of St. Paul with Aristotle.] has suffered; in the idea itself, on which the dramatic interest of the whole conception depends, and which invests it with true unity and power, there is certainty no obscurity, and this idea comes before us with perfect clearness and superior to all anachronisms, when we see St. Paul, the great Apostle of Gentiles, by the side of Aristotle, the representative of scholastic theology.
- Alfred Freiherr von Wolzogen in: Raphael Santi: His Life and His Works, Smith, Elder, & Company, 1866, p. 232.