RETROGRADE: “Reverting to an earlier and inferior condition.” – Oxford English Dictionary
This dropped last week:
Mossberg Announces Retrograde Pump-Action Shotguns
Designed to commemorate Mossberg’s 100th anniversary in 2019, the Retrograde Series features the two most iconic police and military pump-action shotguns, built to today’s standards, but with the retro look and feel of a walnut stock and matching corncob fore-end.
So… Mossberg decided to market these shotguns as “Retrograde” as opposed to “vintage”, “historic”, or simply “retro”, a descriptor they use in this press release.
Why is this a problem? Because unlike the above terms, retrograde carries negative connotations – just like opinionated, simplistic, stagnant, and reactionary. Yet people (including firearms marketers) seem to be oblivious to this distinction and use these words in neutral or (in this case) positive contexts.
[At this point, the THUNDER of HORSES – dozens of them, a veritable horde! – interrupts Otto in mid-complaint. A COOPER in a MAGA hat pushes his way to the front.]
Come down off your high horse, Otto! Retrograde just means what it sounds like – “something from the past!” Like hand-crafted oak hogsheads and Justin Timberlake! Ain’t nothing wrong with that!
[OTTO, unfazed, Googles retrograde and displays the results:]
Then there’s Trump’s new pick for attorney general, William P. Barr. Aside from Sessions and Otis, it would be hard to find a more retrograde, anti-reform candidate to head up the Justice Department.(The Washington Post, “Let’s Stop Pretending That Trump Cares About Criminal Justice Reform,” 11 December, 2018)
Labour leader Councillor Lisa Eldret called the Conservative plans “retrograde” andadded that they would “set us back for decades to come”.(DerbyshireLive, “Row over Assembly Rooms plandeepens ahead of cabinet meeting,” 11 December, 2018)
A lot of classic holiday specials have horrible retrograde messages. That just makes them quintessential Americana.(Salon.com, “It’s not just “Rudolph”: Holiday TV specials are mostly creepy, weird or depressing as hell,” 13 December, 2018)
Slander most foul! So “conservative” is the same as “backward” and “unenlightened”? I should expect as much from The Washington Post and Salon.
PHONE BOOK AD COPYWRITER
Excuse me, Otto, but you’re wrong. Retro is the cat’s pajamas, pops! So why not retrograde?
Do I really have to answer that? Hey! Why am I talking in Academy screenwriting format? Why is it spaced with tab stops and set in Courier?
Because now you, too, are the very embodiment, the very spirit, the essence of retrograde, whose putrid, mortifying calumny clung to the words – those nouns, those adjectives, those interjections – BANG! – you claim to cherish but instead bleed of all joy. Like me, as I lay dying.
Right or wrong, retrograde carries negative connotations,so instead use traditional, historic, antique, vintage, throwback, or retro.
– Otto E. Mezzo
One thought on “Retrograde”
It’s funny how “retro” has become a word unto itself. It’s not merely a descriptive prefix, or an abbreviation for “retrograde,” but it seems to specifically refer to style or design, and it carries a positive (or at least nostalgic) connotation.
It’s also oddly specific. Nobody would refer to Connestoga wagons or Gregorian chant as “retro,” though they come from earlier times. It seems to me that “retro” refers to the zeitgeist of Americana in the 1950’s through perhaps the 1980’s, though I expect this will expand as the population ages. “Retro” needs to have occurred within living memory, and needs to have been part of a pop-culture movement that has definitely ended, AND has since been re-imagined or mythologized.
Am I onto something here?