Anachronism

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An anachronism—from the Greek ανά (ana: up, against, back, re-) and χρόνος (chronos: time)—is an accidental or deliberate inconsistency in some chronological arrangement, especially a chronological misplacing of persons, events, objects, or customs in regard to each other. The item is often an object, but may be a verbal expression, a technology, a philosophical idea, a musical style, a material, a custom, or anything else so closely associated with a particular period in time that it would be incorrect to place it outside its proper domain. A representation of something as existing or occurring at other than its proper time in history.

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The intentional use of older, often obsolete cultural artifacts may be regarded as anachronistic. For example, it could be considered anachronistic for a modern-day person to wear a top-hat, write with a quill, or use a typewriter. Such choices may reflect an eccentricity, an aesthetic preference, or an ethical preference.

Another sort of parachronism arises when a work based on a particular era's state of knowledge is read within the context of a later era with a different state of knowledge. Many scientific works that rely on theories that have later been discredited have become anachronistic with the removal of those underpinnings, and works of speculative fiction often find their speculation outstripped by real-world technological development.

A prochronism, on the other hand, occurs when an item appears in a temporal context in which it could not yet be present (the object had not yet been developed, the verbal expression had not been coined, the philosophy had not been formulated, the breed of animal had not been developed, the technology had not been created). An example might be Western movies' placing of firearms not introduced until the 1870s, such as the Winchester 1873 rifle or the Colt Single Action Army revolver, into frontier society of antebellum or Civil War years. While prochronisms such as this may not be noticeable to the uninformed, other prochronisms are frankly comic in their effect (e.g., a 10th-century British peasant earnestly explaining his village as an "anarcho-syndicalist commune" in the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, or a Beatlesque band called the "Bedbugs" appearing in the American Civil War–era TV comedy F-Troop).

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