The first thing to do to understand the meaning of the anachronistic term is to discover its etymological origin. In this case, we can establish that it is a word that derives from the Greek, exactly from “anachronikós”, which is the result of the sum of the following delimited parts:
-The prefix “ana-“, which can be translated as “against” or “about”.
-The noun “cronos”, which is the name of the god of time.
-The suffix “-ikos”, which is synonymous with “relative to”.
The anachronistic adjective is used to describe what has anachronism: that is, it is incongruous with respect to the time in which it occurs. These are elements that, due to their condition or characteristics, are characteristic of a different time.
There are two main types of anachronisms. When an old component is located at a later time, there is talk of parachronism. Suppose a filmmaker, in 2015, decides to distribute his new film on magnetic tape (VHS) cassettes. This decision is anachronistic since, in the 21st century, VHS videocassettes are no longer used. Instead, the logical thing would be distribution on Blu-ray, DVD or other digital formats.
Another class of anachronism implies that a component of a certain time is situated in an earlier epoch. Some name this anachronism as prochronism, although the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE) does not include this term in its dictionary. A case of this type of anachronism happens if, in a movie about Ancient Egypt that takes place during the construction of the Great Sphinx of Giza, a character appears driving a car. This element is anachronistic: it supposes a prochronism because automobiles were invented thousands of years after that time.
Anachronistic elements can appear in everyday life. Sending paper letters through the mail can be considered an anachronistic practice considering the existence of email. The same could be said of those who travel on horseback when there are numerous motor vehicles to cover long distances.
It is curious to know that, on many occasions, anachronisms have occurred in the cinema that have gone unnoticed by the public and that are basically due to errors of the team that has carried out the films in question. Clear examples are the following:
-In the film “Braveheart” (1995), the characters appear in kilts that, according to historians, would not become popular until four centuries later.
-In the movie “El Cid” (1961), which narrates the adventures of the famous Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, El Cid Campeador, we speak of “Spain”. But this concept of nation did not exist at that time, in any case they should have made use of the word “Castilla”.
-In the feature film “Gladiator” (2000), the protagonist gladiator appears imprisoned with a type of padlock that was created in the United States in the 16th century.
-In the Oscar-winning “Titanic” (1997), the character played by Leonardo DiCaprio refers to Lake Wissota. However, this one, which is artificial, was not created until five years after the tragedy of that boat.