An anachronism simply means a place, person, thing or event that is
placed in a time period in which it does not belong. For instance, Paul
Revere riding a motorcycle or George Washington sitting in front of
a computer would be anachronisms. Here at the Virginia Beach Advanced
Public Speaking Institute, an hour's ride from Williamsburg, we have
a picture of "George Washington" at my desk... and computer. And yes,
Paul Revere is welcome, too. Even the well spoken Virginia boy
Patrick Henry could still come and learn the newest techniques in our
public speaking course.
Anachronisms are very good tools that are taught in a public speaking
Advertising agencies use anachronisms all the time, especially around
federal holidays like Washington's Birthday , Columbus Day, and even
Lincoln's birthday. To promote the Sacagawea golden dollar coin, full
page ads of George Washington in a modern tuxedo at a cocktail party
surrounded by young women whose skin color suggests they might be American
Indian were seen often in newspapers.
So you had the old man and the George Washington dollar bill, and the
young Indian woman with the new Sacaqawea dollar coin.
The relationship between new and old is always an interesting concept.
Anytime you can highlight this type of relationship in one of your presentations
you will evoke some humor and create more attention to your product,
service, or point.
I saw an ad for fluorescent light bulbs that had Thomas Edison working
on a phonograph. The caption read: "If Thomas Edison wouldn't have wasted
his time on this (incandescent bulb), his phonograph might have been
a CD player."
Here is a good fill-in-the-blank format. Would (big name from the past)
have________________ if he had ________________? All you have to do
is make a simple relationship and your message will be funny and memorable.
"Would George Washington have thrown his money across the Potomac if
he had ABC investment company on his side?"
Once you get used to anachronisms during your public speaking course,
you can adjust the content to suit your presentation. The "Man on the
Money" George Washington/ABC investment anachronism could turn into
a good, usable one-liner, to add some spice to your presentation.
"George Washington wouldn't have thrown his money across the Potomac
if he had come to us for advice."
By the way, some physics professors say there is no way George Washington
could have thrown a dollar coin across the river, but any economics
professor could tell you, "A dollar went a LOT further back then."
When your trying to add a little humor, anachronisms are the perfect
Back to Articles