natural person

In the NYT on 9/11, an editorial “An Amendment to Cut Political Cash”, with the now-familiar retronym natural person:

There are 48 Democratic senators sponsoring a constitutional amendment to restore congressional control to campaign spending that is expected to come up for a vote later this week. They are not under the illusion that it will become the 28th Amendment soon, if ever. But their willingness to undertake a long and difficult effort shows the importance they attach to restoring fairness to American politics by reducing the influence of big money.

… Addressing the Citizens United decision, [the amendment] says that governments can “distinguish between natural persons and corporations” in setting those regulations, thus allowing restrictions on corporate or union spending that would not necessarily apply to individuals.

Ordinary people would simply make a distinction between persons and corporations, but once corporations are treated as persons for certain legal purposes, the ‘human being’ sense of person needs to be distinguished from these legal entities — and so we get the retronym natural person ‘human being’.

From a 3/7/12 posting of mine on “persons”:

Treating corporations (and other entities) as persons for certain legal purposes has a long history. Such entities even have a technical name: juristic persons (sometimes artificial persons, fictitious persons, etc.), contrasted with natural persons ‘human beings’.

And on retronyms, from Wikipedia:

A retronym is a type of neologism that provides a new name for something to differentiate the original from a more recent form or version.

Advances in technology are often responsible for retronym coinage. For example, the term “acoustic guitar” [previously, simply “guitar”] was coined at the advent of electric guitars, and analog watches [previously, simply “watches”] were thus named to distinguish them from digital watches.

… The term retronym was coined by Frank Mankiewicz in 1980 and popularized by William Safire in The New York Times.

In 2000 The American Heritage Dictionary (4th edition) became the first major dictionary to include the word retronym.

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