a toy that was popular in Victorian times. A disk or card with a picture on each side is attached to two pieces of string. When the strings are twirled quickly between the fingers, the two pictures appear to combine into a single image due to persistence of vision.
I came across this word in a Paste Magazine article about Thom Yorke, lead singer of the band Radiohead: “Left to ponder the potential of the Bono/Yorke tag team while the waiter refills our glasses, I begin to see Yorke as a human thaumatrope, a token with two different pictures on the front and back. When you roll it quickly band and forth, the two pictures become one image, flickering and three-dimensional. Like the two faces of Janus, one side represents organic beginnings while the other represents the transition between primitive life and civilization, peace and war; spin them fast enough and you have Thom Yorke.” Wow, that’s pretty heady stuff.