Archaic or obsolete vocabulary and grammar.

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Why does legal English continue to remain archaic?

Perhaps this is a question for Law.SE if one exists, but I am asking here as there are other nice questions on English history. There is some historical development account presented in Wikipedia, ...
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7answers
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Why use “of” in the phrase “delivered of a baby”?

With all the "Royal baby" craze comes something that really confuses me. All the news media used pretty much the same sentence to make the announcement: The Duchess of Cambridge has been ...
23
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7answers
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Does “gay” still include the meaning “merry”?

Dictionary.com lists eight meanings of gay, with “merry, lively” as the first entry. Microsoft banned an Xbox user for listing Fort Gay (a real place) as his hometown: Xbox Live considered the ...
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5answers
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King James Bible archaic style

I am currently reading the King James Version of the Bible and I have noticed some features that I would like to know more about. Almost every verse of the First Book of Moses starts with “and”. ...
18
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6answers
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When should I use archaic and obsolete words?

I'm learning the English language, and while reading Merriam-Webster I often see common words with additional "obsolete" and "archaic" descriptions added to their definitions. When should I use ...
17
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2answers
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Was the “Ye Olde Shoppe” ever used or is it just an ancient-looking construct of modern times?

Surely, if I were the owner of a shop selling archery goods and wanted to portray my shop as some kind of old-fashioned, high-quality traditional outlet, I might be tempted to call it “Ye Olde Archery ...
14
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5answers
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Is “from whence” correct? Or should it be “whence”?

I just saw a parody on the Lord of the Rings, where one of the characters says: it must be cast back in the fire from whence it came! This struck me as odd, since I expected them to say "whence ...
14
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4answers
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What happened to the “‑est” and “‑eth” verb suffixes in English?

What happened to them, and how were they once used? Straining my mind to sound archaic, I came up with the following: Dost thou thinkest thou can escape thy sins? and Bringeth me mine armor ...
14
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2answers
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Did people ever use the word “cock” as a euphemism for “God”?

English has a lot of surprises. When I was checking the etymology of "cocksure", I found this entry in Oxford Dictionaries: 1 British A male bird, especially of a domestic fowl. Below is ...
14
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6answers
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What is the name for the grammatical device of putting “not” after a verb to negate it?

Here's a passage (more or less taken randomly) from the American Standard Version of the Bible from 1901: 1 Peter 3:14 (ASV) 14 But even if ye should suffer for righteousness' sake, blessed are ...
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4answers
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What is the origin of the word “conk”?

Is it obsolete to use this word? Where does it come from? I couldn't find the origin of this term. Can I use the phrase "The machine conked out" or should I replace conked out with something else?
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3answers
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Is the proper spelling “judgment” or “judgement”?

I always thought the proper spelling was  judgment, but I see  judgement all the time, even in articles, news, etc. Merriam-Webster lists  judgement as a variant spelling for judgment. But is the ...
10
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2answers
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“Thought is a thread, and the raconteur is a spinner of yarns"

“Thought is a thread, and the raconteur is a spinner of yarns" What does this metaphor mean and what is the origin? I know it is an ancient one, but couldn't find anything else! Is it obsolete ...
10
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7answers
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Is there a similar word to 'twain' but meaning 'three' instead of 'two'?

I would like to split something into three parts, is there a phrase I can use with similar overtones to "cleave in twain"?
10
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4answers
486 views

What exactly is “noonday night”?

In answering the question Is there a term for “midnight” that is like “noon”, I came across the phrase noonday night listed as a synonym for midnight in my copy of Roget's International ...
9
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6answers
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What was “well met!” supposed to mean?

I know it was a sort of archaic greeting, but I don't know how to interpret the actual words. I had a foggy idea that it meant "It is good that we met here and now", but even then, "well met" is not ...
8
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3answers
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Meaning of “Where will wants not, a way opens”

I have been reading "The Lord of the Rings" and came across this phrase in the "The Return of the King". “Where will wants not, a way opens, so we say,” he whispered. “and so I have found myself.” ...
8
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2answers
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Help me parse this sentence so I can understand what joke my ancestors played on the King

I'm reading an old history book about my ancestors entitled "Rulewater And Its People: An Account Of The Valley Of The Rule And Its Inhabitants" published in 1907 by George Tancred. In it, I'm having ...
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4answers
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What does “pray” mean in phrases like “pray proceed”?

Is this an archaic form of "please proceed"? I have never heard in in speech but sometimes it appears in novels. My version of "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" is full of it, apparently in place of ...
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4answers
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What did they call illegitimate children in Old English days?

I know that the word bastard in this sense appeard only in 13th century. So what was the normal term before that?
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3answers
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Why is the term “touched” no longer commonly used?

I’ve heard the term touched used to refer to someone who is “not quite right”. I’m curious as to where this term came from, what it really means, and why it doesn’t tend to be used often anymore. Is ...
7
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1answer
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17th Century affectionate term for Mother

I'm writing a ghost story, and (in an admittedly well worn trope) a child ghost is looking for its mother; but how would a 17th century child affectionately refer to its mother? In short, what would ...
7
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3answers
993 views

Why “answer me” but not “answer me the question”?

Why are "answer me" and "answer the question" acceptable but not "answer me the question"? Is it similar to "explain me (something)"?
7
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1answer
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Why has “sware” become “swore”, “bare” “bore”, etc?

As far as I know, there are four verbs (swear, bear, tear, and wear) whose simple past forms used to be (archaically) sware, bare, tare, and ware; but are now exclusively swore, bore, tore, and wore. ...
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Are older senses of “anent” still alive in any dialect?

The obscure preposition anent has a long history, going back as far as Beowulf: him on efn ligeð ealdorgewinna [line 2903] ("beside him lies his great enemy") It has carried many meanings, ...
6
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2answers
177 views

What does “might” exactly mean in the following excerpt?

This is a excerpt from Le Morte d'Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory, and I want to know the exact meaning of might regarding the context. Some say by might we mean: being allowed to and some say it ...
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6answers
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Words for different types of leatherworking

I'm looking for as many words (and corresponding definitions) as I can find for different specific types of leatherworking. Archaic words are fine, even preferred. Of particular interest is a single ...
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4answers
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How can I say “girl” in archaic English?

I'm looking for an archaic replacement for the word girl ?
5
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3answers
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What part of speech is “methinks”?

Dictionaries call this word a verb, but it doesn't seem to behave like any other verb in the English language. Another question on this site calls it a “conjoined pronoun-verb combination”, which ...
5
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1answer
279 views

Could “old fashioned” mean “angry” or “disconsolate” in early 19th Century England?

Patrick O'Brian wrote the Aubrey/Maturin seafaring novels during the late 20th Century, but the novels read as if they were written during the early 1800s (at least as far as I can tell, which isn't ...
5
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2answers
238 views

What is the meaning of “If the way Thou choosest, Lead to pain and loss”?

What is the meaning of "If the way Thou choosest, Lead to pain and loss"? How would you put it in modern English? It is a verse from Margaret E. Barber's song "The Path I Travel." The whole context ...
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2answers
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Did Victorians say “We are quit”?

Is “We are quit” (meaning “We’re even, no more mutual obligations”) a usage from the 18–19th centuries? Or are the examples of this on Google hits just people making it up (possibly a bad cognate ...
5
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2answers
416 views

Is using the word “singular” to describe someone or something unique an outdated adjective?

Is using the word "singular" to describe someone or something unique an outdated adjective? E.g. By a singular piece of good fortune, Mr. Athelney Jones, the well-known member of the detective ...
4
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4answers
406 views

Is there an old, rarely used word which means “an archaic word”?

I seem to recall from my youth, when my vocabulary was many times what it is today, learning a word (started with an 'a' I think) whose meaning was "an old, unused, or archaic word" or something ...
4
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6answers
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What does it mean to “beat one's breast”?

I'm reading The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and was wondering what was meant by the action of beating one's breast. eg. The Wedding-Guest here beat his breast, For he heard the loud ...
4
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4answers
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“Would” with a present meaning—is this correct?

A great example I can think of: "Please, leave! I would be alone!" With would meaning something like, "I want to be alone." Is this correct, or not? EDIT: To further clarify, I am not aiming ...
4
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3answers
383 views

Has the use of these prepositions evolved?

I have been working with an extract from an 1861 newspaper (in Queensland, now part of Australia) concerning an act of mass insubordination by seamen. The text reads The whole of the men, I am ...
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4answers
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Exsanguination or Desanguination?

My wife was working on her lines for a play (Dracula) set in the early 1900s and one line caught my eye. It referred to the desanguination of the vampire’s victims. I’d always heard the term as ...
4
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1answer
274 views

Outmoded word for “next Tuesday”

I am writing an email and wanted to refer to this coming Tuesday. The phrase "Tuesday est" popped into my mind (something Miss Marple might have said) but when I googled it I could find no reference. ...
4
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4answers
559 views

“Who him?” as a stand-in for “Who is he?”

I'm curious: is this valid under some rule of grammar I don't know? Was it ever valid, or was it slang or a personal idiosyncrasy? Or (I shudder to think) was it invented by later authors, as a ...
4
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1answer
78 views

Uncertain whether pirate talk be authentically or mockingly archaic

@ZhanlongZheng asked the following question on ELL: Barbosa: I defended her mightily enough, but she be sunk nonetheless. Jack Sparrow: If that ship be sunk properly, you should be ...
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3answers
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Why is the Elizabethan English incorrect in this quote?

I saw a Geico commercial with Elizabethan verb forms that bothered me because they were being misused: Trick Number 1. Lookest over there! Servant looks Haha! Madest thou look! So endest the ...
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2answers
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What does the term 'divers places' mean?

In the King James Bible, Matthew 24:7 states: For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers ...
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5answers
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Archaic text suggestions

I'm interested in learning Archaic English. As a starting point, I guess simple texts that are easy to comprehend would be a good choice. I would appreciate any suggestions.
3
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3answers
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“Much obliged” — Old-fashioned? Polite? Pedantic?

I've heard someone say "Much obliged!" a couple of times, instead of the usual "Thank you!". A common phrase in Portuguese ("Muito Obrigado") and maybe other languages, but certainly unusual in ...
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What is the origin and use of “remember me to her/him”?

Is anybody familiar with the use of remember as in remember me to her/him? I think I've see it in 19th century literature. Most likely it's archaic. I believe the speaker is commanding someone to ...
3
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2answers
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Is there a specific name for the activity of blowing the bellows?

In a few European languages, there are words derived from latin calcare - literally to tread, in these words it means to blow bellows, for example in church organs; in Polish it's kalikować - a ...
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2answers
992 views

Meaning of “I would there were…”?

What is the meaning of "I would there were", as in this quote from Shakespeare's "A Winter's Tale"? I would there were no age between sixteen and three-and-twenty, or that youth would sleep out ...
3
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1answer
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What is a “hens party” and where is this phrase commonly used?

Where does the term come from, where in the world is the term used? I came across the usage in this article, with this paragraph as quoted: Keara O'Neil was on a shopping trip to find bridesmaid ...
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2answers
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Usage of “despair” in the phrase “being despaired of”

I am reading a 1892 novel, in which I see the sentence: For months my life was despaired of, and when at last I came to myself.... Is this an old use of the word "despair"? If the word "of" is ...