How English has changed over time.

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11
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4answers
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Meaning and origin of “bite the bullet”

I just learnt about the expression "to bite the bullet", meaning Accept the inevitable impending hardship and endure the resulting pain with fortitude (as seen in its article in phrases.org). I have ...
5
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2answers
80 views

How did the archaic 'villein' transform into villain?

The word villain, as described by Google, comes form the archaic word villein. Here is the definition of villein: villein ˈvɪlən,-eɪn noun (in medieval England) a feudal tenant entirely ...
13
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1answer
2k views

“Programming” versus “programing”: which is preferred?

I was surprised that my spell checker did not complain for programing with one m, so I Googled it, and found on free dictionaries that both forms were acceptable. Which one is more common? Does it ...
7
votes
1answer
189 views

Is the pronunciation of “oa” in “broad” unique?

The "oa" in the word "broad" is pronounced like the words "or" or "awe". In phonetic symbols that is ɔː . However in all other examples I can think of it is pronounced like the "oe" in "toe". Or in ...
9
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2answers
332 views

Why “thanks” Can Never Be Singular as a Noun?

While looking at the part of speech of the noun "thanks" in an online dictionary I noticed that it was a plural noun and wondered if it could be used in singular form. Glancing at the origin it ...
4
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4answers
138 views

How did 'drone' come to mean both 'one who does no work' and 'one who spends most of the time doing menial work'?

Merriam-Webster's Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary (2003) gives the following definitions for drone in senses derived from the word for male honeybee: drone \drōn\ n {ME fr. OE drān; akin to OHG ...
0
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1answer
78 views

<u> pronounced “ew”

I'm wondering about the modern English pronunciation of "u" like the vowel in "few" in open syllables, such as "pure", "cute", "tribunal", "u", etc. What's the origin of this? (This question is not ...
0
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0answers
80 views

Did the Great Vowel Shift on the long vowel /i/ occur in non-primary stressed syllables?

From the Wikipedia article on the Great Vowel Shift . Middle English [iː] diphthongized to [ɪi], which was most likely followed by [əɪ] and finally Modern English [aɪ] (as in mice). I think the ...
0
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2answers
239 views

Is the diphthong [ai] in a non-primary stressed syllable a hypercorrection? [closed]

Is the diphthong [ai] in a non-primary stressed syllable a hypercorrection? Some American people pronounce the prefix "anti" like an-tie. For example, here's a pronunciation of "anti-Christian" ...
7
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3answers
143 views

Was “Do not you want to know…” correct 200 years ago, and is now incorrect?

"Do not you want to know who has taken it?'' cried his wife impatiently. -Pride and Prejudice (1813) According to one of the answers in Is "Don't you know? " the same as ...
0
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1answer
64 views

Hance/Hence connection?

In researching the verb 'hence' I noted the several forms listed in the OED, two of which were: "hennes or henes" from Middle English usage. Similarly with the verb 'hance' I noted that scholars have ...
0
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1answer
80 views

Are products of wordsmithing proper english?

Several languages in which English has its roots have easily definable rules. For example, sticking "A" in from of an adjective can mean the opposite of that adjective (Asymmetrical, symmetrical), ...
0
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0answers
69 views

How did the adjective “just” come to take on so many adverbial meanings?

Just is a pretty useful adverb. It can carry several different meanings: very recently: I just finished the novel. exactly: That’s just what he meant. by a narrow margin: He just missed me ...
21
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5answers
1k views

Was the pronunciation of “symmetry” different in the past?

First published in Songs of Experience in 1794, the first stanza of the poem “The Tyger” by William Blake is: Tyger! Tyger! burning bright In the forests of the night, What immortal hand or ...
29
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4answers
2k views

Why did English change so much between Chaucer and Shakespeare?

My inexpert perception of things is that the distance between The Canterbury Tales (end 14th century) and Romeo and Juliet (end 16th), from a language perspective, is vast, and vastly greater than the ...
3
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1answer
292 views

What is the origin of “Kris Kringle”?

In Canada, we use the term "Kris Kringle" for gift exchange tradition in Christmas. It is also spelled as "Kriss Kringle". In US and UK, it is called Secret Santa. Wikipedia says "Secret Santa" is ...
5
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2answers
204 views

Why “pastime” but not “passtime”?

pastime n. An activity that occupies one's spare time pleasantly: Sailing is her favorite pastime. [TFD] Etymonline says that it is from pass + time: late 15c., passe tyme "recreation, ...
2
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2answers
237 views

Since when a double negative as an intensifier was considered as non-standard and why?

In present-day English, a double negative as an intensifier is regarded as non-standard. For example I don't think that "I can't get no satisfaction" is considered as standard English. ...
0
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1answer
165 views

Pronunciation of “every body”, “every thing” etc. when written as two separate words

How shall I pronounce the words every body, every thing etc. when meaning everybody, everything, but written separately in the 19th century, like Jane Austen did? As two words, or as one? In the ...
5
votes
1answer
244 views

Why did “thou” become obsolete?

In the Elizabethan era, "thou" was universally used as well as "you". "Thou" represents intimacy. In French, "tu" is still used. The same for German "du". Why did "thou" become obsolete?
36
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4answers
5k views

Why is ‘i’ in milk pronounced differently from ‘i’ in find?

As far as I know, in words of the structure CVCC, the vowel is usually short. Examples include milk, front, clamp, wasp, sport, etc. However, with some CC types, the vowel seems to always be long ...
1
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1answer
107 views

Which versions of historical English are mutually intelligible?

English has changed tremendously from Old English to Modern English. Which intermediate versions are considered to be mutually intelligible? For that matter, what about asymmetrical intelligible?
46
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7answers
9k views

When is my son's first birthday?

[Clue: he was born three weeks ago, on 23 September 2014.] Originally, as I understand it, the word birthday meant the day of one's birth. It was a one-off event. I don't want to quarrel with the ...
0
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0answers
63 views

Reference material for change in English usage over time

How words have changed in meaning and usage over time is frequently a hot topic both on here and the wider community, and I find it fascinating. Are there any good reference works which document this ...
10
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3answers
616 views

Why is the surname Gray more common than the surname Grey in the UK?

An EL&U question from 2010 asks Which is the correct spelling: "grey" or "gray"? The answers very sensibly point out the split between the UK and former British commonwealth ...
8
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3answers
272 views

When did a mother giving birth become the deliverer instead of the deliveree?

Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition (2003), gives meaning 3 of deliver as follows: 3 a (1) : to assist in giving birth (2) : to aid in the birth of b : to give birth to c : ...
15
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2answers
899 views

The U in “Glamour”

Why, in US English, does the word glamour retain its u while humour, neighbour, and others have shed it?
0
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2answers
127 views

Regarding the usage of some 'bad' language [closed]

Is there a legitimate or edifying literary purpose for the many forms of blasphemy (forgive spelling) that have appeared in many modern works of literature. Does it really help a story line or plot or ...
5
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5answers
2k views

Does “exotic” have racist connotation? [closed]

Sometimes you hear people use "exotic" to refer to something foreign to them. It can be a place, music, food, clothes, or even a person. Some people argue that the word exotic has racist connotation ...
0
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2answers
69 views

Historical use of 'repetitive' and 'repetitious' in BE/AE

Two oddities (I think so, anyway) I've just now stumbled across with the ngram viewer: In 18th century American English, things got very repetitive. Is there an historical reason that books written ...
0
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0answers
36 views

What’s the original version of “I see, said the blind man as he picked up his hammer and saw”? [duplicate]

What is the original saying of I see said the blind man as he picked up his hammer and saw.
0
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1answer
205 views

When did saying “I'm offended” or “I find that offensive” become a common phrase in English?

When did saying I’m offended or I find that offensive become a common phrase in English?
5
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4answers
196 views

Can we authenticate the claim that “grungy” was used to mean “envious or jealous” in 1920s slang?

A recent question on EL&U asks "Where did the 1920s slang word "grungy" (meaning "envious") originate, if the modern word "grungy" (meaning "dingy") ...
5
votes
3answers
315 views

Semantic shift in “around”

I'm interested in the use of "around" as a synomym for "about, concerning, related to", which doesn't seem to be recorded in current dictionaries. I'd call it an academic/pseudo-academic usage and ...
3
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1answer
109 views

Are “bunk” and “bunker” directly related?

When did the term bunk (in the sense of sleeping berth) arise, and what if any connection does it have to the noun bunker? Merriam-Webster's Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary (2003) gives a first ...
13
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8answers
951 views

Why doesn't English have a separate word for “head hair”? (head hair vs. body hair)

The answer can be "Because it doesn't!" or "It wasn't needed!" in short but there might be a historical or linguistic explanation behind this. (Of course, every language might be lacking a word that ...
11
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3answers
550 views

Etymology of “bridge” (the card game)

I've always thought that the name of this card game comes from the English word bridge (the structure) but it is not quite like that. It's the English pronunciation of a game called Biritch, which was ...
6
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2answers
100 views

'Parasitic' Phonemes

In searching for the reason for the message -> messenger shift, I came across the theory of the 'parasitic n.' Essentially, the idea is that during the post-Norman Conquests period in England, ...
2
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1answer
604 views

The origin word “English”? Language that dominated the beginning of English existence? [closed]

I've read so many questions in ELL on the origin of English words. But I've never found the origin of the word English itself. I'm also curious about the history of English as a language. I mean, in ...
10
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4answers
942 views

Why “English” but not “Anglish”?

Etymology of English from Etymonline: Old English Englisc (contrasted to Denisc, Frencisce, etc.), from Engle (plural) "the Angles," the name of one of the Germanic groups that overran the island ...
0
votes
1answer
71 views

Why 'mention graph' of genuflect is so steep?

Google define genuflect you will got a 'mentions graph' of genuflect. It's very interesting that the graph is very steep while graph of other words, run for example, are very smooth. Any idea why this ...
5
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3answers
744 views

When did 'venereal disease' become STI?

Why is it that the term venereal disease has been dropped in favour of sexually transmitted infection, or 'STI' for short? The change seemed to date from the advent of AIDS. Was it that the word ...
0
votes
3answers
126 views

On the evolution of the meaning of “few”

Was the word "few" used exclusively to refer to groups of eight people (or things) at some point of time? There is a well-known verse in the New Testament which implies the plausibility of such a ...
-2
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1answer
894 views

What did the word “arcade” mean before video games? [closed]

I was browsing a document on the history of Leicestershire in the UK. About halfway down the page, in the "Leicester in the 19th Century" section, it said: Silver Arcade was built in 1899. What ...
2
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2answers
352 views

Freshman or Freshwoman

Can we use freshwoman to refer to a girl in her first year in college, or is freshman acceptable?
2
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1answer
200 views

Pronunciation: is there a reason why 'gn' in 'reigning' is pronounced [n] while in 'regnant' it is pronounced [gn]?

Both 'reigning' and 'regnant' are related to the same Latin noun 'regnum'. Why is 'gn' is pronounced [n] in the first word but [gn] in the second?
1
vote
1answer
222 views

Why did the past tense ending -t change to -ed?

My posts are often questions for further knowledge about reasons for language change. In this extract from 1750, there are three variations on the past tense form. Once again, I am grateful if anyone ...
62
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5answers
31k views

If the letter J is only 400–500 years old, was there a J sound that preceded the design of the letter?

I understand that the letter "J" is relatively new — perhaps 400–500 years old. But since there has long been important names that begin with J, such as Jesus, Joshua, Justinian, etc., and which ...
1
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2answers
1k views

When and how has the word 'nigger' lost its neutral meaning? [duplicate]

The word 'nigger' comes from Latin 'nigrum' (black). It's quite a neutral description of the external characteristic of a person. There's no reason to be offended by it, just like (normally) nobody is ...
0
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1answer
125 views

Is there a North American English language authority? [duplicate]

If I took the SATs and they marked something wrong that I thought was right and because of that I didn't get into Harvard so I sued that I wanted my SAT score increased because they were actually ...