How English has changed over time.

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What's the current scholarly opinion on the “minims” explanation for the spelling of “love”, “tongue,” etc?

According to the Online Etymology dictionary (as cited in this question How was the letter -u- written in Old English?): The substitution of Middle English -o- for Old English -u- before -m-, -n-...
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56 views

Adjectival Usage of Racist

I have noticed a trend going back at least a decade of using the word racist (and for that matter sexist) as an adjective. This doesn't appear to fit the pattern of -ism words, which become -ist when ...
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1answer
52 views

Etymology of “marketing:” how/when did it change meaning? [closed]

The best etymology I could find says the definition of marketing has changed like this: 1560s, "buying and selling," verbal noun from market (v.). Meaning "produce bought at a market" is from ...
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3answers
131 views

Adam lay ybounden. Any ys around these days?

thanks for pointing out the similar question. Great, but note that I'm trying to find ... • is there any SPECIFIC examples/evidence around of yword yusage TODAY? if so is it only jokey, is there any ...
3
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2answers
207 views

How would Anglophones judge the rhetoric that was typical of 1600-1900?

My question is related to the Irish orator, politician, lawyer and judge, John Philpot Curran (24 July 1750 – 14 October 1817) Source: p 54-55, The Art of the Advocate (1993) by Richard Du Cann QC (...
135
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1answer
8k views

Why are the vowels in Christ and Christmas different? (and other strange diphthong behaviour)

Why are certain words pronounced with diphthongs on their own but with monophthongs in compounds? For example: Words pronounced with diphthongs on their own: Michael, Christ, wise, drive Their ...
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1answer
68 views

Has there been a decrease of use of the word “rend” in literature?

The word "rend" (Verb: "to tear (something) into pieces with force or violence") is such an effective word. Descriptive and visceral. Yet it seems to me it's fading from literature and becoming an ...
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1answer
30 views

Is there a modern book comparable to Crabb's English Synonymes?

EDIT: I am looking for a book to make a study of modern synonyms. @WS2 recommended what appears to be a book of exceptional quality, but it has great depth in a few topic areas rather than a breadth ...
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59 views

Term for a word that, over time, gains a meaning opposite its original (which is lost)

This question was originally posted here: What is the term for a word that has come to mean the opposite of its orignal meaning? I don't think it should have been marked as a duplicate: the "...
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43 views

Have any words experienced sustained frequency growth greater than the word “sustainable”?

XKCD comic 1007, "sustainable", has indicated that the frequency of the word "sustainable" has undergone significant growth. According to explain XKCD, it has gone from 0.000005% in 1960 to ...
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What is the historical English word for graffiti?

Given that graffiti has existed even before the Italian loanword became commonplace, what is the traditional English word to describe it? The closest I can imagine would be "epigraph", however, this ...
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1answer
101 views

When did “legend” stop being pronounced “LEE-gend”?

Nowadays, we pronounce the word legend as "LEDGE-end" (IPA: /ˈlɛdʒənd/). But it looks like at least some people used to pronounce "legend" as "LEE-gend." In A General Dictionary of the English ...
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Origin and earliest recorded use of 'fungo'

In baseball, a fungo bat is, according to Merriam-Webster's Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary (2003), "a long thin bat used for hitting fungoes," and a fungo is either "a fly ball hit esp. for practice ...
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1answer
123 views

Origin and evolution of the term 'amen corner'

Geneva Smitherman, Black Talk: Words and Phrases from the Hood to the Amen Corner (1994) provides this entry for the term "amen corner": AMEN CORNER 1) In the Traditional Black Church (TBC), ...
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1answer
111 views

How did it happen that there are two different words “insulation” and “isolation” for virtually the same concept? [closed]

This question is not about the meaning of and the difference between the words insulation and isolation, it has been already answered here: What's the difference between "insulated" and &...
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31 views

Was “pronunshiation” ever a common pronunciation of “pronunciation”?

I came across an old prescriptive pronunciation guide from 1843 that says "pronunciation" ought to be pronounced "pronunshiation" (with /ʃi/ instead of /si/). The author says that the pronunciation ...
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2answers
164 views

The Word Bastard - Origin and Meaning [closed]

How offensive is the word Bastard? And when did it become more of an offense than a term used for child out of wedlock?
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129 views

Why does written English have more variations in pronunciation than other languages? [closed]

According to my experience, in languages like German, French, Chinese, Japanese, etc., there are not so many exceptions in pronunciation as in English. For example, given a word in German or French, ...
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2answers
130 views

“Initial” is pronounced “inishal,” so why isn't the verb “initiate” pronounced “inishate”?

Trying to answer a recent question about the pronunciation of the consonant "c" in the word word appreciate made me realize something I'm ignorant about: although I've read in a fair amount of places ...
9
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2answers
501 views

What source explains the different pronunciations of “hol” in “alcohol” and “hollow”?

According to Merriam-Webster, the pronunciation of alcohol is "ˈal-kə-ˌhȯl" while the pronunciation of hollow is "ˈhä-(ˌ)lō." Why are they pronounced with different vowels? I think I've figured out ...
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3answers
258 views

What idiom was used before “to be on the same wavelength”?

The word wavelength has the figurative usage with allusion to radio reception, implying (mutual) understanding especially in the idiomatic phrase to be on the same wavelength (as someone else). What ...
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1answer
184 views

Origin, meaning, and historical change (if any) of the idiom 'stem the tide'

Christine Ammer, The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, second edition (2013) has this entry for the idiom "stem the tide": stem the tide Stop the course of a trend or tendency, as in It is ...
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53 views

How did 'of' come to take on so many meanings?

TL/DR: How did of (a Function Word) spawn such diverse meanings, too numerous to list here? Optional Reading and Supplement: [OED:] The primary sense was ‘away’, ‘away from’, a sense now ...
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“As I am wo/man” in Twelfth Night, II, 2 (Shakespeare): a case of indefinite article omission or no?

Are "As I am man" and "As I am woman" in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, II, 2 examples of indefinite article omission or not? This question is (e)specially directed towards those familiar with ...
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2answers
166 views

Squeegee with a squeegee

Squeegee is: a scraping implement, usually consisting of a straight-edged blade of india-rubber, gutta-percha, or the like, attached to the end of a long handle, for removing water, mud, etc. [OED]...
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Why “paediatrics” but “pedagogue” in British English?

There's an account of the British ae/oe and American "e" spellings (as in diarrh(o)ea, f(a)eces, and other fun words) on wikipedia. What I'm wondering is why, even in British English, pedagogue/...
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1k views

When did 'want' stop meaning “in need of”

When did the word 'want' stop meaning "in need of" or 'lacking' and begin to refer to desire? (Evidence old phrases with the original meaning like: "want for nothing" or "waste not, want not".)
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When did men start to lose their “virginity”?

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word virgin came from 2 languages: Anglo-French and Old French virgine "virgin; Virgin Mary" From Latin virginem (nominative virgo) "maiden,...
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3answers
359 views

Meaning of “determine” in 19th century

I'm reading Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. At the end of chapter 29, she writes "The party then gathered round the fire to hear Lady Catherine determine what weather they were to have on the ...
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How far back in time could I travel and still be understood?

I have seen several times on TV documentaries where the presenter is taken to something like a library archive, and shown a book which they proceed to read an excerpt from. On a couple of occasions ...
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1answer
154 views

How did “ass” lose the 'r'?

The word "ass" (usually marked as "vulgar"; the one that means "buttocks," "butt," etc.) comes from Sanskrit, one would think, since the old Germanic version is not a stand-alone, but has its ...
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Origin of “How are you?”

I'm currently researching different greetings for a linguistics project and I'm having trouble finding information as to the history of the phrase, "How are you," or those of equivalent structures. I ...
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81 views

“Do” as a tense marker

In "Verbs and Tenses" by George Davidson, the author discusses how to form questions in English. One of the rules presented was if the declarative statement doesn't contain an auxiliary to front, "do"...
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2answers
100 views

Why does the suffix “monger” persist only for certain trades?

One definition of the suffix -monger is: denoting a dealer or trader in a specified commodity. It is no longer common: I have always assumed it was more frequent in archaic usage. What ...
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Why doesn't Buckingham Palace require an article? [duplicate]

There's a whole bunch of them that look as if they would require one, but actually don't: Times Square, Trafalgar Square, Union Square, Carnegie Hall, Central Park, Hyde Park, Westminster Abbey, ...
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“Were” rather than “would have been”: when did that change?

Please read the following stanza from Byron's "Don Juan": Amongst her numerous acquaintance, all Selected for discretion and devotion, There was the Donna Julia, whom to call Pretty ...
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Firing the Bow: Before the Great Transition [duplicate]

... at which point they had no choice but to fire upon the enemy. They opened fire. They returned fire. Aim! Fire! Fragments of reports from the battlefield. The first hand-held firearms appeared ...
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124 views

Polish (the substance, not the language)

I'm talking about the stuff you use when you're polishing. According to etymonline.com, this usage has been around for less than 200 years: polish (n.) 1590s, "absence of coarseness," from ...
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36 views

When did English stop requiring capitalisation of non-proper nouns? [duplicate]

I was reading this answer which referenced a number of 18th century publications which capitalised their non-proper nouns: In 1769, in "The Microscope made easy": "Mention having been often made ...
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1answer
233 views

Helping-adverbs vs. Helping-adjectives vs. Adverbs of degree

I've recently come across the terms helping-adverb and helping-adjective in some old grammar books. From the book A practical grammar of the English language (by Roscoe Goddard Greene, 1830): A ...
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5answers
904 views

To what degree is 'muchly' obsolete?

According to grammarist.com, the word muchly is regarded as obsolete. I and many of the people I know use the word regularly, however, frequently in situations where it would seem to me much would be ...
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2answers
116 views

What expression was used in English that “however” and others replaced around 1750?

Prompted by the questions about "despite"/"in spite of" on ELL and EL&U I played in N-gram for in spite of, despite even though, although, however. After 1750 there is a sharp rise in most of ...
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2answers
888 views

Why did Servia become Serbia?

Reading contemporary histories of the First World War, I noticed that at the start the nation in the Balkans is referred to as Servia, but in numbers published after the back half of 1916, it has ...
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1answer
113 views

Why don't ligatures have names?

It is common to see ligatures such as Æ or Œ in reference to classical works such as Œdipus or Æsop but these do not seem to have names. Strangely enough in the Old English alphabet there were similar ...
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How did 'so' mean 'so that'?

so, adv. and conj. = 24. so .. that [=] in such a way, to such an extent, that 25. a. With omission of that, = sense 24. 26. a. so (that) , in limiting sense: On condition that, provided that, so ...
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Semantically, how does 'before' differ from 'till'?

till {prep. [here] conj., and adv.} Etymology: [..] Probably originally a noun * til = Old English till fixed point, station [...] hence the const. with genitive: prop. ‘with the limit ...
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1answer
158 views

A recent trend in pronouncing “the” [duplicate]

I have observed a recent trend to pronounce "the" as "thuh" even if it is followed by a vowel (as in "thuh evening.") Is this regional (I live in Alabama) or national? I think it's the latter. And ...
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206 views

Sentence length in English writing in early 1900s vs. English writing now [closed]

I am reading a book called The Best American Essays of the Century. One thing I keep noticing is a lot of the sentences in this book are very long — 5 to 6 lines. I read a lot of articles on the web, ...
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3answers
542 views

Difference of “I am just an ABC” vs “I am but a XYZ”

As far as I (non-native speaker) can tell, these two sentences have the same meaning: I'm just a humble merchant I'm but a humble merchant However I wonder if there is some subtle ...
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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 ...