Questions about the history and trends of the English language

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Origin of the phrase “There's a fine line between pleasure and pain” [duplicate]

What is the origin (or original) of the phrase "There's a fine line between pleasure and pain"?
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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 ...
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4answers
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So I would really like to know what this quote means by William Howard Taft [closed]

"The intoxication of power rapidly sobers off in the knowledge of its restrictions and under the prompt reminder of an ever-present and not always considerate press, as well as the kindly suggestions ...
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1answer
28 views

History of alphabet soup

What is the first metaphorical use of “alphabet soup” to refer collectively to some kind of diversity? Does it date any earlier than the film “North by Northwest”, in which the expression is used by ...
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0answers
42 views

Why are there no irregular gerunds in English? [closed]

There are so many irregular past participles in English! Why aren't there any irregular present participles or gerunds? What are the historical and phonetic/phonological factors which have ...
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1answer
58 views

What is the name of the grammatical device where 18th and 19th Century sentences started with 'which'?

In the movie Master and Commander - we see the following two dialogues between Jack Aubrey and his servant Killick: Dialogue 1: JACK: Killick? Killick there. KILLICK appears. JACK ...
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1answer
727 views

What to call statues that flank entryways?

What's the term for statuary, usually paired, that flank entrances? Ex: The Lion pedestals at the NYC Public library, Assyrian Ox-God statues built into gates of ancient cities. My placeholder term ...
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0answers
40 views

Why are we using 'the' less?

I saw this ngram, and found that the word 'the' is less frequently observed these days, as compared to the past. I know this is a silly question. But why is this happening? Also, surprisingly, ...
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2answers
134 views

Are omissions like “he has a Facebook [account]” an ellipsis of the modern age, or has this always been going on?

Some English speakers omit "account" in conversational speech when referring to their membership in an online service. For example: "Here's a link to my Tumblr." "I took a break for a while, but I ...
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2answers
66 views

Why are certain competitions called a “Classic?”

In the town I live in, there have been a number of competitive events called "classics" (e.g. "Bicycle Classic," "Golf Classic"). I assume this term is used because the event is a long-standing, ...
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1answer
49 views

Connection between “right” as in a liberty and “right” as in the direction [duplicate]

I've noticed that it is not only in English that the word "right" can be used both as a noun (when talking about liberty) and an adjective (when talking about direction) It's slso like that in Spanish ...
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2answers
127 views

What are the different ways of highlighting (or emphasising) words in English typography? [closed]

I know the following techniques are used for words in print : Italics, Underline, Bold, ALL-CAPS, Change-Of-Font, Enclosing-In-Single-Quotes, Enclosing-In-Double-Quotes, Change-Of-Colour, & ...
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1answer
70 views

Why do people in the scientific community use terminology such as renal, hepatic, and cardiac instead of kidney, liver, and heart?

Why is there the need to map these everyday words onto another set of words when it seems to complicate matters? Is it just done out of tradition, or is there some underlying logic to it?
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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 ...
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2answers
68 views

Grammatically correct, vs archaic, vs grammatically incorrect ? [closed]

So i'm new here just to start this out to begin with. So I hope you can understand my grammatically incorrect sentences. So any ways let me explain the context of this question, I am writing a short ...
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1answer
80 views

Whats the difference between “-ist” and “-er”

The suffixes -ist, and -er are added to a base word to name a person who does an action: pitch, pitcher. Some more examples: carpenter artist painter nationalist banker dentist ...
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1answer
142 views

Is English considered easier to learn than most of the other languages in the world? [closed]

In comparison to the other languages, I think English is much more simpler. For example, compared to French, English nouns have no gender, adjectives have only one form and verbs have extremely simple ...
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0answers
45 views

Where does the word “mean” come from in mathematics? [closed]

For the averages, mean, median and mode I can determine that median comes from latin for mid, mode comes from latin for measurement but cannot find where the word mean comes from. Is it an acronym? ...
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1answer
38 views

Names of Numbers [duplicate]

A thought hit me today that I can't get out of my head. Why are the numbers 10 - 19 so special, that they get their own naming scheme unlike the rest of the numbers. for example. if we go up in ...
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8answers
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Usage and meaning of the word “Ragging” in India

This is my first post here on an unwelcome situation in India, described by a word, "Ragging". Wikipedia article states that: "Ragging is a practice similar to hazing in educational institutions. ...
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1answer
21 views

Historical meaning of “program” as a verb

Frozen since 1837, some guy just thawed up and confronted me with the verb 'to program' in the context of CS. If by programming an automatic computer, we mean “to put instructions in main memory for ...
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1answer
220 views

Does 'extraordinary', 'exceptional', 'outstanding' always carry positive connotations nowadays?

When I take the word 'extraordinary', 'exceptional' and 'outstanding' literally, it simply means something 'out of the ordinary', 'rare and/or unusual', or something which 'stands out from the rest', ...
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1answer
270 views

Origin of irregular ending “-ught” for past simple and participle

There is a little group of irregular verbs in English that follow a similar pattern, having "-ught" as their ending for past simple and for participle. These verbs are among the group of most used ...
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2answers
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Of Yuppies and Yippies and Hippies

While innocently passing by on my way to Big Rep City, I happened to overhear (alright! I was dropping eaves) a dialogue in some podunk Commentary Cafe wherein two fellow ELU consumers were debating ...
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0answers
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What was the command of “Fire at will” before gunpowder? [duplicate]

I've seen some discussions about the command of "fire" before gunpowder was invented. That may be "shoot", "loose", "throw" etc. But what was the command of "fire at will"? Are there any clues? ...
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1answer
70 views

The move from towards toward toward?

On this page, it is claimed that the usage of "towards" was dominant (I guess both in Britain and America) compared to "toward" until the 19th century when Americans moved toward toward. (Edit: an ...
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Why some verbs have their nouns form exactly like them while the others are not?

From the “Start from the beginning” vs “begin from the starting” question in ell.SE, user δοῦλος has explained that the noun form of begin is beginning, while the noun form of start is still start. ...
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1answer
95 views

What's the earliest reference to a non-article word that still exists today?

Assuming around 1800 is "par" for "earliest mention" of an English word by most of our esteemed GR (GR: General Reference) text, is this for any particular reason strongly cut off at that time? I'm ...
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1answer
49 views

Older mineral names

When browsing through names of minerals in English, one notices that they appear to very commonly be of Latin origin or otherwise latinized or at least foreign; I mean names like "Magnetite", ...
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2answers
74 views

Are there any special words or phrases for people that were emigrating in history?

Are there any special words or phrases for people that were emigrating in history (18th, 19th, 20th centuries)? Or maybe the words which were used in that time and how were people calling the ...
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3answers
74 views

Word for popular conception of a period of history

Recently, I listened to the Heroes and Legends course from The Great Courses. At one point, the author said a word which he defined as something along the lines of "Popular (and often exaggerated) ...
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1answer
104 views

The history of 'aisle' and 'isle'

I've read about how the word 'aisle' and 'isle' each came from the French 'aile' and 'ile', respectively. I also read how the there was confusion between the two words, such that when 'isle' gained ...
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1answer
107 views

Where do all the fox references come from? [closed]

A person can be crazy like a fox, and attractive lady is foxy or even a fox, an old book might have foxing, to outsmart someone is to outfox them, if you are confused you are foxed, and there are ...
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1answer
63 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 ...
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2answers
428 views

Who came up with this quote: Thomas Paine or Dean Alfange?

"I do not choose to be a common man, It is my right to be uncommon … if I can, I seek opportunity … not security. I do not wish to be a kept citizen. Humbled and dulled by having the ...
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1answer
47 views

Language Evolution

Language changes all the time, most often in usage but also in spelling and grammatical form. At what point does a widespread misspelling or incorrect grammatical usage become acceptable and correct? ...
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1answer
246 views

The meaning of the word 'Han'?

In referencing Webster's dictionary of 1828 I came across the entry for the word 'Han'. The definition was stated as: "for have, in the plural." Source: Spenser. What does this mean and how was it ...
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1answer
62 views

On a certain usage of the word “only”

Some documents such as medical prescriptions and cheques employ the word "only" in an interesting manner: (Dpbsmith via Wikipedia) On cheques the usage is something like "Three hundred dollars ...
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2answers
104 views

“The other side” to refer to the afterlife

Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to "the other side." Now you can take this one of two ways. Either the chicken simply wants to arrive on the other side of the road, or he is suicidal and ...
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2answers
287 views

Space before apostrophe

In the 1928 Scribner’s (NY) edition of The Plays of J. M. Barrie, I’ve noticed an odd convention: where a contraction happens in middle of a word (e.g., “don’t” for “do n(o)t”), the apostrophe has the ...
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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), ...
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1answer
119 views

Why do the French say “dent” where the English say "tooth? [closed]

I am preparing for an exam in "Earlier Englishes" and I have following question out of a mock exam: Why do the French say dent where the English say tooth? The answer gives 3 points, so may be there ...
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3answers
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Why did the letter “o” disappear in the word “pronunciation”?

The verb pronounce has the letter o in its second syllable, but in the noun pronunciation, that same letter disappears from the corresponding position. Why is that?
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1answer
254 views

What is the origin of “Boxing Day”?

OED gives the definition and a quote from 1833 as the earliest reference as: The first week-day after Christmas-day, observed as a holiday on which post-men, errand-boys, and servants of various ...
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5answers
2k views

Is “I'll be John Brown” a common phrase?

The phrase: I'll be John Brown! is an occasionally-used term in North Carolina. Mostly thought to replace taking the Lord's name in vain (GD). Is it used elsewhere? How long has it been ...
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0answers
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Concept of “none” in the English language [duplicate]

None of them are/is I don't know if this is the place to ask, but: In German you would say "none of them is" and it totally sounds wrong to me to say "none of them are". As German and English ...
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1answer
63 views

Where does the response “Anytime” come from? [closed]

When someone says "Thank you" whenever I have helped them out, I naturally respond with "Anytime". I recently started thinking about this and couldn't quite figure out where this word originates from. ...
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7answers
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What’s a “handegg”?

What’s a handegg? NOTE: This question is primarily related to the etymology of a compound noun which is not in The Dictionary. There is a hat this year called “Handegg”, given out for a posting that ...
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1answer
221 views

When was “emoji” first used?

Emoji is a small digital image or icon used in electronic communication. It is also mentioned as a standardized emoticon (emotion + icon) but emojis are usually depicted as pictographs and emoticons ...
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3answers
690 views

“For he that fights and runs away, May live to fight another day”: wisdom or mockery?

The question is about the contemporary usage of the following distich: For he that fights and runs away, May live to fight another day ; ...and whether historical events and imprecision ...