Questions about the history and trends of the English language

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How can global English be encouraged in my students without threatening their linguistic heritage? [on hold]

An additional language is better caught than taught, but my career is to fast-track executives to international business English fluency in a culture resistant to oral production practice. How can ...
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0answers
23 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
34 views

When is the period that coined the most English words?

It seems that there are numerous words being made every day. This got me wondering, when was the historic period when most words were formed?
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2answers
83 views

Has the definition of an adverb changed over time?

I was reading a modern grammar book recently and was very surprised to see that "yesterday" and "nevertheless" are regarded as adverbs. Has the definition of an adverb been constant over the last 50 ...
2
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2answers
37 views

What is the origin of the phrase “gathering wool”?

From context, it would appear to mean "no day-dreaming" or "no dilly-dallying", as in "Let's go, no time for wool gathering!" or "Pay attention, no wool gathering here!"
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0answers
38 views

First mention in print of “magic smoke” (electronics)?

In electronics, "magic smoke" is the stuff that lets components work: once the magic smoke leaves the component, the component ceases to work. What is the earliest reference in print to "magic ...
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0answers
23 views

What would be “India Run” in this article? Does it have some historic background I can't find?

Once the wind and current systems dominant in the Atlantic came to be known, the square sail was adopted for use on the lateen caravel, giving rise to the “caravela redonda”. or square-rigged caravel, ...
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1answer
56 views

History and English demonyms

A friend of mine told me English demonyms, words that identify people from a particular place (Roman, Japanese, Dutch etc.), largely depend upon the historical period in which the term originates. ...
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1answer
64 views

Wielders of Weapons

I'm looking for what the various wielders of weapons called. I know of a few, but would like to know of the others below : Bow and Arrow - Archer/Bowman Sword - Swordsman (???) Axe - Club - ...
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5answers
468 views

If 'native' means “born to a place”, can I call myself a Native American? Why not?

I was born in the US, have lived here all my life. I am as native to it as anyone. Can I call myself a Native American? Don't people from other countries refer to themselves this way? What is ...
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0answers
35 views

Has extra always had two meanings

Extra as a prefix can mean apart from or outside of. extradition extraordinary extraneous extraterrestrial extradition This site says it comes from the Latin extrā meaning outside of However it ...
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4answers
142 views

Is there a process name for an island becoming unisolated?

I previously asked this on the history stack exchange but unfortunately had no good luck, and I was recommended to give this stack exchange a go, so: Basically I would like to know if there is an ...
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3answers
1k views

Using “Acts of God” in legal term

I wonder why on a lot of legal term in English country using "Acts of God" as an events outside human control? As an Indonesian, I think everything that happens in this world is an act of God. And it ...
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1answer
87 views

“Slay” and “Entertain”

I have recently been shown that "Slay" can also mean "Entertain", however this seems rather odd to me. "You slay me, you really do." I have two main questions: In what reasonable context would ...
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2answers
184 views

Why doesn't English have a word that means both Hello and Goodbye?

Multiple languages, including some from which England draws its words, have words that mean both "Hello" and "Goodbye": French - Salut! Italian - Ciao! Hawaiian - Aloha! German (Austrian) - Servus! ...
2
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1answer
41 views

Does imperative + semicolon + declarative necessitate a causal relationship?

For instance, take the sentence "Go wash the windows; I like green bears." Given that the two clauses must be closely related because they are joined by a semicolon, is there any other way to ...
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2answers
64 views

What makes cliche a useful distinct term as compared to idiom

Some context: I wondered about the distinction between cliche and idiom as seen by EL&U.SE and posted a question on meta (Where does EnglishLanguage.SE draw the line between cliche and idiom) ...
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1answer
113 views

Redneck/hillbilly language [closed]

I'm working on a comic strip with a lot of drawings and just several phrases, but they should fit perfectly and be grammatically correct. And since I'm not a native English speaker, I have to consult ...
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1answer
57 views

What is the history of “textile”?

I was of the mistaken view that the life of the word textile only began with artificial fibres. However I discovered from the OED that it was being used in the 17th century and that its etymology is ...
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2answers
157 views

What did English use before “triangle”?

Apparently the word "triangle" was borrowed into English in the late 1300s. Triangles are a very common shape in everyday life, and there were certainly English-speaking craftsmen and artists before ...
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1answer
88 views

What's the longest word that has survived from Old English?

I recently saw this question Did the "We shall fight on the beaches" speech mainly use words from Old English? If so, why? about Winston Churchill's famous "Fight them on the beaches" speech ...
3
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1answer
95 views

“All-American” … which usage came first?

In the U.S., "All-American" can mean two things. (1) It can be used as a general phrase, meaning simply clean-cut and middle class. "He's the all-American boy" is a cliché sentence. Note, this usage ...
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2answers
407 views

Since when has “J” been sounding like [dʒ] and no longer “Y” [duplicate]

There are words that have "j" where in most languages it would be pronounced like romaji "y". Take for example "Jesus", "Jehovah", "John". It should be pronounced "Yesus", "Yehovah", "Yohn". Slavic ...
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2answers
75 views

What is “the layers of experience” ? I'm confused about this phrase

Can anybody help me to describe "the layers of experience" in the context below. The author was talking about the similarity between the early human and the modern human. i'm very confused about the ...
4
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1answer
137 views

Why is “now and then” used to mean the opposite of its logical meaning?

Why and when did the expression "now and then" come to mean sometimes or occasionally? Logically it means just the opposite! "Now" and "then" means "presently" and "in the past", the future will soon ...
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1answer
97 views

Why and when was the trilled R in middle English replaced by the modern untrilled one?

Most linguists agree that the letter R in middle English was trilled, but why and when did people replace it with untrilled one like ⟨ɹ⟩ in "red", or even become "almost" silent like in "her (British ...
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1answer
213 views

what does “there was wild talk” mean?

Can anyone help me to describe the meaning of using "There was wild talk about the end of history" in the context below ? (what does "wild talk" mean exactly?) Context With the Cold War over, there ...
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1answer
309 views

Who first objected to the term “chain mail”?

Recently, I've become aware of a new (to me) peeve: some people say that "chain mail/chain-mail/chainmail" is incorrect in some way when talking about armor, and that the proper way to refer to it is ...
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1answer
470 views

Diminutive forms in English.

In many languages, formation of diminutives by adding suffixes is a productive part of the language. Many languages apply a grammatical diminutive to nouns, a few—including Dutch, Italian and Russian ...
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2answers
83 views

What is “Only not quite” [closed]

Context Zimmermann dreamed of changing the world. And he would. Only not quite in the way he intended.
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1answer
72 views

What is the use of this phrase “..there is a case to be made that..”?

Can anybody help me describe this phrase ? i don't understand what the author mean. Context Zimmermann dreamed of changing the world. And he would. Only not quite in the way he intended. Indeed, ...
12
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2answers
472 views

Silent “e” at the end of words

Back in 2009, a job interviewer sent me a link to a web service that would help me make a free telephone call via the internet... Skype. As a native speaker, I knew "instinctively" to pronounce this ...
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2answers
57 views

When is the word *mail* used in the sense of rent or payment?

When looking up the etymology of the word mail for the clearly distinct senses of: things you use the postal service for; and armour (e.g. chain mail), I came across a third sense of the word, ...
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1answer
180 views

The X in Xavier

The NOAD lists the pronunciation of Xavier as (ig)ˈzāvēər. In my own experience the parenthetical pronunciation is very common. I, however, do not know of any other x-initial words that are ...
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2answers
129 views

When did 'virgin' start referring to non-alcoholic drinks

Since there have been so many virginity questions here lately, I have another one. As a former bartender-type, I often hear the term virgin, when relating to non-alcoholic drinks. Unfortunately, ...
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3answers
893 views

What is the history of the expression “many moons ago”?

What is the history of “many moons ago”? Oxford Dictionaries tell me that the idiom means “a long time ago.” That's when we first met many, many moons ago and then we started having him on ...
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4answers
251 views

What modern word carries the meaning of pre-Victorian usage of “gay”?

I'm beginning to envy Fielding, of all people. Here are a few quotes from his novel: I'll buy the gayest gown I can get ... He was besides active, genteel, gay, and good-humoured ... ...
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1answer
151 views

What were sideburns called before the Civil War?

According to reputable sources, sideburns is a corruption of burnsides, a reference to the Civil War General Ambrose E. Burnside. What was this style of facial hair called before that? I'm ...
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1answer
55 views

When did the phrase “draw into one's orbit” first appear?

My question is a bit more complicated than that, actually. Here's a quote from Vladimir Nabokov's "Lolita": "Whose cat has scratched poor you?" A full-blown fleshy handsome woman of the ...
5
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2answers
116 views

Why don't we say things are pervious?

Why is the word "pervious" uncommon to the point of being considered a spelling error, but "impervious" is extremely common? For the record, it is a word, apparently. Dictionary.com defines it as: ...
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2answers
1k views

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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3answers
258 views

Who coined the term “dummy it”?

As defined by Grammar About.com the “dummy it” is The use of ‘it’ as a subject (or dummy subject) in sentences about times, dates, and the weather (such as, It's raining) and in certain idioms ...
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2answers
157 views

When was “it” first used in weather sentences? [duplicate]

It is raining. It's a sunny day. I hate it when it rains. I'm prepared if it snows. It can be mighty cold at night! ... etc. My questions: When did English speakers start ...
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2answers
90 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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1answer
1k views

“Hitch in my get along”, or “Hitch in my gitty up” [closed]

What is the origin of the pharse, " Hitch in my get along, or gitty up"? I understand the meaning, but would like to find out the origin.
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1answer
278 views

Where does the word “News” come from? [closed]

I'm just wondering where does the word "News" come from. Is it from the word "New" which means things that did not exist before?
2
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1answer
130 views

American vs British: a “conspiracy” question [closed]

This question has NEVER been asked, never mind answered, here. Goodness. Lighten up, people. Again I must quote Shaw to illustrate a point or two before putting the question to you guys: The fact ...
59
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8answers
16k views

If cow = beef, pig = pork, and deer = venison, then where is the word for human = [flesh as food source]?

Maybe it's the season of Halloween, because it's kind of a grim question, but I have seriously wondered from a language point of view - is there a word for human as 'food-meat', or has there ever ...
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4answers
187 views

Why are American and British English almost identical? [closed]

This might seem to be a dumb question; however, I think it's rather strange that the two dialects are so similar considering the huge geographical distance between Great Britain and America. In the ...
6
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0answers
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 ...