Questions about the history and trends of the English language

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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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0answers
15 views

New Etymological Knowledge [migrated]

If a scholar or layperson, wanted to submit a discovery of the origin of some obscure word or phrase not previously known, what would be the criteria they should follow acceptable to the academic ...
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2answers
1k views

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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114 views

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
54 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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35 views

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. ...
3
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1answer
84 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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26 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
55 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
66 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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2answers
48 views

Explain the quote?

[We command all] Ministers of the so called reformed religion, who do not choose to become converts and to embrace the catholic, apostolic, and roman religion, to leave our kingdom
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1answer
61 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
89 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
55 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
121 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
38 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
134 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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48 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
70 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
248 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
77 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
101 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
178 views

What is the origin of “Boxing Day”?

OED gives the definition and a quote from 1833 as the earliest reference as below: The first week-day after Christmas-day, observed as a holiday on which post-men, errand-boys, and servants of ...
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5answers
761 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
59 views

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
55 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
10k views

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
121 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
325 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 ...
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1answer
149 views

Split infinitives—did Old English have them?

I've read a few articles as well as questions on this site about splitting infinitives. In the Wikipedia article, it claims: In Old English, infinitives were single words ending in -n or -an ...
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4answers
416 views

What is the origin of the phrase “bullet points”?

In particular, was the expression coined by a single individual or is it attributed to a document? The only thing I've been able to find was a non-cited reference to its origins in the 19th century ...
9
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1answer
329 views

Who originated “Merry Christmas”?

The first reference I can find in the OED to "Merry Christmas" is from 1534. This date very roughly corresponds with the English Reformation and Henry VIII's breach with Rome. From that time the ...
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41 views

What is the etymological history behind the mathematical “induction” versus the philosophical “inductive [reasoning]”? [closed]

Was talking about it in a (particularly off topic) university lecture on Emperical reasoning (deductive - our logic-math course, vs inductive - "gravity gets taken for granted"). A reason we were ...
3
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1answer
120 views

What purpose does third-person verb conjugation serve or used to serve?

There is one thing in English that doesn't make sense to me: adding 's' (or 'es') to verbs when the subject is a third person. It seems redundant and adds no extra information to the sentence. "I ...
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3answers
328 views

Why does the word “coffee” have two “e’s”?

We know what coffee is and where the word comes from. Coffee was originally borrowed from: The word "coffee" entered English language in 1582 via Dutch koffie,[4] borrowed from Turkish kahve, in ...
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1answer
127 views

Origin of the phrase “There's a fine line between A and B” [closed]

For instance, Oscar Levant says "There's a fine line between genius and insanity. I have erased this line." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oscar_Levant) but I'm not sure if he is the original ...
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1answer
197 views

Why does Northern Ireland pronunciation sound similar to American?

Recently, I started watching a TV show The Fall, which takes place in Northern Ireland. Their intonations and accents are unique, but their pronunciation sounds a lot like North American English to ...
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2answers
97 views

Unusual adjective position and evolution of Present perfect

In English, an adjective is usually placed on the left side of the noun it describes. But there are some exceptional phrasings here and there. I had so great a time. The English present perfect ...
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2answers
66 views

1902 use of phrase “giving a tiger” in the context of paying homage to the King's coronation

In Mrs Aeneas Gunn's autobiographical 'The Little Black Princess : A True Tale of Life in the Never-Never Land, 1905, she writes about previously celebrating the coronation of Edward VII in the bush. ...
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2answers
606 views

What is the history and meaning of the suffix “-ism”?

I have always understood that an "-ism" suffix on something implies that the word being applied to is a belief or doctrinal worldview or otherwise a philosophy. This blogpost sums up that ...
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1answer
51 views

What exactly is a “principle of action” or a “principle of conduct”?

Initial Context I was reading one of John Henry Newman's (Cardinal Newman for the non-Anglicans) sermons, specifically "Religious Faith Rational" from Parochial and Plain Sermons... Near the ...
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2answers
84 views

WWI Equivalent of “Gotcha!”

I am looking for an equivalent of "Gotcha!", "Made it!" or other exclamatory phrases a World War One Airplane Pilot may use. The specific name is Frank Luke, an airplane ace. He just got out after ...
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1answer
87 views

Dating Colloquial Expressions and Slang

I remember hearing "be more chill" meaning, "calm down" in the nineties but it was not in common use ten years later - although "chill" as a verb with the same meaning lingers on. The expression "I'll ...
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2answers
115 views

Why is it called zero conditional?

What's the meaning of the zero conditional or the first or the second .. Does it mean the form of the verb and what does that exactly mean does it mean infinitive although the present simple is used! ...
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1answer
124 views

What would be 1850's equivalent of slang praise for being audacious?

What might an 1850's working class American man say as praise to another man for being really audacious such as equivalent of "You crazy mf" or "crazy ass"?
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2answers
144 views

Use of the word “freak” as a slang term to mean stoner or heavy marijuana user

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the word "freak" was used for heavy marijuana smokers (other drugs might be involved as well) in New England boarding schools and as far south as Pennsylvania. My ...
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1answer
85 views

Why is the spelling of rhythm so exceptional?

Rhythm has a very unusual spelling, breaking a lot of the common rules of thumb for spelling words. The rh is unusual; the use of y as a vowel in the middle of the word is unusual; and the lack of a ...
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1answer
169 views

Meaning of 'to make a screen to' (1791 US)

Source: p 64, RIGHTS OF MAN: Being An Answer To Mr. Burke’s Attack On The FRENCH REVOLUTION, by Thomas Paine, 1791. Paine's "Answer" above immediately follows: p 64, The Revolution in France, by ...
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1answer
107 views

1920's terms for parents/children

What would young children (aged around 5-ish) have called their parents circa 1920's England? Were there specific terms of endearment, or would it just be "mother" and "father"? I'm particularly ...