Questions about the history and trends of the English language

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How was English orthography reformed?

I understand that English speakers have dictionaries, manuals of style, and grammar books at their disposal to know how to write correctly, but is there the most basic book of rules on which all ...
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2answers
41 views

When did “Whatever.” begin to be used as a sentence?

"Whatever." is often used in slang as if it were a complete sentence, vaguely conveying meanings such as "I don't care" or "I'm not going to challenge what you say, but I'm not necessarily going to ...
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1answer
61 views

DNA of English language [closed]

Many Indian languages including Hindi(the language most spoken in India) owe their origin to Sanskrit.Similarly,is there any language which predated English and owes its origin?
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1answer
32 views

History of the phrase 'Nina from Carolina'

According to online dictionaries, the definition of this is "the sum of 8 and 1" or 9. What is the origin of this?
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0answers
43 views

Why did English writers formerly capitalize so many words? [duplicate]

Or, I guess it could be worded, since when and why was it counted as part of a formal writing style to capitalize many general nouns? (After all, it's not German ...) This is also a trend in legal ...
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3answers
42 views

term for the marriage of words and art

I'm looking for a term, preferably one or two words, that refers to the union of visual art + words/language. Probably a noun. Something that might describe an instance where art and language come ...
2
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3answers
104 views

Swear words in common usage by educated people in 1916

What swear words might have been commonly used in conversation (and, in particular, oral argument) in and around 1916, by literate men? As sources from the time are largely written, it is difficult to ...
2
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1answer
51 views

“Ninehammer” as variant spelling of “ninnyhammer”

I'm reading Neal Stephenson's historical novel Quicksilver, published in 1998 and set around 1700. There are several passages where the characters use the word ninehammer, as in the following: ...
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2answers
99 views

Word to describe the structure that holds/stores a shield (and possibly other weapons)

I am looking for a word that would used to describe either many shields, or a structure that would be used to carry them in storage. If I look at this medieval photo, there is a wooden structure on ...
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2answers
93 views

How and why did “AM”/"PM” come into play, as opposed to “a.m.”/“p.m.”?

From several sources, including english.stackexchange.com, one should write 3 p.m. instead of 3 PM. How did the all-capitals variant appear, and especially why? Is it because with typewriters and in ...
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1answer
79 views

Has “Extraordinary” Ever Been Spelled with an A-O Ligature?

For example, instead of spelling it as extraordinary, you would write it as extrꜵrdinary. This also applies to its derivations, such as instead of extraordinaire, you would write extrꜵrdinaire. I'm ...
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12answers
3k views

Is the word “palaver” in common use anywhere in the English-speaking world?

In a sci-fi movie from 1957, an astronaut says he's "going to palaver" with the cave-dwelling natives. I'd never heard the word before, but my husband—a history buff—knew it by its ...
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23 views

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
2k views

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
75 views

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
39 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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1answer
88 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
750 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
49 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
138 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
77 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
53 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
188 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, & ...
2
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1answer
74 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
367 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
102 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
160 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
237 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
66 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
71 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
2k views

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
22 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
499 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
346 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
2k 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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0answers
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? ...
3
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1answer
92 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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0answers
61 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. ...
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1answer
107 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
76 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
97 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
87 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
159 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 ...
2
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1answer
122 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 ...
0
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1answer
71 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
794 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
51 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
291 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
65 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
145 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 ...