Questions about the history and trends of the English language

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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 ...
17
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2answers
311 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
87 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
128 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
2k views

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
283 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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6answers
3k 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
81 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
73 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. ...
104
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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 ...
7
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1answer
323 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
985 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 ...
3
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1answer
225 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
854 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
364 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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1answer
74 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
207 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
542 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
536 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 ...
1
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1answer
429 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
156 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 ...
2
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2answers
78 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
2k 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
134 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
97 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
121 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
207 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
208 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
218 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 ...
3
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1answer
136 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 ...
4
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1answer
176 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
158 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 ...
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1answer
126 views

Which versions of historical English are mutually intelligible?

English has changed tremendously from Old English to Modern English. Which intermediate versions are considered to be mutually intelligible? For that matter, what about asymmetrical intelligible?
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4answers
1k views

Capitalization of the word universe

Playing around with Google's Ngram viewer, where you can see how many times a word is used in books, I stumbled on this: It shows how often universe and Universe have been used in books. I think ...
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2answers
383 views

When did “lesbian” become well-known as a noun, not an adjective?

A friend asked me earlier why it was that "gay" is an adjective, but "lesbian" is a noun. I've been doing some searching online, because it's an interesting question. According to etymonline, ...
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1answer
2k views

Is the use of “conversely” to mean “on the other hand” correct?

I've previously used "conversely" to mean "on the other hand". For example. I always thought this the correct usage. Conversely, I might be wrong. However, the OED defines it as: In the ...
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5answers
1k views

1700s term for “a technology”

Today, I could use "a technology" to mean a mechanical or industrial development: The most important transportation technology during that era was the railroad. According to etymonline.com, ...
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4answers
2k views

Why are Leicester & co pronounced as they are?

What is the origin of the pronunciation of words like Leicester, Gloucester, Worcestershire? Presumably, the spelling predates the pronunciation but what is the history here? What language do the ...
11
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1answer
970 views

When did “ain't” become slang?

In Anthony Trollope's The Way We Live Now, there are several places where "ain't" is used instead of "am not", such as: "I ain't afraid of him, if you mean that," continued Lord Nidderdale. — ...
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2answers
56 views

Term for aboriginal people of Canada in a historical context

The tribes that inhabited Canada before European contact are generally known as First Nations today. From what I can tell, this term is fairly new. What term could I use to refer to First Nations ...
2
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1answer
482 views

Spelling of the word “connoisseur”

From what I gathered on the Web, "connoisseur" is spelled that way because it is derived from the old french verb "connoître" (to know) which has now been spelt "connaître" for close to two ...
2
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1answer
770 views

Words that changed meaning in past hundred years [closed]

I am looking for a list of words that were used to mean something different from for what they are used now. some words are such that whose meaning has changed completely and some words have more ...
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2answers
167 views

The stages of history

Is there a word or short phrase that encompasses the three main stages of Western history: ancient, medieval, and then modern?
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2answers
221 views

What is the oldest variety of English in the Americas?

There are several varieties of the English Language in the Americas, from Alaska to the Falkland Islands. To mention just a few: American General and its varieties Canadian General Bajan ...
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3answers
3k views

The etymology of “redhead” vs. “ginger haired”

All my life I have known people with reddish, orangey hair, to be termed ginger haired. Just as you don't call a blonde a 'yellow head' red head just wasn't a word that was said (wouldn't orange head ...
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3answers
722 views

Why is the surname Gray more common than the surname Grey in the UK?

An EL&U question from 2010 asks Which is the correct spelling: "grey" or "gray"? The answers very sensibly point out the split between the UK and former British commonwealth ...
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1answer
79 views

Etymology of the “Chicago Seven” construction

There are many examples of a construction of the form "City + Number" used to refer to an incident involving a particular small group of people. It is often used when it is alleged that the people in ...
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2answers
245 views

How to research the expansion of the meaning of “wildlife” to include plants?

Washington State USA has a law that requires counties to designate and protect "Fish and Wildlife Habitat Conservation Areas." The legal rules for implementing this statute include language strongly ...
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1answer
166 views

Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde unknown ( Biblical?) Reference [closed]

Okay, so I am an avid reader, and have recently undertaken a challenge to read Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, along with Robert Louis Stevenson's other literature. Having recently completed Jekyll & ...
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1answer
115 views

When/by whom was the computing use of “agnostic” to mean independent coined?

Agnostic, as a term to refer to a particular philosophy with respect to spirituality and mysticism, was coined by Thomas Huxley; Wikipedia gives the date as 1869 while Wiktionary says 1870, but the ...