Questions about the history and trends of the English language

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9
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2answers
7k views

Why is the plural of “deer” the same as the singular?

Why is the plural version of deer identical to the singular version? If mouse became mice, then why did the singular deer not change to something else in the plural?
1
vote
2answers
119 views

Were American, Australian, and New Zealand English dialects ever spoken in Britain before the colonization of these lands? [closed]

Were American, Australian, and New Zealand English dialects ever spoken in Britain before the colonization of these lands?
0
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2answers
79 views

Which is more correct: “skewen” or “skewn”?

Which spelling for the past participle of skew is more correct: skewen or skewn? (I recognise it is not the more common spelling of skewed, but regionally and personally skewen is more in use in ...
1
vote
1answer
99 views

In the Dickensian era, was a capital letter preserved through apostrophe contractions?

Assume that a certain word is capitalised, for example "Microsoft." Say (for whatever reason, perhaps slang) you were going to shorten that certain word, using an apostrophe. Today, I'd say we would ...
0
votes
2answers
59 views

Historical use of 'repetitive' and 'repetitious' in BE/AE

Two oddities (I think so, anyway) I've just now stumbled across with the ngram viewer: In 18th century American English, things got very repetitive. Is there an historical reason that books written ...
7
votes
2answers
663 views

Last names that are English words with an extra 'e'

I noticed that there are a lot of last names that have an 'e' at the end. The pronunciation usually isn't changed from that of the base word. Poole Steele Browne Clarke Why do English words not ...
3
votes
1answer
103 views

Why is Gilt a word when we have Gilded? Is this town big enough for the both of them? [duplicate]

We would never say "I builded my own house", and we would never say "I ment my fences" - as far as I can tell, words either went the d-to-t route, or they went the add-ed route. Gild, for some reason, ...
2
votes
2answers
269 views

Why is there “Black English” but not “White English”?

African American Vernacular English is shortened to a less precise phrase "Black English". Also, Black English is used in a broader sense: Black English is a term used for both dialects of English ...
6
votes
1answer
485 views

Quotation ascribed to Benjamin Franklin, “We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.”

There is a cottage industry in the United States of manufacturing quotations and ascribing them to the American Founding Fathers. A recent one, "We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to ...
6
votes
1answer
274 views

How was the term 'payload' coined?

Wikipedia describes payload as, Payload is the carrying capacity of an aircraft or launch vehicle, usually measured in terms of weight. Etymonline says, payload 1930, from pay (n. or v.) + ...
1
vote
0answers
43 views

English words that derive from religous origins [closed]

Hi I am looking for a list of examples of words coming from a religious pretext. Ex: "goodbye" came from "God be with you" The religion it comes from dose not matter. Just a list of word that fall in ...
3
votes
3answers
256 views

Etymology of English “Achoo” relative to other sneezing onomatopoeiae

So I was recently curious about the sound that people sneeze with in other languages and was surprised to notice the difference between the English onomatopoetic word "Achoo" and that of other ...
3
votes
2answers
98 views

etymology of the phrase “at all”

I couldn't get much on this phrase. It is a weird one I know but I just can't stand not knowing it. How did the current use of "at all" come into being? Take a look at this: "in any way," ...
13
votes
7answers
692 views

Why doesn't English have a separate word for “head hair”? (head hair vs. body hair)

The answer can be "Because it doesn't!" or "It wasn't needed!" in short but there might be a historical or linguistic explanation behind this. (Of course, every language might be lacking a word that ...
0
votes
0answers
34 views

once, twice, thrice… was there more? [duplicate]

I realize everyone uses 'four times', 'five times'... in case of denoting something repeating more than three times. Even 'thrice' is currently gradually going extinct. But did English ever possess ...
-1
votes
1answer
84 views

When do Americans began to use practice instead of practise?

I am writing an historical novel, and I try to make my characters speaking and writing as everybody did at the time. But I don't know when we began to use "practice" as a verb instead of "practise". ...
5
votes
2answers
298 views

Buckley's Chance

In Australian parlance we have the expression "He's got Buckley's chance" or "You've got two chances - Yours and Buckley's". Meaning - he o you have no chance at all. Who was Buckley?
1
vote
1answer
134 views

Differentiate and Integrate

Further to my last question about the history of calculus terms, I am wondering about the etymology of differentiate the etymology of integrate why we speak of a "derivative", but we "differentiate" ...
10
votes
2answers
455 views

Can an English sentence have a 'dative subject'?

I have been thinking about this for a while. It seems to me that, sometimes, the subject plays a dative role in that it is the recipient of something. Take the following active sentence. He gave ...
7
votes
3answers
502 views

Why do midwesterners say “the cancer”?

I was watching the TV show Fargo, which takes place in rural Minnesota. Most of the locals on the show speak with a recognizable midwestern accent, and there are some regionalisms that are common. The ...
5
votes
3answers
228 views

If a word is coined / popularized / used only or mainly by second-language speakers of English, is it still considered to be an English word?

It seems that there are quite a few terms that look like English and are used in English spoken by non-fluent or fluent but nonnative speakers of English as a second language amongst themselves, but ...
3
votes
1answer
65 views

Is William Blake's usage of “to break a net” idiomatic or metaphorical?

The following passage is from William Blake's 1793 work "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell": A man carried a monkey about for a shew, & because he was a little wiser than the monkey, grew vain, ...
8
votes
2answers
8k views

Why does this “Ladies First” saying exist?

I've been wondering. Where did the saying "Ladies first" originate? Did it originally appeared in English countries, or? And is this always expressed in a positive/polite tune of meaning? I mean, I ...
2
votes
1answer
250 views

The origin word “English”? Language that dominated the beginning of English existence? [closed]

I've read so many questions in ELL on the origin of English words. But I've never found the origin of the word English itself. I'm also curious about the history of English as a language. I mean, in ...
0
votes
2answers
73 views

Can “lackadaisical” be used in literature?

Has lackadaisical ever been used in literary works? My Oxford Dictionary of Quotations has no quotation that includes this word. Who first used lackadaisical in the 1760s as the OED claims?
6
votes
1answer
401 views

“An Ewt” to “A Newt”?

What is it called when English speakers, over a long period of time, start adding the letter "n" to the beginning of a word by accident, due to use of the article "an"? For instance, I read somewhere ...
11
votes
2answers
325 views

Is the term “KTV” in use in any English-speaking country?

While travelling recently for two months in mainland China I noticed many buildings with the English letters KTV in their signage. At first I thought this was something to do with company names or ...
0
votes
1answer
46 views

History of the Surname 'Salmon' [closed]

I was wondering if any one might know anything about the history, origin and or background of my family name, Salmon. Any information would be gratefully received! Thank you
5
votes
4answers
1k views

To know something “inside out” or “inside and out”?

As a native English speaker (Australia) I've always known and used the expression "to know something inside out", meaning "to know thoroughly". Just now when editing a post on another SE site that ...
2
votes
3answers
187 views

Origin of “to be in fat city”?

What is the origin of the phrase "to be in fat city" meaning "to do well" (financially or otherwise)? A search with an internet search engine suggests that it is of fairly recent vintage, as the two ...
2
votes
2answers
197 views

History of using capital letters for names

Though the answer might not be, my question is simple: When and how did the custom of capitalizing names begin? (I'm not entirely sure whether to ask this question here or in History.SE since it ...
26
votes
3answers
3k views

Why “daily” and not “dayly”?

Checking how adjectives related to time are created, I see: year → yearly month → monthly week → weekly day → daily Why has “day” derivated into “daily” with an ‘i’ instead of “dayly” with a ‘y’? ...
0
votes
1answer
59 views

Why 'mention graph' of genuflect is so steep?

Google define genuflect you will got a 'mentions graph' of genuflect. It's very interesting that the graph is very steep while graph of other words, run for example, are very smooth. Any idea why this ...
2
votes
2answers
108 views

When did the word “snafu” enter the colloquial vernacular?

Roughly when did the word "snafu" enter the colloquial vernacular? It was a military term, but at some point it came into fairly common use among the general population. If you can narrow it down to a ...
15
votes
5answers
3k views

Why does the letter ‘o’ appear in the word ‘people’?

My two daughters demanded to know this. I speculated that it was artificially inserted, perhaps in the 17th-18th century, perhaps to make the word look more like populus, somewhat similar to the way ...
2
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3answers
643 views

When did “Pensylvania” become “Pennsylvania”?

On the Liberty Bell, it's spelled Pensylvania. Likewise on plenty of maps from the colonial days. When did it become Pennsylvania (with three n's)?
0
votes
3answers
102 views

On the evolution of the meaning of “few”

Was the word "few" used exclusively to refer to groups of eight people (or things) at some point of time? There is a well-known verse in the New Testament which implies the plausibility of such a ...
6
votes
7answers
1k views

Where does “my ass” come from?

The usage of my ass to mean me is now relatively common. My impression is that it originated from AAVE and has since been included in various other dialects. The NGram below implies it became popular ...
1
vote
5answers
113 views

What word is this?

In the film Gangs of New York, what is this word spoken? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ADmX9eMEV9U&t=1m38s It sounds like benay. What does it mean? The subtitles don't have anything for this ...
5
votes
6answers
556 views

Which is the older sense of the word “linguist”?

I have been listening to some rants on YouTube against people learning a bunch of languages calling themselves "linguists". I'm personally interested in both linguistics and languages as a hobby but ...
18
votes
2answers
396 views

“Fire” a weapon before firearms existed?

Did the verb “fire a weapon” exist before the actual introduction of firearms on battlefields? More specifically, does it make sense for a creative work to have archers (or whatever ranged weaponry) ...
3
votes
2answers
226 views

What does “U” mean in a “2U herd”?

In the song Old Chisholm Trail, a famous cowboy song there's the following line: I started up the trail October 23rd Started up the trail with a 2U herd (emphasis mine) For lyrics. I know 2U ...
26
votes
5answers
3k views

Why are knobs called “pots” by some sound designers?

I was recently introduced to the term "pots" to mean "dials" or "knobs" in the field of sound design and audio engineering. (It rather took me by surprise; I had no idea what the sound designer was ...
2
votes
2answers
393 views

What does this line in the chorus mean?

From New York Girls by by Finbar Furey Shipmates listen unto me, I'll tell you in my song Of the things that happened to me When I come home from Hong Kong CHORUS: To me a-weigh, ...
-2
votes
1answer
474 views

What did the word “arcade” mean before video games? [closed]

I was browsing a document on the history of Leicestershire in the UK. About halfway down the page, in the "Leicester in the 19th Century" section, it said: Silver Arcade was built in 1899. What ...
1
vote
1answer
80 views

Since when is capital of a country used to denote government actions?

Nowadays, we commonly use capitals (I refer to the cities) to denote a action taken by a government. e.g. "New Delhi decided to pass the food bill." Here New Delhi refers to the Indian ...
2
votes
2answers
281 views

Roast duck vs. roasted duck

We can say ‘fried fish’, ‘baked potato’ or ‘minced pork’ using past participles for modifiers. However, ‘roast’ is different - either ‘roast duck’ or ‘roasted duck’ works, it seems to me. How should ...
31
votes
5answers
4k views

During the “Cold War”, did Americans/Westerners call it such?

I am old enough to remember the fall of the Soviet Union, but not old enough to have had any interest in world affairs in the times before. Did Americans/Westerners refer to the "Cold War" by that ...
6
votes
2answers
869 views

What is a cock-feeder?

I've been reading Tyburn Tales, a Victorian book about the malefactors who suffered on the gallows at York. This includes potted biographies of some of the more flagitious criminals, including a ...
0
votes
0answers
38 views

Why “qu” is pronounced “qw” (as in quit, question) [duplicate]

Or to put it the other way, why qu is not spelled qw, as qwit, qwestion, for quit, question.