Questions about the history and trends of the English language

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2
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1answer
137 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
votes
8answers
17k 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 been,...
1
vote
4answers
191 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
votes
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 ...
4
votes
2answers
144 views

What word was used before 'follow-up' emerged in 1905?

Did a single noun precede the hyphenated compound noun 'follow-up' (whose emergence is in 1905 is asserted by Etymonline)? Did a single verb precede the phrasal verb 'follow up'? If the answer to 1 ...
0
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1answer
91 views

Did English have any plural articles in the past?

I am curious as to whether English had any plural articles like in French with "les" and "des".
2
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2answers
726 views

“Houston, we may have a problem here” - Meaning?

I have heard this phrase many times in movies and people who use it as a pun in forums. What does this mean? Where did it originate from? When do we use it? There is a Wiktionary entry for a ...
3
votes
3answers
1k views

In what country did the term “railroaded” originate?

The term "railroaded" in the sense of having something forced through, either unjustly or without proper regard for those affected, clearly has it's origins in analogy to the way early railroads were ...
-1
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1answer
160 views

Use of 'z' versus 's' [duplicate]

I've been brought up believing that most of the words that have suffix with '-ize' or '-ized' is the American English form and the British English forms use (most of the time) '-ise' or '-ised' as the ...
0
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1answer
101 views

Transgendered vs. Transgender

In the 1990s the preferred umbrella term used by and about people who weren't in alignment with their birth gender was "transgendered." Despite the fact this was grammatically correct and didn't have ...
1
vote
1answer
87 views

When did formal “you” and “we” for showing respect in English wither away? [duplicate]

It appears that the current form of English only has the casual or irreverent form of pronouns like "you" and "I"; English lacks the formal or respectful version, which is present in many other ...
4
votes
1answer
109 views

Why don't ligatures have names?

It is common to see ligatures such as Æ or Œ in reference to classical works such as Œdipus or Æsop but these do not seem to have names. Strangely enough in the Old English alphabet there were similar ...
0
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2answers
113 views

Is “Peeping Tom” unique in that is has history?

I had discovered that the term "Peeping Tom" comes from the story of Lady Godiva as being the only person who dared look at her as she rode naked through the streets. I then tried to find other words ...
8
votes
3answers
437 views

When did initial-origin words (PRONOUNCED AS WORDS) start happening?

Someone was just asking if there were words like lol formed, before, the txtmsg era. Of course there were - for example "laser". However .. in fact what was the earliest example of this in English? ...
0
votes
1answer
87 views

When was the term “gender essentialism” coined, and when did it come into common usage?

When was the term "gender essentialism" coined, and when did first it come into common usage? I was under the impression that the concept originated though the feminist existentialism work of authors ...
1
vote
1answer
2k views

Dressing gown vs housecoat

As far as I can tell they refer to the same thing (bathrobe). I'd like to know the roots of both, and if possible the history of their evolution. Specifically if the usage is influenced by social ...
4
votes
2answers
450 views

From Soup to Nuts

I know that the phrase means "from one end to the other". Though I know many dinners that start with a soup, I know none that end with nuts. Hence the question - where does this phrase originate?
3
votes
3answers
875 views

Origins and history for phrase “tote that barge”?

In the 1927 musical "Show Boat" there is a famous song -- Old Man River -- with the lyric "Tote that barge. Lift that bale." being sung by the slaves/laborers in the musical. The word tote typically ...
0
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2answers
91 views

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 ...
1
vote
2answers
404 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 ...
2
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1answer
77 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?
0
votes
1answer
63 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?
3
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0answers
48 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 ...
2
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3answers
52 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 ...
4
votes
3answers
238 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
votes
1answer
189 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: ".....
2
votes
2answers
406 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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votes
2answers
285 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 ...
2
votes
1answer
132 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 ...
17
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12answers
4k 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 ...
12
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4answers
4k 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 ...
0
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4answers
108 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 ...
1
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1answer
126 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 ...
1
vote
1answer
155 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 (CONT'...
11
votes
1answer
970 views

What to call statues that flank entryways?

What's the term for statuary, usually paired, which flank entrances? Ex: The Lion pedestals at the NYC Public library; Assyrian Ox-God statues built into gates of ancient cities. My placeholder ...
0
votes
0answers
54 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, 'The'...
11
votes
2answers
145 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 ...
6
votes
2answers
131 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, ...
2
votes
1answer
58 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 ...
2
votes
2answers
401 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
votes
1answer
105 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?
9
votes
2answers
547 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 ...
2
votes
0answers
294 views

Why is /k/ sometimes spelt with a C, and sometimes with a K? [closed]

This may sound silly. But I'm really confused why, when we pronounce (the phoneme) /k/, we sometimes spell it with a C and sometimes with a K (sometimes with CK). Why wasn't 'k' used instead, in such ...
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votes
2answers
235 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 ...
2
votes
1answer
1k 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 ...
1
vote
1answer
617 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 ...
1
vote
1answer
202 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 10'...
6
votes
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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votes
1answer
50 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 ...
3
votes
1answer
3k 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', ...