Questions about the history and trends of the English language

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2
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1answer
254 views

What was “bathroom” called in 1900's?

What would have been said around 1900 for a woman saying she needed to go to the bathroom in the state of Virginia?
2
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1answer
92 views

Who came up with “mascara lights” on cars?

Mascara lights are LED daytime running lights or lamps, typically in a wavy or curved pattern: This photo shows DRLs on an Audi A4-B8: When and where did this term originate? Is it an Audi ...
2
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0answers
115 views

Wanderwort origins and the Indus Valley Civilization? [closed]

I have noticed that there seem to be many words that have travelled the globe due to trade, such as the word orange or rice, which have plausible origins in proto-Dravidian. Meanwhile, it is ...
5
votes
1answer
577 views

Flexibility of English: Always so?

The other day I read a question about nouns being used as verbs. An answer informed that in English any word can be used as a verb, but that it is not so in other languages. Beyond verbs, English is a ...
-3
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5answers
167 views

What's that M-word like “meme” but it sounds all sophisticated & sociological? [closed]

It's not memetics or mnemonics, and it rolls off the tongue and sounds great. I think that it's at least 10 letters long.
4
votes
1answer
286 views

When did the term 'microcomputer' become obsolete?

I'm old enough to remember that (around 1980) the first personal computers were referred to, triumphantly, as 'microcomputers'. When did this usage fade out?
0
votes
1answer
233 views

On English Phrases with Essential Changes in Meaning [closed]

In any living language the change in meanings of the words and phrases is a natural phenomenon. But sometimes this change is very essential and a certain word or phrase loses its original meaning ...
1
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2answers
1k views

What is the “oldest joke in the book?”

What is the earliest recorded joke in a published work in the English language?
0
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4answers
706 views

Do people still speak old English in South Africa? [closed]

I watched the South African film "The White Wedding", in that film, there is a white couple speaking a very weird language, it sounds like German but not German & a person in the movie said they ...
1
vote
2answers
895 views

What happened to King Canute

I was watching Downton Abbey season 4 episode 2. The conversation goes like this: Violet Crawley: Now I asked Branson to come here because I have an idea. Mary Crawley: Granny, you must call ...
2
votes
1answer
104 views

Is “steel breeze” an idiom?

I had only known of the phrase from the lyrics to the Pink Floyd song Shine on you crazy diamond and had always assumed that they had coined it. However, I stumbled upon a book by Alastair Reynolds ...
2
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1answer
65 views

Australis, Austrinus, Australe - in constellations

I was having a look at the official constellations, and I noticed three with similar names: Corona Australis Piscis Austrinus Triangulum Australe Now the "Austral" definitely means "southern", as ...
6
votes
1answer
232 views

History of the non-rule that proscribes ending a sentence with a preposition [duplicate]

Famously, if not accurately, Winston Churchill is supposed to have responding to an editor who had "fixed" a sentence ending with a preposition by writing, "This is the sort of thing up with which I ...
0
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2answers
678 views

Etymology of “Email Thread”

What is the history of the word thread in the context of "email thread"? You can also say "thread of a conversation". How old is that usage? Some of my colleagues say "email string" and it drives me ...
0
votes
1answer
813 views

Why do we “shed” blood, sweat or tears but not other things?

I found the following definition of shed (the verb): chiefly dialect : to set apart : segregate to cause to be dispersed without penetrating a. to cause (blood) to flow by cutting or ...
3
votes
3answers
4k views

why do we say “too bad”?

At first glance you'd think the correct use of the expression "too bad" would be in a conversation like this: Sure stealing candy would be bad but stealing candy from a baby is just too bad. But ...
2
votes
1answer
267 views

When was “Uh huh” invented? is “Uh huh” a formal English?

I am not a native English speaker, i don't understand deeply English language. So i just want to ask you this. Many years ago, maybe before 2000, i seldom heard English people say “Uh huh”, “Uh huh” ...
1
vote
3answers
687 views

Did the CIA really introduce 'conspiracy theory' into popular usage after JFK?

I heard that after the JFK assassination the CIA, through assets in mass media, introduced the term 'conspiracy theory', with it connotations of something clearly ridiculous, and only believed by ...
1
vote
3answers
347 views

OxFORD and CamBRIDGE

All of a sudden the scales fell from my eyes: OxFORD and CamBRIDGE. Is there a serious reference for this - not so surprising, but linguistically amusing - fact that these two prominent university ...
2
votes
1answer
479 views

Pronunciation and meaning: “wind” and “wound”

I find it curious that there exist two words spelt wind ("a breeze" vs. "to turn") and two words spelt wound ("an injury" vs. the past participle of wind), and that the words in each pair are ...
3
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3answers
130 views

Why is this a hyperbaton?

According to Wikipedia, this is a hyperbaton: "Whom god wishes to destroy, he first makes mad" — Euripides Is that right, and if so, why? My native language is Swedish, but I speak English ...
5
votes
1answer
458 views

Eyeglasses, spectacles, goggles and glasses. But in which order?

You would think that finding out if the word eyeglasses preceded the word glasses would be a simple matter. Not so. Did eyeglasses and spectacles as I suspect, precede the word glasses? Goggles I ...
0
votes
1answer
61 views

Rephrase the question about history? [closed]

Here is what i want to ask - if you are given a chance to meet and talk to a person from history, who that would be? This above phrase doesn't sound good when asked as a question. Please ...
5
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3answers
3k views

What does “enough” mean in expressions like “Fair enough” or “Funny enough”?

As a non-native speaker, I already get used to the word enough in expressions like those below, but I sometimes still got confused of it. It makes me wonder what it actually means and where does it ...
1
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0answers
83 views

Etymological reference to the “Five woman in London” mentioned in The Picture of Dorian Gray [closed]

My dear Dorian, it is quite true. I am analysing women at present, so I ought to know. The subject is not so abstruse as I thought it was. I find that, ultimately, there are only two kinds of ...
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2answers
734 views

Masculine/feminine nouns in English [closed]

Have there been any significant tendencies to distinguish nouns for male and female in English? Let's say in the past 100 - 200 years? E.g. you have only a bunch of them: actor/actress hero/heroine ...
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2answers
1k views

Build a house, plant a tree, father a son

What is the origin of the phrase (and the principle) "build a house/home, plant a tree, father/raise a son/child" and its derivation (perhaps) "write a book, plant..."?
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3answers
208 views

General history of the English language – book / website recommendation? [closed]

Having just come across this site, I am finally asking a question that's been on my mind for a while … I am looking for a book, website or infographic that gives a (relatively) concise, ...
0
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3answers
115 views

What is changed in 'guerrilla' and 'guerrillas' usage during the last two hundred years?

"guerrilla: a member of a usually small group of soldiers who do not belong to a regular army and who fight in a war as an independent unit" (M-W) Surely there are specific historical reasons ...
-1
votes
2answers
75 views

Paraphrasing a context [closed]

What I can infer from the passage is, about about taking the possession by military force. Is it right? The above writing seems arduous to me to comprehend. I want to paraphrase it clearly but ...
0
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3answers
382 views

Why are “some” letters silent in English? [closed]

There are many such words that we all know about, but please explain why the makers of the English language made up words with silent letters?
7
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5answers
4k views

Are curly braces ever used in normal text? If not, why were they created?

Are they actually used in normal text? I mean something like a 'normal' book (not a manual, or a technical document). I don't think I've ever seen them yet they clearly predate programming which is ...
9
votes
1answer
1k views

What is the earliest recorded pun in the English language?

So, I'll admit I love a good pun. Done correctly, it is humor for the clever that builds up rather than tears down. Plus, it beats an emetic in the right situation. That said, I wonder how far back ...
0
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1answer
1k views

Why is Beowulf considered one of the most important works in the history of the English language? [closed]

Apologies if this is too subjective of a question. I'm currently studying Beowulf. I've seen it referred to as one of the, if not the first, most influential works of Anglo-Saxon literature. Some ...
1
vote
1answer
95 views

How old is the phrase “A Healthy Pee” (or “A Healthy Piss”)

What is the earliest usage of the phrase "a healthy pee" or "a healthy piss"? The letter "P", or its spelled form, "pee", used euphemistically for "piss" (because "piss" begins with that letter -- ...
9
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1answer
357 views

Did 'fornication' ever mean vaulting?

The following dialog is an excerpt from Terry Pratchet's Making Money: “Isn’t the fornication wonderful?” After quite a lengthy pause, Moist ventured, “Is it?” “Don’t you think so? ...
6
votes
1answer
207 views

A ligature “og”

I met a ligature "og" in one of the manuscripts. It is hard to see this ligature there (look at the word "logicae". Have you met anything similar? Is there a better manuscript with this ligature or ...
4
votes
3answers
2k views

What is the origin of the slang 'kicks' meaning sneakers

Street culture uses the term 'kicks' to describe sneakers/athletic shoes. I've been using this term for as long as I can remember so I'm comfortable with it's meaning however, as I'm sure I could make ...
3
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2answers
370 views

When did “text” come to be defined as something other than words?

I think the answer to this question may be in the OED, but I don't have access to the service. I am discussing "texts" using definitions (from dictionary.com) like this: text: any theme or topic; ...
1
vote
2answers
868 views

How did the term “dongle” come into use? [duplicate]

Why was the word "dongle" chosen to represent this kind of hardware device? I can imagine that it was related to the word "dangle"... since dongles tend to dangle - but that's just my hunch and not ...
13
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6answers
9k views

Why “hoist” in “Hoist with one's own petard”?

He was hoist with his own petard is one of my father's favorite phrases. As a child I had developed a vague understanding of the idiom in which petard was a kind of flag, which is why it was hoist, ...
44
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3answers
2k views

What is the etymology of “yellow”, and why is it so different in other European languages?

It seems like most of our names for colors come from our German roots (blue/blau, green/grün, red/rot, etc.). But yellow is gelb in German, amarillo in Spanish, jaune in French, and giallo in Italian. ...
15
votes
8answers
5k views

When did the term “flip flop” displace the term “thong” in North America for a type of sandal?

To Australians like me "thong" means a kind of sandal such as recently repopularized by the Havaianas brand but we know it means a kind of G-string in other English-speaking parts of the world. To ...
12
votes
3answers
3k views

What is the origin of “like a bat out of hell”?

As far as I know, this expression means to appear suddenly and in a scary way. But what is its origin? I heard that it comes from Meat Loaf's song but I'd like to confirm it with reliable sources, if ...
3
votes
1answer
427 views

When and why has “bike” developed from “bicycle”?

It's not obvious for me why and when bike developed as short form from bicycle. Could you explain that, please? And is it odd to say mountain bicycle or motor-bicycle?
1
vote
1answer
166 views

Who translated “He's a muddled fool, full of lucid intervals.” [closed]

I have revised herein my question of Aug 18 and update my research based on the most helpful suggestions of Peter Schor and tchrist of Aug 18, 2013. I'm not a Cervantista and don't speak Spanish. ...
6
votes
4answers
509 views

What is the role of “every” in idioms like “every so often”?

There are a couple of idioms whose meaning is from time to time or occasionally. Every so often (Every) once in a while (Every) now and then/again Every actually is a determiner (or, broadly ...
3
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2answers
425 views

What happened around 1700 that transformed / changed the English language?

When looking at examples listed in OED it is very noticeable that English differs greatly before 1700s and after (roughly) and it becomes recognizable and very similar to modern starting roughly from ...
4
votes
2answers
131 views

“In the unlikely event”

You hear it in most safety demonstrations. "In the unlikely event" ... of a water landing, of an emergency evacuation, of a fire etc. etc. etc. Did this phrasing come from somewhere specifically?
2
votes
1answer
2k views

Why do we describe a problem or experience as “hairy”?

I'm curious about the use/history of "hairy", as in Golly Dan, that was a pretty hairy math exam, wasn't it? My dictionary sources identify two definitions unrelated to hair: the first can be ...