Questions about the history and trends of the English language

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11
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7answers
7k views

Did the slang term “The Bomb” meaning “Very Cool” come from the American Jazz scene?

Searching Google for the history of the slang term "the bomb" (as in "That song is the bomb") yields a number of results in 40s/50s jazz glossaries, but they tend to at best give an artificial example ...
6
votes
2answers
355 views

Surge in uses of the word “definitely” in 1930s

I was messing around on Google Books Ngram Viewer, and I saw a huge surge in uses of the word "definitely" around the 1930s. Google Books Ngram Viewer Does anyone know or have a guess on why this ...
2
votes
3answers
705 views

Modern use of “bourgeoisie”

How can I use bourgeoisie properly in this day and age? I understand that at one time it meant part of the wealthy "middle class". Back then the middle class owned the means to production (merchants ...
8
votes
4answers
818 views

progressive forms: participle or gerund?

Progressive forms of verbs consist of the form to be + participle. At least that is what most English grammars say or they are imprecise and speak of the -ing form. My question is what follows after ...
65
votes
5answers
50k views

If the letter J is only 400–500 years old, was there a J sound that preceded the design of the letter?

I understand that the letter "J" is relatively new — perhaps 400–500 years old. But since there has long been important names that begin with J, such as Jesus, Joshua, Justinian, etc., and which ...
6
votes
2answers
461 views

What is the real history of the word “scenario”?

In a moment of revery, I pondered from what language the word "scenario" originated. Unsurprisingly, it's Italian in origin, according to etymonline, but the etymonline etymology surprised me - the ...
3
votes
4answers
2k views

When did “consumption” become “tuberculosis”?

Tuberculosis was commonly called "consumption" for many years. When did "tuberculosis" or "TB" overtake "consumption" as the common term, in English, for the disease? This Ngram isn't much use; it ...
1
vote
1answer
379 views

What does it mean that two languages are genetically unrelated? [closed]

I would like to know what does it mean that two languages are genetically unrelated? I have seen answer in this topic Genetic Relatives what does it mean that languages are genetically realted but ...
8
votes
1answer
884 views

Why do English men's names almost always stress the first syllable?

While looking at names of American Presidents I noticed that English men’s names almost always stress the first syllable. Barack Obama is unusual in that he’s only the second President (after ...
1
vote
1answer
624 views

In the early 1900s, would the name (Nettie/Nette) have been more likely to be spelled Nette or Nettie?

I am developing a family album. In doing so, I have seen the name (Nettie/Nette) spelled both as Nette and as Nettie. I have not been able to locate relevant birth records. Can someone tell me ...
7
votes
3answers
444 views

What is the sense of using word “argument”, for inputs of a function?

In computer jargon, we refer to "inputs of a function" as "arguments". I was wondering what the sense is in doing so.
0
votes
0answers
34 views

Why *are* pants? [duplicate]

Plural, that is. And it aint just "pants". "Shorts", "boxers", "trousers", even "panties" are all plural. (Although "underwear" ("where is my underwear?") and "thongs" ("He was wearing a thong." ...
2
votes
2answers
574 views

Where does the anglicisation “Ottoman” come from?

Wikipedia on Ottoman Empire gives its naming as coming from the Ottoman Turkish language, but on that very page, the name of the language is transliterated as Lisân-ı Osmânî. In Russian we call the ...
8
votes
2answers
283 views

Origin of the word “Bluechip”

The word "Bluechip" is used to refer to large cap companies which are in existence for at least 10 years. But why are they called Bluechips? What does the word denote?
2
votes
1answer
416 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
votes
1answer
136 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
votes
0answers
180 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
1k 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
votes
5answers
195 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
432 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?
1
vote
2answers
2k views

What is the “oldest joke in the book?”

What is the earliest recorded joke in a published work in the English language?
0
votes
4answers
1k 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 ...
2
votes
2answers
1k 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
168 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
votes
1answer
79 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
480 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
votes
2answers
4k 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
2k 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 ...
4
votes
4answers
21k 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
510 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” ...
3
votes
1answer
103 views

Who is Mrs Trimmer in Charles Dickens' novel “The Haunted House”?

Who was Mrs Trimmer in the following excerpt? And Prince Arthur, nephew of King John of England, had described himself as tolerably comfortable in the seventh circle, where he was learning to ...
2
votes
5answers
2k 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
681 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
1k 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
votes
3answers
864 views

How does one pronounce “hath” and “doth”?

Old English verb forms such as "hath" and "doth" are, I believe, normally pronounced with the /θ/ sound as in the word "think." But somebody once told me that that is actually a mistake. The words, ...
4
votes
3answers
276 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
1k 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
73 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 ...
6
votes
4answers
6k 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 ...
-7
votes
2answers
972 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 ...
-2
votes
2answers
3k 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..."?
6
votes
3answers
310 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
votes
3answers
126 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
100 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 ...
9
votes
5answers
8k 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
2k 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 ...
1
vote
1answer
3k 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
132 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 -- ...
10
votes
1answer
787 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
273 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 ...