Questions about the history and trends of the English language

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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 ...
0
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2answers
36 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 ...
4
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5answers
239 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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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, ...
2
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2answers
49 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. ...
3
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2answers
61 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 ...
22
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1answer
4k views

Why don't English nouns have grammatical gender?

English nouns — other than those with natural gender, e.g. people or animals — do not generally have grammatical gender, and so are referred to as 'it' rather than 'he' or 'she'. However, modern ...
2
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2answers
179 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 ...
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. ...
8
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2answers
435 views

Yellow versus orange

I have observed several people over the years refer to something that is orange in color as "yellow". Is that some linguistic difference or a difference in perception?
8
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5answers
2k 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 ...
0
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1answer
35 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
72 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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6answers
10k views

What does “everything's gone pear-shaped” mean?

I've recently heard this phrase spoken twice on a British television show, and I assume it means something along the lines of, "everything's fallen apart," generally meaning, things are bad right now. ...
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 ...
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0answers
38 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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0answers
6 views

If the series Star Trek Enterprise [migrated]

The series takes place long before the series TOS. But we have a problem here. Why does it look more modern inside the spaceship, there is lens at huge of panels, monitors, and the font is smaller on ...
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2answers
68 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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3answers
2k views

Why do written English vowels differ from other Latin-based orthographies?

Written English vowels differ from other Latin-based orthographies. Consider what the written vowels in the romance languages represent. Also, for example, consider this simple comparision between a ...
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2answers
4k views

When did “World War 2” start being called “World War 2”?

When did World War 2 start being called a "world war" and when did it start being called World War 2? Thurber's The Last Flower (copyright 1939) makes reference to World War 12 so I'm curious as to ...
2
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1answer
58 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"?
3
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1answer
567 views

Why do we use Roman numerals for some page numbers but Arabic ones for others?

Why is it that certain pages in English-language books are numbered using Roman numerals, but other pages are numbered using (so-called) Arabic ones? Has it always been this way? Or was the split ...
5
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2answers
80 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 ...
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1answer
64 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 ...
5
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7answers
18k views

What is the origin of the phrase “two nations divided by a common language”?

What is the origin of the phrase "two nations divided by a common language"? I have seen it attributed to Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw and even Winston Churchill. The most likely looking source ...
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8answers
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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 ...
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0answers
72 views

Why does modern English only have one affirmative response? [closed]

I learned that nearly all Germanic languages have two affirmative responses, one of which answers a positively framed question and the other answer a negatively framed question. In modern English, ...
4
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1answer
149 views

1790 meaning of 'make a screen to'

Source: Thomas Paine, RIGHTS OF MAN: Being An Answer To Mr. Burke’s Attack On The FRENCH REVOLUTION*, page 64 (1791) *[Edmund Burke, The Revolution in France, second edition (1790)] (Paine's ...
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4answers
7k views

What is the history and geographic area of the word “finna?”

In St. Louis, I learned of the word, "finna." I know it is slang/contraction for "fixing to." By asking dozens of people, I've learned that it is used by people of many different races and cultural ...
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3answers
4k views

Where were “should”, “shall”, and “must” in the 18th Century?

According to the following Google Ngram, in the U.K. the modals should, shall, and must were virtually missing from English writing during the 18th Century (I've added will for a comparison modal ...
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2answers
148 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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3answers
3k views

Why do we say “honeymoon” instead of “honeymonth”?

I was curious about the etymology of the word honeymoon and found out that its sense was partially literal (serving honey for the couple), and partially metaphorical (sweet and happy times). But I ...
6
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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 ...
0
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1answer
64 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 ...
0
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1answer
57 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 ...
6
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2answers
268 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 ...
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4answers
4k views

“How come” vs “Why?”

What are the differences between the terms "How come ... we eat breakfast?" and "Why ... do we eat breakfast?" The words phrase based in how seems really awkward to me, and I don't understand this ...
6
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1answer
234 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 ...
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3answers
2k views

Why do we say that someone “practices” law or medicine?

I’m wondering why we refer to providing legal or medical services as a practice of law or medicine, respectively. For example, we say that a lawyer practices law or a doctor practices medicine. This ...
1
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1answer
65 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?
1
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2answers
93 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, ...
0
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0answers
98 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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2answers
3k views

Why is “gauge” spelled with a 'u'?

I was rather old before I realized "gauge" is pronounced (and sometimes spelt) "gage". The etymology doesn't reveal too much: mid-15c., from Anglo-Fr. gauge (mid-14c.), from O.N.Fr. gauger, from ...
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3answers
328 views

Are there any cases of a word that originated in English replacing another word in English in common usage?

I'm curious if there's any cases of a word that originated in English (didn't come from a foreign source) replacing another word in every day usage?
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4answers
1k 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 ...
4
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2answers
158 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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6answers
2k views

When and how did “momentarily” come to mean “in a moment”, rather than “for a moment”?

"Momentarily" used to mean "for a moment" only, and not "in a moment". Thus, newscasters could be divided into two clear groups: those who would say "we'll be back momentarily," and those who would ...
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4answers
6k views

Why are the people of the United States called “Americans” when the whole continent is “America” [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Why are the United States often referred to as America? Is it because there wasn't a proper adjective like "United Staterns" or something? Why are Canadians not called ...
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3answers
1k views

Why is there a distinction between “its” and “it's”?

While I know technically the English language has a distinction because when there's a conflict between the possessive form and a contraction, the contraction wins. That is: Its is the possessive ...
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5answers
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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, ...