Questions about the history and trends of the English language

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8
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3answers
315 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
58 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
votes
1answer
43 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 ...
1
vote
1answer
48 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
66 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 ...
2
votes
5answers
2k views

Cross Origins of Comrade and Camaraderie

If "Comrade" and "camaraderie" are from Spanish and French, why did the Russians and particularly Soviets (and later the Chinese and South Africans), come to adopt Comrade for usage? Also, does ...
0
votes
2answers
58 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 ...
3
votes
3answers
109 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 ...
18
votes
6answers
1k views

19th century English texts occasionally use Germanic-style number words, such as “four-and-twenty”. When did this fall out of use?

19th century English texts occasionally use Germanic-style number words, such as "four-and-twenty", but the same text would also have the modern "twenty-four" in places (see e.g. Conan-Doyle for ...
0
votes
1answer
50 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 ...
11
votes
7answers
5k 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 ...
10
votes
6answers
11k views

Where does the phrase “get crackin'” come from?

"There's a lot of work to be done, so we'd better get crackin'" I've often used this expression, but I have no idea what we might have been cracking, originally? Any insight?
2
votes
0answers
128 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 ...
10
votes
3answers
815 views

Why is the surname Gray more common than the surname Grey in the UK?

An EL&U question from 2010 asks Which is the correct spelling: "grey" or "gray"? The answers very sensibly point out the split between the UK and former British commonwealth ...
-1
votes
2answers
145 views

When did Americans begin to use “practice” instead of “practise”?

I am writing an historical novel, and I try to have my characters speaking and writing as everybody did at the time. But I don't know when we in the US began to use practice as a verb instead of ...
2
votes
4answers
5k views

Where did the word 'golliwog' come from?

I am aware that the term is considered offensive. And I know that it refers to soft faced black dolls. But before that character was introduced, did 'golliwog' have meaning? I mean was it made up, or ...
6
votes
5answers
3k views

Why does “ow” have two different sounds

Why is it that the "ow" in now makes the aʊ sound while "ow" in snow makes the oʊ sound? Has this always been, was it spelled differently and then changed, or was it spelled this way but the sound ...
1
vote
0answers
94 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
100 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?
0
votes
2answers
76 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 ...
30
votes
4answers
6k views

How and when did American spelling supersede British spelling in the US?

Considering that Webster published his first dictionary in 1806, is there a recognised tipping point (year, decade, etc.) that marked the move from traditional British spelling to Webster's American? ...
6
votes
5answers
829 views

Why “Koran” changed to “Quran”?

According to the article Quran or Koran?, in 2000, AP started to use Quran instead of the more familiar Koran. Does anybody have information as to why this happened, and why newspapers today are ...
11
votes
8answers
13k views

Where did the idiom “giving a heads up” come from?

I know giving heads up means to inform someone, but how does that relate to the literal meaning i.e. giving heads up? What's the background? Where did it come from?
11
votes
3answers
887 views

Where did the practice of using apostrophes for possessive nouns but not pronouns originate?

Where did the practice of using apostrophes for possessive nouns but not pronouns originate? For example, possessive nouns (both proper and common) are written with a apostrophe before the final s: ...
1
vote
2answers
72 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
votes
3answers
124 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 ...
12
votes
4answers
2k views

Why did “insofar” become a word, not “insofaras”?

So I'm thinking about how "insofar" became a word. This slightly unfair comparison shows that it happened relatively recently. Now, whenever I've seen it written, "insofar" is followed by "as". So ...
25
votes
4answers
2k views

Is there a historical trend towards shorter sentences?

From my own reading of older books (eg. 18th, 19th century) in various styles (novels, philosophical treatises, scientific publications), it seems that sentences were longer back then. Is there good ...
2
votes
6answers
4k views

Is “I'll be John Brown” a common phrase?

The phrase: I'll be John Brown! is an occasionally-used term in North Carolina. Mostly thought to replace taking the Lord's name in vain (GD). Is it used elsewhere? How long has it been ...
2
votes
1answer
64 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
40 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?
1
vote
0answers
43 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
votes
3answers
45 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 ...
14
votes
3answers
1k views

What was going on with “quha”, “quhat” and the like in Scots and English?

From the Dictionar o the Scots Leid: Quha, Quhay, interrog. and rel. pron. Also: qwha, qha, qua, qwa, wha, vha, hua; qhaa; quhaw; quhai qwhay, whay, quay; quhae, whae; quhe, quhey, qwhey. ...
17
votes
5answers
1k views

The history of “softcore”

Over lunch recently, my colleagues and I were discussing the term "hardcore," and speculating on its origin. Our speculations evolved into "What has either a hard or soft core, where the hard cored ...
0
votes
2answers
605 views

Reform of English writing? [closed]

As is commonly known, English is quite notorious for having a writing system that is far removed from the actual way it is most commonly pronounced. I understand that there are important historical ...
9
votes
4answers
1k 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 ...
2
votes
1answer
63 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
206 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 ...
-2
votes
2answers
116 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 ...
13
votes
2answers
2k views

What's the origin of Pig Latin?

Having studied Latin at High School and not being a native English native speaker, I have trouble understanding what the point of Pig Latin is. The text transformation rules, indeed, bring to ...
19
votes
7answers
33k views

Why is a woman's purse called a “pocketbook”?

It's not a book, and it doesn't fit in anyone's pocket. Why does my brother-in-law insist on calling his wife's purse a pocketbook? I'm interested in the etymology, and in the chronological and ...
1
vote
1answer
81 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 ...
4
votes
2answers
1k views

Why king and queen rather than king and kingess?

Dukes have duchesses, counts countesses, princes princesses, mayors mayoresses, and even emperors empresses. Yet kings have queens rather than say, kingesses. Why is this so? If this was due to some ...
17
votes
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 ...
36
votes
4answers
45k views

Why use the word “copy” in “do you copy that”?

I notice "do you copy that?" is used in movies to ask for confirmation in telephone/interphone conversation. I only know copy means make things duplicated, so why use it in "do you copy that"? Is ...
2
votes
1answer
81 views

Older mineral names

When browsing through names of minerals in English, one notices that they appear to very commonly be of Latin origin or otherwise latinized or at least foreign; I mean names like "Magnetite", ...
5
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. ...
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 ...
1
vote
5answers
1k 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 ...