Questions about how English has changed.

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4
votes
1answer
170 views

When I shelve only one thing, am I not putting it on one shelf?

As there are plenty of nouns used as verbs, why is it that I do not shelf, but rather shelve, an idea? Since the -lves is just the special case plural of -lf, it seems curious that the -lve is used to ...
4
votes
2answers
159 views

What is the difference between these two “scip”s?

In a question about ships, I added an answer with the etymologies that underpin both ship and -ship. "Ship" stems from scip: "O.E. scip "ship, boat," from P.Gmc. *skipan (cf. O.N., O.S., Goth. skip ...
10
votes
3answers
954 views

Evolution of the meaning of “to dwell”

The Old English meaning of "to dwell" (dwellan) is to mislead. Can we trace the gradual shift from this original sense to that of Modern English: to reside, to inhabit ?
17
votes
3answers
5k views

Gay (homosexual) and gay (happy)

When did the main meaning of the word 'gay' shift from happy to homosexual? How did the meaning evolve, if there is a relation between the two?
8
votes
4answers
909 views

What is the historic process for converting vulgar words into simply rude words?

I have noticed a pattern involving vulgarities where the previous generation's evil words become accepted as merely off-color or rude in the following generation. Is this merely each generation's ...
5
votes
4answers
164 views

How are artificial constructions such as l33t classified with regards to English?

L33t or its various other titles* is a derivation of English but I have no idea what term should be used to describe it. Other examples of these things would include lolspeak and the massive ...
3
votes
2answers
1k views

When did “fag” become an offensive word?

I'm from Pennsylvania. With the recent threat by the Westboro Baptist Church to protest the funeral of seven children who perished in a fire, I've been thinking a lot about their infamous catchphrase: ...
5
votes
2answers
692 views

Has there been an Anglo-Saxon movement in English?

We know there has been an influence (or attempt at influence) of Latin grammar on English, especially in the 19th century. And of course, many new words coined today in (say) the sciences draw upon ...
4
votes
4answers
651 views

Is English becoming easier or harder to learn? [closed]

As we all know, English is evolving. Constructs considered repugnant 100 years ago are widely-accepted today. Thousands of words in our vocabulary have fallen into disuse while thousands more have ...
1
vote
1answer
810 views

Classical language [closed]

What are classical languages? How they are different from other languages? Is English is an example of classical language?
3
votes
1answer
342 views

Attention, focus, and respect as distributable resources

I'm curious about why we say things like, "If I could have your attention please", "Please give me your focus", and "Please give me the same respect you want for yourself". When did these become ...
1
vote
1answer
306 views

Why does spelling matter? [closed]

If I write mispelling as supposed to misspelling why does it matter? The meaning still exists. Everyone knows what I meant to write. There is no ambiguity. Why do some people consider the proper ...
4
votes
3answers
2k views

Has the use of the idiom “last week” surpassed the use of the correct “yester-week”?

In his book Write It Right, which was published in 1909 -– a hundred years ago -- Ambrose Bierce disagreed with the usage of the words “Last” and “Past” with “week”. He explained : Last and Past. ...
5
votes
1answer
190 views

Is there a technical term for the degeneration or evolution of words?

Based on this question, I was curious if there is an actual term that describes how words' meanings change or become deprecated over time.
2
votes
2answers
1k views

Is the correct usage of “Diagnose (verb)” losing its ground?

In spite of many references on the correct usage of ”Diagnose”, usage of passive construction followed by a with-phrase – e.g. “The patient was diagnosed with cancer” — and usage of patient as object ...
12
votes
6answers
2k views

When and how did “fail” become a noun?

Does anyone know when and how fail became a noun? I'd love to see one of those charts that shows the date of origin and subsequent growth of this usage.
12
votes
6answers
407 views

How common is the confusion between “affect” and “effect”?

I stumbled onto a US Congress representative’s website with what I think is a blatant and very visible mistake: Namely, the sentence in yellow, “How does the population change effect our district”. ...
14
votes
4answers
655 views

When does a mistake become standard usage?

We all know that word meanings and usage change over time (though not all of us are happy about it). How long does a word have to be used in a particular way for that usage to be "okay"? At what ...
30
votes
5answers
3k views

Is Valley Girl speak “like”, entering the language?

So like, I had this teacher? And he's like, "You're late?" And I'm like, "There's like other people late too?" I've always cringed at the word "like" strewn about in a spoken sentence. Well now ...
23
votes
8answers
3k views

Why have the subjunctive and indicative converged in Modern English?

It is to me a curious fact that the subjunctive mood of verbs in English has so nearly disappeared in modern times. In fact, even the correct form and usage of the subjunctive in Modern English barely ...