Questions about how English has changed.

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50
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22answers
9k views

Are there any “fake” French words used in English?

Are there any "fake" French words used in English? By "fake French" I mean words that are of French origin but are not actually correct French. This could happen if the word changes as it becomes ...
47
votes
3answers
2k views

How “macro” in computer programming came about

The prefix macro- is normally used for large things like macroeconomics and macroscopic. How did it come to be used to describe text macros in the programming world?
31
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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 ...
29
votes
5answers
2k views

Is it possible for a new irregular verb to appear in English language?

Consider these verbs in past tense: faxed, emailed, googled they are all regular verbs made out of new nouns. Are there any new irregular verbs that I'm not aware of?
29
votes
8answers
5k 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 ...
20
votes
2answers
1k views

What is the etymology of the term “Cockpit”?

I have always been intrigued by the word cockpit and have wondered where it originated. I have heard that it originated in the times of cock fights; is this true? If it is, how did the word evolve ...
18
votes
3answers
12k 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?
18
votes
2answers
2k views

Why “No smoking” works but “Yes smoking” doesn't?

No smoking is a formula used to indicate smoking is not allowed. Why can't we use Yes smoking to indicate smoking is allowed? (Although, we might use humorously but I've never heard actually.) ...
17
votes
4answers
903 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 ...
16
votes
2answers
946 views

What’s going on with “drink > drench”? Is it like “passage > passenger”?

Edit: I am looking for a particular linguistic term for this process (which here uses terminal palatalization to indicate such) of turning passive verbs like drink into active verbs like drench. I ...
15
votes
4answers
6k views

Phrasal verb “be a thing”

I’m looking for the origin of the phrasal verb “to be a thing”. It means roughly “exist” or more specifically “be recognised” or “be a phenomenon”. I first noticed it around 2008–2009. Is ...
14
votes
7answers
3k 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.
14
votes
1answer
11k views

Why is the “J” in San Jacinto pronounced like an English “J” instead of an “H” in Texas?

Many Spanish words taken into English have a "J" sounding like "H", but San Jacinto follows a different rule: San Jose La Jolla San Juan Jimenez Why is San Jacinto not pronounced San Hacinto in ...
13
votes
6answers
594 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”. ...
10
votes
3answers
7k views

If the English language is always evolving, why do we need to learn and follow grammatical rules?

Since language evolves over time — the best example I can think of is slang where it mostly doesn't follow grammar rules — why is there a need to preserve grammar or stress that proper ...
10
votes
3answers
980 views

is letter “y” derived from “ij”?

It is my intuition, that the origin of the letter y comes from ij based on the usage in Dutch where it very closely resembles ij in both sound and shape. I would go so far as to say it looks like a ...
10
votes
3answers
1k 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 ?
10
votes
3answers
1k views

Why has Southern US English all but abandoned adverb forms?

In Southern US English, adverb forms are almost always replaced by their adjective forms. For example: The journey was awful long. He's running real fast. He ran to the store quick. He ...
9
votes
3answers
1k views

What is this an example of: “a napron” becomes “an apron”? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: “A whole nother” way of looking at things I recently learned that the word apron was once apparently napron, but the current form has resulted from ...
9
votes
3answers
177 views

Does etymology have a word like cladistics?

A recent question on EL&U about a current hip-hop expression led my research into a meme that is evolving faster than drosophila. This expression and its variants have gone viral on internet ...
9
votes
1answer
149 views

Do reflexive verbs often evolve into intransitive usage?

With the relatively recent proliferation in the number and variety of genders that our contemporaries willingly proclaim themselves to be or belong to, a new intransitive sense of the verb identify, ...
8
votes
4answers
1k 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 ...
7
votes
6answers
8k views

What does “cyber-” actually mean?

I'm heading into the postgraduate phase of my Computer Science-oriented studies, and I can't put my finger on what this root means. According to Etymology Online it comes from Cybernetics, which in ...
7
votes
1answer
589 views

Why has “sware” become “swore”, “bare” “bore”, etc?

As far as I know, there are four verbs (swear, bear, tear, and wear) whose simple past forms used to be (archaically) sware, bare, tare, and ware; but are now exclusively swore, bore, tore, and wore. ...
6
votes
3answers
1k views

Recent grammar additions

A lot of questions have been dedicated to how evolution of English got many constructs of the old either fall out of use, merge, or evolve into different forms but still with 1:1 relation to original. ...
6
votes
2answers
2k views

Why does appraisal have so little to do with praise?

Appraisal and praise can be traced back to a common Latin root: pretiare (“to reward”). One thing that I do not understand, though, is how they came to have such different meanings: praise is ...
5
votes
3answers
1k views

How did *Old* English transform into *Middle* English so quickly?

Anglo Saxon Old English was the most common language in England before the Norman invasion. To the modern eye, it is unintelligible without specialist learning: lange ...
5
votes
3answers
1k views

When did 'venereal disease' become STI?

Why is it that the term venereal disease has been dropped in favour of sexually transmitted infection, or 'STI' for short? The change seemed to date from the advent of AIDS. Was it that the word ...
5
votes
4answers
178 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 ...
5
votes
2answers
877 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 ...
5
votes
2answers
645 views

Is “because-noun” a new preposition?

There are a handful of articles suggesting that a new preposition has appeared in the form of "because-noun": The Atlantic Stan Carey Grammar Girl Isn't "Because (of)... whatever" a causitive? ...
5
votes
1answer
223 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.
5
votes
1answer
101 views

How are computers affecting spelling and usage? [closed]

Has spell check changed usage? I type the word "theatre" often; even here while I am typing it is underlined in red, yet Americans who direct, produce, or act in theatre prefer the older spelling. ...
5
votes
1answer
190 views

Has language begun to converge in the age of mass media?

I understand that this question may be perceived as a bit broad for this site, but I've decided to post it anyway. I figured that with the number of linguists, linguaphiles, and all-around language ...
5
votes
2answers
119 views

Is “which” a preposition? Because because

Backstory: Back in 2013 the American Dialect Society appointed because Word of the Year. People had begun using a new syntax: noun-phrases and adjectives could now follow because. In response Geoffrey ...
5
votes
0answers
2k views

How should one use “awesome” today? [closed]

Lately I have been hearing the word awesome used in many places. I'm trying to figure out how it is used. It has already been discussed on this site a bit. See "When I'm sad, I stop ...
4
votes
3answers
3k 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. ...
4
votes
5answers
6k views

When did the use of acronyms begin? [closed]

What are some of the earliest acronyms and did they know it was an acronym at the time?
4
votes
2answers
3k 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 ...
4
votes
2answers
2k views

When did “crew” become a sport? When did “crew team” come into use?

When I was a child, there was a sport called rowing; if four or more people rowed together in the same boat, they would be known as a crew. At some point, either before or during my childhood, the ...
4
votes
2answers
2k views

What word describes our habit to use extremes in language, and what are its implications?

I have heard that in America, and likely elsewhere as well, we are beginning to be more gratuitous with our use of extreme words when not entirely accurate, such as the words "awesome", "always", ...
4
votes
1answer
179 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
4answers
856 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 ...
4
votes
2answers
598 views

When did beast become a verb?

In recent times, people have started using the word beast as a verb (i.e., beast it, you've got to beast harder). Is there any information about when this trend started and how it came about?
4
votes
2answers
2k views

When a foreign word or phrase becomes English [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: What are the criteria to adopt new words into English? There are many words or phrases in English that are clearly of foreign origin yet become so commonplace they are ...
4
votes
2answers
205 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 ...
4
votes
0answers
133 views

Is there a U.S. equivalent or version of the Plain English Campaign? [closed]

I recently found out about the Plain English Campaign, a UK-based movement for simplification of document language. They advocate the use of plain English in corporate-to-consumer and ...
3
votes
2answers
10k views

The etymology of “religion” comes from “legere” meaning to read + “re” meaning again. Or does it? (more inside) [closed]

The etymology of religion as mentioned in the title comes from Etymonline. And that's very interesting. It makes sense too. My question is, how do the phrases, "to read", "to choose", "to gather", ...
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: ...
3
votes
3answers
1k views

Is there an 'official' way to suggest a new word become part of the English language? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Regulatory bodies and authoritative dictionaries for English Creating a new word What are the criteria to adopt new words into English? I've always been told, at ...