3
votes
1answer
137 views

How much of the English language comes from each of its influences?

I was watching a video linked in this answer and it made the following claim: [...] like most words in English is derived from German. That got me thinking. While I know that Germanic languages ...
1
vote
2answers
120 views

Is automobiles only a “car”

If we go by the word it should be anything which can move(mobile) on its own. The etymology section under wikipedia suggest so. But dictionary, wikipedia etc. says that its meaning is car. My ...
18
votes
5answers
825 views

Tom, Jake and Jenny aren't looking forward to Thanksgiving. Why?

And "Hen" (their mother) isn't much looking forward to it either. Why? I can answer that question myself, it's because they're all turkeys. Tom is an adult male turkey (also often referred to as a ...
16
votes
11answers
671 views

Calque pairs like 'praeternatural/metaphysical'

There are words (not paired normally) which are, say, close relatives with (sometimes) totally different lives. For example, praeternatural = (Lat. praeter [beyond] + natura [nature]) and metaphysical ...
1
vote
2answers
159 views

How did 'oyster' come to mean 'an extremely taciturn person'?

Merriam-Webster definition #4 of 'oyster': 'an extremely taciturn person'. Since Online Etymology Dictionary says nothing about, can anybody say when and how 'oyster' assumed that meaning?
5
votes
1answer
129 views

Where does the word “trivial” come from?

I have read many dictionary definitions and there seems to be two possible sources of the word trivial. Online dictionaries say it's from latin tri and via, "three ways" or "crossroad", basically ...
6
votes
3answers
539 views

Words based on the names of gods [closed]

While the word christen means "to baptise" or "to make Christian", in another sense, it has shed its religious connotations to simply mean "to name" or even "use for the first time". Is there any ...
1
vote
1answer
2k views

Is the term “go-to-hell hat” in common usage?

I am a fan of hats and own a number of them. One of my collection is what is commonly called a "flat cap," though it has many names. Seeing me wearing it one day, my father told me that his father ...
4
votes
2answers
246 views

Is there any connection between Polari and Nadsat?

While reading the Wikipedia article on Polari, I was struck by the similarities between Polari words and these used by the Droogies in Clockwork Orange. Does anyone know if there are any links between ...
2
votes
5answers
750 views

Using “to fix” as synonym of “to correct”

I often encounter the usage of "to fix" verb in the meaning "to correct". Was this a widespread use before the computer age? How would you conduct the other meaning of "to fix", i.e. to make ...
5
votes
4answers
2k views

Where does “otay” come from?

I've heard a few people (all native English speakers) recently use "otay" in place of "okay", both in writing and when speaking. Where does that word come from? For that matter, is it a word at all? ...
2
votes
2answers
13k views

Origin of “s--t eating grin”

What is the origin of the phrase shit eating grin? How did it come to mean showing smugness or self-satisfaction of an individual's actions?
4
votes
1answer
673 views

Origin of term “letting on”

I understand what the phrase "letting on" means. It basically means to pretend, as in He continued letting on that he had a lame leg. It can also mean to disclose or reveal the true meaning of ...
25
votes
5answers
2k views

Apart from place names, are there any Native American words used in English?

Apart from place names, are there any Native American words used in English?
13
votes
5answers
13k views

Origin of “jack sh*t”

Why do we say "Jack Shit" to mean "nothing at all"?
2
votes
1answer
940 views

How often do words change meaning then revert back to their original meaning?

Words can change meaning over time. A good example of this would be 'gay' which has changed from meaning 'merry' to 'homosexual'. Over the past decade, it has also taken on pejorative connotations. ...
13
votes
4answers
817 views

Is 'Safari' really an English word, and what are its origins?

We are all used to this word safari. I think most people will agree that its usage is ubiquitous when referring to going for holiday (esp. overland travel in Africa). So is this word a true English ...
5
votes
6answers
589 views

What are some products that are now words? [closed]

All of the ones I can think of are specific products that have come to represent their kind. This is usually either because it is the first of its kind, as in a Xerox machine (the first office ...
243
votes
6answers
73k views

Did English ever have a formal version of “you”?

From the top of my head, Danish "De" (practically never used), German "Sie", Chinese "您", French "vous", Spanish "usted" are a formal way of addressing someone, especially if one isn't familiar with ...
2
votes
1answer
887 views

Examples of different roots (and different meanings) coming to be spelled the same

Apparently the two opposite meanings of to cleave have different roots: the to adhere meaning comes from one old English root (clifian) and the to cut meaning comes from a different old English word ...
30
votes
3answers
1k views

Terms for collections of animals

As I watched the murder of crows sitting on the line above my house this evening, I got wondering where all of the collective nouns for animals (pod of whales, gaggle of geese, pride of lions) came ...
13
votes
10answers
2k views

Why do words like “expectorate” sound more posh than words like “spit”?

I think English is unique in having a set of "bad words" each which has its "more refined" equivalent, e.g.: spit -> expectorate piss -> urinate shit -> defecate f*ck -> ...