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comment Marriage between close relatives
There are, in fact, two sets of taboos: affinity and consanguinity. Consanguinity is about blood relationships; affinity covers the "that's just weird" set (like marrying a stepmother or stepdaughter, where there is no blood relationship but there is an equivalent social relationship). (Charming related movie: 1959's The Bridal Path.)
Oct
11
comment Different vowels in “coo” and “cool” in Estuary English?
I'd think the vowel difference would be ordinary and expected sound change (a lowering umlaut), since the terminal L is essentially a vowel (it only becomes a consonant on release). Even if you deliberately make the "oo" identical, you'll probably notice at least a change in tone (which would be at least as significant as te vowel sound change in many languages).
Oct
6
comment Why is there an “a” in “beggar”? Why not an “e”?
@tchrist - I didn't say when it was coined, just that it's not formed from a regular action/actor relationship. (It would have been about the same time as uncouth, rude and homely all meant more-or-less the same thing.)
Oct
5
comment Why is there an “a” in “beggar”? Why not an “e”?
Beg as a verb is an uncouth neologism, though. It's not that "someone who begs is a beggar", but that some idiot in the past decided that someone who is a beggar must, by some extension, be engaged in begging. It's rather like someone saying that a motor motes.
Oct
3
comment Is 'people' plural?
@JohnLawler - You seem to lack imagination entirely. Can you not construct a sentence where, for instance, one people does one thing where other peoples would do other things? It shouldn't be difficult to find a sentence where the word people governs a singular verb form.
Oct
3
comment Is 'people' plural?
@JohnLawler - A perfectly valid sentence: We are a people, like any people, and should have the rights and privileges inherent to all peoples. We is, of course, plural, as is peoples, but in both instances, people is grammatically singular.
Oct
1
comment Why is the letter after “Mc” in names capitalized?
Re: Fitz - It being a mark of (acknowledged) bastardy might have a little something to do with the diminution of the father's name.
Oct
1
comment Different way to refer to a 'lowercase' letter?
The complement to initial is body. Minuscule and majuscule are lettering styles, and do not necessarily correspond to lowercase and uppercase, since the entire text can be written or set in one or the other (viz. Carolingian minuscule). It happens to be the case that in most current typefaces, uppercase letters are majuscules and lowercase letters are minuscules, but it's not necessarily the case.
Sep
30
comment Why do people often say 'hambag' for 'handbag'?
@Araucaria - No, in English I would expect the m to go to n in that assimilation (the alternative would be to have the d go to b, which has a weak analogue in ð going to v in Cockney, but defricatizing is more prevalent than labializing). Oddly enough, grammatical components are often better preserved than root components. The point was that assimilation happens.
Sep
30
comment Why do people often say 'hambag' for 'handbag'?
In the case of hanbag, the n is just dying to become an m. It's the same reason why we have the word impossible, when the early Latin was inpossibilis. The Principle of Least Effort (er, laziness) dictated that the word should become either impossibilis or intossibilis, and since it needed to remain opposite to possibilis, the t thing couldn't work.
Sep
30
comment Figurative usage of “astride”
Centred around?
Sep
30
comment Figurative usage of “astride”
Astride is almost always a reference to riding (or at least sitting on something as if to ride it), and while sidebands may be figuratively "riding" a carrier, this may be taking the metaphor just a bit too far. If you are talking about modulated RF, why not call the carrier the, um, carrier, which frees up centred (which would be an awkward repetition in the current formulation)?
Sep
30
comment “My dread lord” or “Dread my lord” in Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 2
Yes, it was, and I'm not disputing that it ever meant that, but it is now a noun or verb meaning (essentially) fear. The question is when did that happen? Going to as a simple marker of the future popped up out of nowhere between 1600 and 1645, for instance. The language was in a tremendous state of flux at the time.
Sep
30
comment What is the origin of “have a gander”? (When meaning “look”.)
...and, like most of the "out of the blue" etymologies, they're probably just-so stories. It could just as easily be a dialectical variant of wander with some semantic drift thrown in for good measure.
Sep
30
comment “My dread lord” or “Dread my lord” in Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 2
"More suitable" for the meter, perhaps, but it's no longer clear that dread is an adjective. Dread is no longer an adjective at all (except in that horribly awkward pseudo-ancient fantasy writing style), so the question is whether usage had begun to slip at the time, and the order was required to resolve ambiguity.
Sep
29
comment In the sentence “It is she”, which is the subject?
Also: you can't use the inverted version (She is it) to prove anything at all, since it has no distinct nominative/subject and accusative/object forms. In current European Indo-European languages, one would normally use the accusative or dative for the second part of an identity statement. C'est moi. Es ist mir. Latin worked differently; English doesn't.
Sep
29
comment In the sentence “It is she”, which is the subject?
It's not a matter of throwing out the rules; rather, it's about determining what the rules actually are. Many (though certainly not all) of the prescriptivisms (for want of a better word) were deliberate impressions of Latin rules, or at least parallels of Latin rules, on the English language, the aim being to make the study of Latin easier on the one hand and to force English to conform to some ideal of respectability on the other. English has rules—oodles of them, some quite complex—there was no need to import foreign ones.
Sep
17
comment What would be an apt technical term for the fear of eating cat food?
Oddly enough, "eating cat food" is as well-known expression, and refers to poverty among senior citizens (mostly metaphorical, but by extension from a literal practice). In that case, the technical term to use might be more closely aligned with financial insecurity than with the substance itself.
Sep
12
comment What is the story behind “a-” prefix / suffix?
Like so much else that appears inexplicable in English (such as do-support and all of those words that have had questionable just-so etymologies in older dictionaries), there is an annoying near-exact parallel in the Celtic languages that were already on the ground when English was emerging. I can hear ol' William stropping his razor even as I type...
Sep
12
comment Is the usage “God only knows” correct?
@medica - Speaking as one, who associates pretty much exclusively with others, my experience says "not unless you're a hardcore antitheist".