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Dec
20
comment Why did English change so much between Chaucer and Shakespeare?
Spenser was a contemporary of Elizabeth (born some 20 years later and predeceasing her); The Fairie Queene was published in 1590 and 1596. The English of the play Mankind (playwright unknown, ca 1470) is essentially recognisable, however, though it would have been spelled in a "foreign" manner, what with the y thorns, unnecessary sigla (abbreviations), and the u/v reversal and all. Chaucer died before movable type hit Europe; it was Caxton who published his work.
Dec
17
comment What’s a “handegg”?
American football was Rugby (Union) football long before the now-official size and shape of the ball was established. And the first games of American football were played with a round ball. The elongated, then pointed, ball developed over time as drop-kicks and laterals gave way to the forward pass. The idea that the game was named "football" for its foot-long ball is nonsense.
Dec
7
comment What does the “bother” mean in the sentence?
And that's what I mean when I say or I sing/Oh, bother the flowers that bloom in the Spring (from Gilbert & Sullivan's The Mikado). I believe you'll hear it often in various contexts from that great philosopher, Winnie the Pooh, as well.
Dec
7
comment What does it mean when someone says, “I bid you no evil”?
I'm late to the party, but I do have to point out that extending I bid you no evil to mean I hope nothing bad happens to you is going at least one step too far. I do not hope that something bad happens to you would be closer. It is an offer or a declaration of truce, or a grant of safe passage, or something in that vein; it doesn't quite rise to the level of well-wishing.
Dec
7
comment Why does “defenestrate” mean “throw someone out a window” and not “remove a window”?
The fenestra is the hole in the wall; the habit of filling in that hole with a framed slab of alabaster, glass, or an awkward sort of sieve meant to separate the breeze from the bugs is, in the grand scheme of things, a curious and relatively recent (and by no means universal) phenomenon. If defenestration meant something like unwindowing, it would have to mean bricking up the hole (or the figurative equivalent).
Nov
29
comment What are reasons for using Present Continuous instead of Present Simple?
@PeterShor - Unless there's a disagreement. I'm seeing a great horned owl, not a red-tailed hawk, in that pine tree you're pointing at. Maybe your view is obstructed, or maybe it's time to clean the so-called lenses on those old binoculars of yours? The progressive almost always implies an interpretation, an explanation, a (literal) point of view, a figurative vision — something that goes beyond merely reporting a visual stimulus — but it's one of those instances where laying out all of the rules, corollaries and exceptions to a non-native speaker would take days.
Nov
27
comment Is there a word or phrase for someone who strongly disapproves of smoking, drinking and gambling?
Teetotaler means one who believes in total-with-a-capital-T abstinence, and not just from alcohol; they would have been the hardliners among the temperance movement. (Carrie — or Carry, which was to become her "brand" — Nation may not have qualified since she was all about the sauce.) Admittedly, the word has softened with time (and with the common misconception that the word is teatotaler), but it once meant not only somebody who would be uncomfortable in any den of iniquity, but was likely to make everyone else uncomfortable as well.
Nov
8
comment Definition: Twofold, Threefold and Fourfold
Think, people! My double-pronged fork has two prongs, not one prong that's twice as long as a normal prong. I'm really getting tired of the idiocy around here.
Nov
8
comment Definition: Twofold, Threefold and Fourfold
@guifa — "Two ways of being important" is also double a single way of being important. Doubly important does not necessarilly imply "important in a single way, but with twice the intensity of importance".
Nov
7
comment “That is what I told her.” “That was what I told her.” Meanings are different?
Well, telling her happened in the past, so you can use was. However, it is also true that what you told her is still what you told her, so you can also use is. The only thing that is definitively in the past, always, is told, since the telling happened in the past.
Nov
7
comment what is an equivalent for 'fitna'?
This is a case where it would be highly unlikely for English (or any other non-Arabic) language to develop or adopt a single-word equivalent precisely because of all of the historical associations and implications that accompany the Arabic word. If English were to adopt and assimilate Fitna or if a new word were to be created to mean the same thing, it would quickly assume a uniquely English meaning based on usage and context that would still be missing most of the nuance you are looking for.
Nov
6
comment I am a sponsor. Do I call the person I sponsor a “sponsee”?
@Oldcat - At least in the 12-step world (AA, NA, etc.), where the term sponsee originated, the anonymity of the person in question is sacrosanct, so names are out of the question, and longer phrases such as the person that I am sponsoring quickly become unwieldy in conversation. It is an ugly coinage, but in that world it's a necessary one. I wouldn't use it outside of that context, though.
Nov
5
comment Stingy, miserly and frugal: what is the difference in usage?
Actually, @choster, this answer, when expanded, would be better than most of the existing answers, and the three sentences there now neatly encapsulate the nuances of the three words better than the more elaborate answers do. I'm upping (to bring it back to zero), and would encourage the user to elaborate upon this answer rather than abandon it.
Nov
3
comment Why are there no male or female terms for cousins in English?
I was already aware of that when writing; German also retains gender elsewhere in the language, often in non-obvious ways (that is, the word itself carries no signs of gender, but articles and modifiers do). It is, therefore, not germane to the gender in English question.
Oct
19
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
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
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.