Questions tagged [historical-change]

For questions about how the English language has changed over time.

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60 views

Why did “which” lose its L (it was “hwilch”)?

It appears that the word which originally had an L in its spelling as well as pronunciation. But its modern pronunciation doesn't have an L. Wikitionary has: From Middle English which, hwic, wilche, ...
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1answer
56 views

palatization of y- from *ga-

Premises The common Proto-Germanic prefix *ga‑ affixed to past participles was reduced in Modern English, obscuring its historical participial morphology now beyond modern recognition, as seen for ...
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Why did the F of “sneeze” and “snore” change to an S in English history?

The etymologies of "sneeze" and "snore" suggest that they were once pronounced with /f/. Here is what Wiktionary (from which all the following information also comes) says: From ...
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57 views

Was there any change from /u:/ to /ə/ (US: /ɚ/) in the history of English?

The /tʃ/ in the word "nature" is the result of palatalization (see this question). If I understand it correctly, the /t/ (nat) and and /j/ (ure) fused and produced /tʃ/. The letter U had the ...
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When and where did 'bulldozer' originate, what did it originally apply to, and how did it come to refer to earth-moving machinery?

In “How to Steal an Election,” an editorial in this Sunday’s New York Times, historian Jon Grinspan writes, In the [U.S.] South at the end of Reconstruction, white Democratic rifle clubs “policed” ...
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1answer
86 views

Best word to describe “historically used formally but no longer acceptable”?

What is a good word to use to describe a word that was used in history but now is becoming obsolete in literature because of its racial, cultural, or ethical bias implications? For example, what is a ...
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37 views

Merger of Early Modern English 'ir' with 'ur' and 'er'+'ear'

Before /r/, /ɪ/ merged with either /ʊ/ or /ɛ/, depending on context. After labials (plus clusters of labials and /l/) and alveolar stops (like in bird and dirt), the result was /ʊ/ (shown, among other ...
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Extremism: what’s the cultural history of this word?

“Extremism” sounds like an ideology, by analogy with Marxism for example. Or it could be akin to a behavioural state like mutism or autism. With respect to these different directions, I’m wondering ...
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2answers
62 views

“Fork(s) of the road” to “fork in the road”. Why the switch? [closed]

I was reading a recent New Yorker article: "How the Promise of Normalcy Won the 1920 Election" (Sept. 14, 2020) Where the Democratic nominee for President of the US, James M. Cox of Ohio, ...
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Countries ending with -Y vs. -IA: What is the pattern?

I wonder why some country names in English are suffixed with -y (Lombardy, Italy, Hungary, Saxony, Sicily) and some with -ia (Bulgaria, Austria, Bavaria, Sardinia). I understand the etymology: "-...
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How did the Latin language affect the English language

As far as I know, Anglo-Saxons and Jutes moved to the British Isle after sometime the Roman Empire collapsed. Therefore, there weren't much cultural exchanges between Anglo-Saxons and the Romans who ...
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56 views

Prior to the 20th century, what was the noun for an individual person from a country whose demonym ends in '-ese'?

As a Redditor pointed out, using a demonym that ends in '-ese' as a noun sounds incorrect or at least awkward (especially a singular noun--someone on the thread writes, 'For example you could say “I ...
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131 views

Historical change in the use of “dude” in 60's US

My understanding of the history of the word "dude" is the following. The word was originally a mocking term around 1890 in the US for a city man who wore overly fancy clothes. In the West, ...
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68 views

Is it ever correct to say “if I be…” in present-day English?

We are taught that in "type 0" and "type 1" conditional sentences, the tense of the condition clause (aka the "if" clause) should always be the normal present tense, as ...
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1answer
59 views

When and how did the word “dimension” take on the popular connotation of “parallel universe”?

Especially in the mid-twentieth century, popular science fiction would often talk about "creatures from another dimension" and use similar language that suggested that a "dimension" refers to some ...
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Irrealis “were” following “as if”

Is the subjunctive “were” in the sentence, “He seems as if he were spell-bound,” construed as counterfactual? Does it always preclude truth, or does it only here suggest that it was highly improbable ...
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36 views

Is there a single origin for the connection between the beguiled and gullible?

I was thinking that there might be a connection between beguiled and gullible because of the similarity of their letters and their meaning. I believe there's a connection because gullible means ...
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1answer
61 views

How many English words are of native origin?

What percentage of current English words are of native Anglo-Saxon origin? I have seen stats about how large percentages of the English words currently in use come from French, Latin, or German ...
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1answer
99 views

Dropping linking R's from the middle of the words [closed]

Why does it exist and whom is it typical for? Is it the feature of the past century? I noticed Americans to do it. There are two examples coming to my mind, dated 1960s. The first one is the verse ...
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2answers
224 views

What words does English have more? Romance or Germanic? [duplicate]

What words does English have more? Romance or Germanic ?
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1answer
86 views

When did the pronunciation of ‘hierarchy’ change from /hie-/ to /hai(e)-/?

I assume that ‘hierarchy’ was earlier pronounced /hie-/ rather than /hai(e)-/. Is this right? If so, when did the change occur?
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What did “beep” mean in the 1800s? [closed]

According to Google Ngram Viewer the word "beep" was nearly as common in literature in the 1800s as it is today: Similar onomatopoeias such as "zap" and "honk" show almost zero usage back then. ...
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7answers
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Was “man” a gender-neutral word in common usage at some point?

I've seen some times the claim that in the past "man" was a non-gendered word, with "wifman" referring to female individuals and "wereman" referring to male individuals. I've found some indications ...
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1answer
143 views

When did spelling “-ic” words “-ick” start/stop being popular?

I've been reading Gulliver's Travels(1726) and noticed almost all words that we commonly spell ending "-ic" are instead spelt "-ck" such as publick or politick. Researching online I can't find any ...
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Which words have historically had a final n only before a vowel?

In Modern English, the only word that has a final n only before a vowel is a/an: a face an eye In Middle English, there was the pair my/mine: my face mine eye Also, the was then before a vowel. ...
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2answers
155 views

What is the history behind how date is read?

I was trying to find out if there were reading guidelines for dates, e.g., for broadcasting or competitive recitation. There seem to be a few different accepted ways of reading out dates, e.g., 1, or ...
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2answers
304 views

Why do Americans pronounce “Noo York” the way they do? [duplicate]

I'm wondering if there is a historical explanation as to why the New in "New York" is pronounced /nu/ (as in "Noodles") rather than /nju/ (as in RP "New Year"). Has this always been the case? Or did ...
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1answer
69 views

When was “Guru” - sanskrit term meaning teacher - popularized?

I was interested to know about term Guru, when it was popularized really in Western countries ? At first I was trying to do a google books search of a word which showed that popularity of phrase ...
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3answers
4k views

How many birds in the bush?

There is a well known proverb, A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush However, I have discovered that the earliest English version of this proverb according to phrases.org.uk is found in John ...
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1answer
823 views

Why does the word “school” contain an 'h'?

Considering the low prevalence of words in English written with the letter combination "sch", why is the word "school" written the way it is, rather than simply "scool"? As far as I could tell, the ...
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80 views

Does one ‘have’ an academic degree, or is one ‘in’ an academic degree?

I have always referred to an academic degree as something I possess—e.g. ‘I have a degree in $subject’. However, I recently had to get my degree certificate out for a job interview and noticed that ...
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1answer
116 views

When did English-speakers start and stop using foreign language honorifics? [closed]

Around the middle of the twentieth century, it was usual for English speakers to refer to people from certain non-English speaking countries with honorifics in their native language, rather than ...
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1answer
115 views

Rase: another spelling of raze (literary) [closed]

Is the spelling using s as opposed to z really literary as the Microsoft® Encarta® 2009 purportedly explains? Raze 1. completely destroy place: to destroy or level a building or settlement ...
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3answers
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Did the meaning of “significant” change in the 20th century?

In Do We Really Need the S-word? in 'American Scientist', the author Megan D. Higgs writes Did the people who introduced the word’s use in statistics intend for it to be interpreted according to ...
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800 views

How did “to wish that” come to hate the present tense in the subordinate clauses it governs, and why is it alone in this?

Inspired by this earlier question, I've realized that we have no canonical question addressing the stranglely one-of-a-kind special grammatical rules demanded by the verb wish of its subordinate ...
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1answer
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The spelling “ui” and the pronunciation /uː/ in juice, fruit, bruise, cruise, sluice, suit, nuisance, recruit, bruit

The words juice, fruit, bruise, cruise, sluice, suit, pursuit, suitcase, lawsuit, nuisance, recruit, bruit are spelled with ui and pronounced with the IPA phoneme /uː/. Full pronunciations from OED: ...
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477 views

When did '&' stop being taught alongside the alphabet? [duplicate]

I've just discovered that "&" was considered the 27th letter of the alphabet, being part of alphabet songs. It was easy to discover its history (the information on the website Fast Company is ...
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257 views

Why did the use of “if you shall” and “if you should” dramatically decline?

Google Books statistics indicate that the use of the expression "if you should" and especially of the expression "if you shall" per unit of text length dramatically and steadily declined since the ...
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2answers
290 views

Are US detention centers on the US-Mexico border “concentration camps”?

There is a hot "debate" on Twitter regarding whether the detention centers used by the US border patrol to detain/hold immigrants can be called "concentration camps" or not. ...
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The history of number in percent locutions

It seems that Ten percent of the pie is eaten is now universally? considered correct. Was there a time in the history of modern English when this was not so? That is, when are would have been ...
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1answer
194 views

What did “Aryan” mean in the 1930s?

Anthony Burgess once said, (through the narrator of one of his books…) “The term Aryan has a purely philological significance. It can be applied only to languages.” -Earthly Powers pg 371 The ...
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1answer
130 views

Was it ever standard to pronounce “malinger” to rhyme with “ginger”?

In The Pronunciation of Standard English in America, by George Philip Krapp (1919), I found the following surprising statement: For malinger the standard pronunciation is [mə´lɪndʒə̉ɹ], though ...
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4answers
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Why are two-digit numbers in Jonathan Swift's “Gulliver's Travels” (1726) written in “German style”?

I have been reading "Gulliver's Travels" (Otherwise known more verbosely as "Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. In Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of ...
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2answers
84 views

Different etymologies for spoken and written forms

I know a word in another language which appears at first to have a highly irregular spelling that does not match the pronunciation. However, further examination suggests that the spoken and written ...
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2k views

“Indian” comes from Italian/Spanish “gente in dios” (God-like people)? False etymology?

A while ago in January The Black Hebrew Israelites were speaking/shouting/proselytizing to surrounding people at Lincoln Memorial. The speaker claimed that the word "Indian" means "savage". A member ...
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1answer
530 views

Why is “make do” considered correct

Why is "make do" considered correct? I am specifically not asking why "make due" grinds people's gears, how distressing they find it, or what they feel "make do" would ...
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2answers
182 views

When did “serie” become obsolete in English?

Why is series both singular and plural in English? In the other languages I am familiar with, serie is the singular. This includes Spanish, French, German, and Italian. However, it is series (in a ...
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2answers
374 views

Has the meaning of the English colour name “pink” changed since the early 1900s?

This question was inspired by this one from skeptics.se, about the use of pink and blue clothing to denote the sex of babies. In noting cultures which have the reverse arrangement (i.e. some sort of ...
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101 views

Did English ever have a subjunctive mood?

Coming from this answer and comments under, I realized that all Germanic languages have only the present tense and the past tense. Many also have a full set of subjunctive moods. To reduce ambiguity, ...
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1answer
577 views

Is there a reason for the prefix change of in-/un- in about the 60s period for these words?

I was looking up words beginning with prefix in-, the prefix meaning "opposite" or "negative". There is a pattern I've noticed, namely the one mentioned on Online Etymology Dictionary: The rule of ...

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