Questions tagged [historical-change]

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

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6
votes
1answer
72 views

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: ...
7
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1answer
426 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 ...
7
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2answers
163 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 ...
2
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2answers
234 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. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, ...
1
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0answers
60 views

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 ...
1
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1answer
111 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 ...
4
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1answer
74 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 ...
29
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4answers
4k views

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 ...
5
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2answers
74 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 ...
10
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4answers
341 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 ...
0
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1answer
181 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 mean. Lacking an etymology, ...
2
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2answers
109 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 ...
13
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2answers
335 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 ...
1
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0answers
70 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, ...
8
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1answer
173 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 ...
7
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3answers
787 views

How old is the use of “steal” for non-rival goods?

In the debate on copyright, there is a long-time discussion on the appropriateness of the word steal to refer to "make a copy of a non-rival good"; see for instance this article, or this essay. How ...
2
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1answer
46 views

How come we write drought and draught but pronounce [draut] and [dra:ft] or write enough and though but pronounce [i’naf] and [đou]? [duplicate]

How come we write drought and draught but pronounce [draut] and [dra: ft] or write enough and though but pronounce [i’naf] and [đou]?
2
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1answer
78 views

If you had a list of common words from Middle and Modern English, how many words would have been replaced?

If you compiled a list of common Middle English words and their corresponding Modern English translations, how many entries would have been replaced by an etymologically distinct word in Modern ...
1
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2answers
71 views

What did 'rap' mean in 1970?

I found these folders (think pee chees) among a pile of school supplies. They reference "rap" in sort of a hippie look (and... is that John Wayne??), dated 1970. Presumably wrap is referring to folder,...
0
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0answers
40 views

Have any English words been turned foreign only to be then used again in English in an altered state? [duplicate]

What are some examples of English words that got taken into use in a foreign language in a changed state, and then subsequently re-entered the English language in state B or even state C.
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3answers
303 views

Origins of '[politician's last name] derangement syndrome' and of 'derangement' in the sense of 'insanity'

In recent months, Donald Trump has characterized critics of his administration as suffering from "Trump Derangement Syndrome"—presumably, an irrational hostility to anything Trump says or does. The ...
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2answers
130 views

The use of “male”/“female” (instead of e.g. “man”/“woman”) in everyday speech

In contemporary English, the terms "male" and "female" seem to be almost as commonly applied to people as "man" and "woman". For example, I see people posting questions on certain StackExchange sites ...
7
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1answer
183 views

When did “our” stop being used as an adjective (as in “other our dominions”, “any our Subjects”)?

While reading a letter written by Queen Elizabeth I of England in 1588, I came across a certain construction that doesn't seem to be grammatical in English: RIGHT trustie, and righte welbelovid ...
2
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1answer
244 views

Historical connections between “carnival” and “cannibalism”?

This may be a somewhat disturbing question, but as a non-native speaker, the word carnival seems very similar to a totally different word called cannibalism. I’m well aware of the difference between ...
4
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2answers
298 views

Why is the phrase “cake walk” informally used to describe an easy to achieve task, while its origin says a different story?

From Oxford Dictionaries Online: cakewalk ˈkeɪkwɔːk/ noun 1. (informal) an absurdly or surprisingly easy task. "winning the league won't be a cakewalk for them" 2. historical a ...
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4answers
1k views

Is the term Indian Giver politically correct?

My son is Cherokee & uses this term & I was concerned if that is a proper term. I thought it originated because the US government historically gave land & such to tribes, then took it back ...
0
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1answer
42 views

When did 'some one' turn to 'someone'?

I was recently reading a book from sometime in the first half of the 20th century and I noticed that the word ‘someone’ was spelled separately as ‘some one’. Was there an official change at some ...
2
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0answers
100 views

What is the character set of the (written) English language? [closed]

More specifically: What dictionaries or lexicons (considering all ever published) of the English language contain exhaustive lists of the characters or symbols used in the formation of the words ...
8
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2answers
233 views

History of additional sounds introduced to English

Today I was curious about the rarity of the consonant cluster sr in the English language. I found a WordReference forum from 2006 that asked about the matter. The general response is that because ...
0
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2answers
526 views

Please explain the definition of Feisty

I thought I knew the correct definition but now I was told I'm using it wrong. I was trying to describe a certain (rescue) dogs personality to someone and I said that he can be a bit feisty when ...
13
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2answers
401 views

Origins of the 'editorial we' and its counterpart, the 'editorial I'

In researching an unrelated EL&U answer, I came across this commentary in an item titled "Hobart Town" in the Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (November 10, 1829): These three ...
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3answers
1k views

Did “user” have positive or negative connotation in 1950?

Since the advent of ubiquitous technology, the meaning of "user" is best know as the person sitting in front of the computer or similar device. I am studying the history of computing and want to ...
0
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2answers
212 views

Has there been any theory on the vowel /o/ that was inserted into words like “arrow”?

Words like tomorrow, sorrow, arrow, follow, borough contain /o/, as in the diphthong /oʊ/, which was /wə(n)/ in Middle English which was weakened from Old English /x/ or /ɣ/ + some sort of vowel. ...
81
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20answers
26k views

Words with “bi-” prefix that no longer mean “two”

Are there words in English that include the prefix bi- whose current usage includes meanings other than 'two'? To clarify, I am specifically looking for the prefix of Latin origin meaning "two". If ...
1
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1answer
269 views

If you aren't “immune”, could you be “mune”? [closed]

In English, "immune", meaning "invulnerable", seems to be the antithesis of a hypothetical word "mune", which would logically mean "vulnerable". Is there, or has there ever been a word "mune", to ...
4
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1answer
87 views

Has “thanks” always been as common of a courtesy as it now is?

I'm watching the series Boardwalk Empire, a period drama set in the early 1920s, and an odd thing I notice is that people often do not say "thanks" or "thank you" when I'd expect them to–for example, ...
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0answers
64 views

Before the 20th century, how did people express ideas like “X isn't going to happen anytime soon”?

Something I was writing recently included the phrase "They aren't going to disappear anytime soon." I was a bit unsure about whether to write "any time" or "anytime", so I looked that up and found ...
0
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1answer
70 views

Could “nailed” mean “bound” here?

... In this case, the child was nailed to the stem of a cocoanut tree and so left to die, the best punishment, as was thought, for a demon, who had the impudence to be born of a human mother... EDIT: ...
4
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3answers
260 views

The recent invention of the word “heterosexual”

I read an article on the BBC whose title caught my interest. It's called "The invention of heterosexuality". It's quite a lengthy article, and goes through what it claims is the very short history of ...
4
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1answer
124 views

Does the term “farm-to-table” as a contemporary food movement derive from early 20th century govt. programs?

One of the hot phrases of the day for foodies in the United States is farm to table. This "social movement" is described in good detail on Wikipedia, however, there is no mention of how old the term ...
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1answer
87 views

Is there any evidence for “altercate” ever having been pronounced with stress on the second syllable?

In modern English, polysyllabic verbs ending in -ate are regularly stressed on the third-to-last syllable. (There are some (possible) exceptions, such as incarnate, impregnate, and elongate.) But it ...
2
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1answer
353 views

'Gwine': How accurate is the African-American dialect in early 20th c writing?

A recent question here about "fo' sho'" produced answers with a number of quotes of Southern US or AAE (African American English) varieties. To my ear, these quotes sounded awful and I question their ...
1
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1answer
164 views

Renaissance pronunciation of “thither”: θiðr or ðiðr?

I've seen the thread on voiced/unvoiced "thither," but it doesn't quite answer the question. It seems like maybe the word began falling out of regular speech right around the time initial "th" was ...
1
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1answer
97 views

When did 'profanity' lose its inoffensiveness?

Strictly speaking, "profane" simply means something that is not sacred. Generally speaking though, "profane" and "profanity" are taken to mean vulgarity or offensive language or behaviour. At the ...
1
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2answers
686 views

Is “occurence” a word?

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/search?utf8=%E2%9C%93&filter=dictionary&query=occurence It seems that occurence is not a word, but a friend said it is because he says he found it in the OED....
2
votes
1answer
855 views

“Out of respect” versus other “out of”

Why do English people employ the expression "out of respect" (for dead people, for example) to denote respectful attention, whereas other expressions based on "out of" are more denoting: something ...
5
votes
1answer
235 views

For how long has “plead” been used as a verb counterpart to “plea” (noun) even though both words historically have both verb and noun forms?

In modern writing about legal affairs, it is common to say something along the lines of: The judge heard his guilty plea. and He decided to plead guilty. It seems to me like in this legal ...
0
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1answer
710 views

Silent consonants in words like lawn, dawn [closed]

Is it w or wn?I have no idea,kindly help me out? What about in words like rogue,does ue or u count as silent consonants although they are clearly vowels?
0
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3answers
531 views

Why isn't “examine” pronounced like “exhamyne”? [closed]

Since "mine" sounds like: https://translate.google.com/#en/en/mine Then "examine" should sound like: https://translate.google.com/#en/en/exhamyne But it does not, why? To hear the pronunciations ...
5
votes
1answer
798 views

At what point did “what a shame” come to mean “what a disappointment” or “what a missed opportunity”?

This is the common usage of "what a shame". used for expressing sympathy or disappointment (MacMillan Dictionary) another common usage spoken used when you wish a situation was different (...