Questions tagged [history]

Questions about the history and trends of the English language

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1answer
27 views

Is economy a tree?

It's a typical phrase/expression (?) to say that economy has branches: "..an industry is a branch of an economy.." (Wikipedia) Now does this mean that economy is perceived to be a sort of ...
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3answers
114 views

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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29 views

verbs in the middle English [closed]

could you teach me some verbs in the middle English whose stems end in v, l, m, n, nd or ld?
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619 views

Is the term “sexual preference” generally considered offensive now, and has it always been?

In American politics, Judge Amy Barrett used the term "sexual preference" during her confirmation hearing. This was criticized as offensive by writers at publications such as CNN, USAToday, ...
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1answer
37 views

History of the term “Legal Mind”

Is there a specific history behind the term "Legal Mind"? Meaning, the following phrase would be quite typical in describing a lawyer or closely related occupations: That lawyer possesses a ...
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0answers
14 views

Expressing “I” “me” with self-effacement

In many cultures, one is not supposed to say the counter parts of "I" or "me" to another person of higher rank, say a king. Instead, they would say something like "your ...
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30 views

Is a “camelopard” part-camel, part-leopard or part-camel, part-pard?

I'm honestly not sure if this belongs more on Mythology.SE, but I think it's (just) more of an etymology question. The English word 'giraffe' derives from the Arabic word zarāfah (زرافة) which ...
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2answers
61 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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25 views

“The election finished the democratic party as a force in national politics.” [closed]

It doesn’t matter the results of the election or the specific election, I just need to know if this means the party had no influence after the election or if they finished as a force, ie. gained power ...
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2answers
2k views

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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1answer
79 views

What would D.O.R.A. have meant in 1929?

I recently started reading a strange little book from 1929 called Breaking Priscian's Head, or English as She Will Be Spoke And Wrote, by a Scotsman named J. Y. T Greig. In a passage about how some ...
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31 views

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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891 views

What is the first mention/use of the word “America” in print in an English written/translated source

I am aware of the fundamental history of the etymology of the word "America" in regards to the land it represents: how Leif Eriksson first-named the Brave New World Vinland, and afterward ...
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37 views

Is there a word for “the king who has a regent”?

As the title says: Is there an established word or phrase for a "regent-ee," as distinct from a reigning monarch who does not have* a regent? From 1811 to 1820, the future King George IV was ...
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2answers
85 views

Which British accent is closest to the standard Australian accent? [closed]

Which British accent is closest to the general Australian accent? Does this correlate with where the majority of British Australians originate? Any comments on the variations of either accents by ...
2
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2answers
138 views

Origin of phrase “Fruit-loop” meaning crazy person, isn't complete and therefore unclear

Googling thro' little information about origin of usage of phrase "fruit-loop"(supposedly means crazy person) mostly leads to the dead end. Because, even if the individual words "fruity&...
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1answer
45 views

Why Nationalism and Patriotism seem like it swap meaning?

When I try to distinguish these two words I found many people link something like intolerance and illogical with Nationalism while Patriotism seem more progressive. But from etymology the word Patriot ...
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1answer
32 views

Historic Discussions of Probability and Probability Comparisons

I was curious if anyone has any resources about how probability and comparisons of likelihoods were discussed in early English, or in other languages earlier in human history. In particular, I'm ...
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2answers
90 views

What is a yard of (pudding, ale, etc.)?

I was just reading William and Ceil Baring-Gould's sadly under-Annotated Mother Goose, in which rhyme #274 is: Hyer iddle diddle dell, A yard of pudding's not an ell; Not forgotten, tweedle-dye, A ...
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1answer
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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1answer
52 views

Why doesn't charcoal sound like “Karcoal”? [closed]

Well, I wanna know why this word doesn't sound like "K". You know, character sounds like "karacter" with "K" but... what about charcoal?? Thanks!!
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27 views

When did the distinction between “then” and “than” come about?

I'm reading A World in the Moone, by John Wilkins, 1638. I found the line: "I grant that some Astronomicall [sic] appearances may possibly be solved otherwise then [sic] here they are." I ...
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Where did the snowclone “X-Complete” come from?

I'm familiar with the phrases "Turing-complete" and "NP-complete" from the field of computing science. (Along with less common variations similar to NP-complete such as EXP-...
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1answer
69 views

Are the Africans brought over from the Transatlantic Slave Trade considered “immigrants”? [closed]

Are the Africans brought over from the Transatlantic Slave Trade considered "immigrants"? Although I realize that they are forced to come to the US against their own wills, the definition of ...
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1answer
34 views

What is the historical/etymological connection between nerves and the litany of expressions pertaining to anxiety, agitation, and audacity?

After a nerve-racking day, a nervy man may well get on our nerves. Nervous about offending him, we nevertheless work up the nerve to tell him he has some nerve to so freely enervate us. After arguing ...
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Why does the name of a ocean and river come first (Pacific Ocean, Mississippi River), but for lakes it comes second (Lake Michigan)? [closed]

In every example but lakes that I can think of — oceans, rivers, etc. — the name comes first. (An exception is counties in Ireland, e.g. County Cork.) This makes sense — in English, we say "red ...
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1answer
117 views

Sodomy, but no “Gomorry”? [closed]

Sodom and Gomorrah are two cities in the Abrahamic religions that were destroyed by brimstone and fire for their sins. Even though English speakers use both cities historically as metaphors for sin ...
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1answer
2k views

Did the word “Crocodile” have a dreadful connotation in London 1600s?

I am writing a period-piece play based in London circa 1660s and wrote a poetic line that alludes to the crocodile as a "fearsome foe" or of much "danger and dread". I examined every mention of the ...
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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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1answer
66 views

Why do depictions of foreigners in English media compulsively insert foreign words from their mother tongue?

There is something that has been bugging me about depiction of foreigners in various English media (that doesn't occur, say, in Polish media). The "foreigner" characters keep replacing common English ...
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3answers
141 views

Why did 's' in 'wisard' change to 'z'

Wizard: a man in stories who has magic powers someone who is very good at something Origin and usage: The word wizard comes from the Middle English word 'wys' meaning 'wise'. In this sense, it first ...
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2answers
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Is “yes” a contraction of “yeah, it is”? [closed]

When I was in school my teacher used to insist that I use “yes” instead of “yeah” everywhere, even in informal situations, because it is the correct word to use. Hence, I grew ...
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92 views

Why should “theirs” not have an apostrophe? [duplicate]

What is the reasoning by which people decided not to use ’s to indicate the possession of pronouns? For example, one might write It is Jack's dog. The dog is Jack's. But not It is their dog. ...
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2answers
93 views

When did “eke toward(s)” develop?

I went to use the phrase “eke toward” today, in the sense of “very gradually but increasingly move toward”. I thought this was cromulent, because I’ve heard & used it occasionally in the past. But ...
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1answer
45 views

History of “novelty” to refer to dessert items

The word novelty can be used to refer to hand-held desserts, such as ice cream sandwiches or ice pops. What is the history of this usage? Presumably the etymology is straightforward, but what is the ...
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1answer
102 views

What was “social distancing’ called during the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic?

It is being said that a too early relaxation of national and local ‘social distancing’ guidelines for the recent Covid-19 pandemic might result in an uptick of new cases or even re-infections in ...
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1answer
106 views

What syntax facts explain differences in late 1800s vs. 2020 written English?

TL:DR What objective SYNTAX facts make late 1800 writing different from 2020 writing? Why even highly educated, among themselves, in 2020 write much less formally than their counterparts in 19 ...
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1answer
55 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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5answers
4k views

Why does “blue blazes” specify the color blue, and what is the origin of this expression as an intensifier/euphemism?

A recent question posted on English Language & Usage (What does "blazes" mean in "Stay the blazes home!") asks where "blazes" originated as an intensifier. In attempting to ...
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1answer
380 views

What is, or was the meaning of “oncommon”?

In Dickens' David Copperfield, there is an exchange between David and Mr Pegotty who arrives with his nephew Ham to visit him at school. It runs as follows: "Do you know how mama is, Mr Peggotty? I ...
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30 views

Late 1800s, arrogant or bombastic to use ten-dollar words?

TL:DR. In 2020, I don't think anyone uses these bombastic words in a town newspaper! If you write or speak them, I think you look arrogant and pretentious! But did newspaper readers in late 1800s ...
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1answer
221 views

What skews our evidence about 19th century English writing?

Edit As jsw29 explained in his way better English, answers below answered a different question, not the one I want. This explanation of what makes our evidence about 19th century English skewed is ...
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54 views

How to change a word?

My English teachers strenuously denied it, but languages are not immutable. Centuries ago, Daniel Webster regularized the American spelling of various words ("center", "draft", etc). More recently, ...
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1answer
196 views

What is the earliest written example of Old English?

What is the earliest written example of Old English?
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65 views

ON a powerful preposition

I’m interested in understanding what is the unique identity of the preposition ‘on’ (if there is one) behind all its different uses. So, I would be grateful if someone can explain me this or provide ...
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What exactly is a “boogy ride”?

Cartoon video source: https://archive.org/details/merriemelodiescoalblackanddesebbendwarfs1943 Title: "Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs" (1943) At 03:32, So White goes: Well, thanks for the boogy ...
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1answer
691 views

Early use of “there's always a bigger fish”

The old fisherman's proverb popularized by Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace has a history of uses in literal contexts (fishing), however after the release of Phantom Menace the metaphorical use of the ...
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1answer
33 views

Is there a specific expression to denote territories which were once occupied?

I have to write a long History essay about territories which were once occupied by one people, but no longer are. Is there a term for that, something like once-[insertpeoplehere]-occupied?
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1answer
216 views

How does “bluebird weather” get its name?

In Maryland and Virginia, bluebird weather is a brief period of warm weather in autumn. https://www.waywordradio.org/bluebird-weather/ How does “bluebird weather” get its name? This article explains ...
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1answer
95 views

When did the UK stop using full stops in abbreviations and acronyms?

I have noticed that in older (usually over 30 or 40 years old) British books and newspapers, abbreviations are without exception typeset with in full stops, as is still the practice in the United ...

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