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Questions about the history and trends of the English language

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At what point did “gross” come to mean “disgusting”?

The first time I heard "gross" being used to mean "disgusting" was probably around the late 1980s, and at the time I felt it was some sort of a corruption of "grotesque"... I'm wondering if there is ...
0
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0answers
31 views

From where did the phrase “three fundamental truths” originate?

When I heard the line from the Hamilton song "Satisfied", I could swear I heard that phrase somewhere before, either from a historian or a philosopher from somewhere. I tried Googling it, but it seems ...
6
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1answer
151 views

Why are pubowners called landlords in the U.K.?

I just came across the fact that Brits call the owners\operators of their pubs landlords, (on the new show "The Reluctant Landlord"). Being from the USA I am only aware of the term landlord being used ...
1
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0answers
30 views

Why do they call it jacking off?

Where did it come from? What is the history of the idiom? I read it could from several different places but none of them seem like the right answer. Anyone got a good guess?
5
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2answers
119 views

First use of the expression “Spandau Ballet”

Am wondering about the known history of this term. I assume that Spandau refers to the German MG08. The term as a whole refers to the behaviour of massed troops being hit by machine gun fire. The ...
1
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1answer
62 views

Does the English word “have” have a closer relationship with German “haben” or French “avoir”?

I see the English auxiliary verb have is very similar to Romance counterparts like Portuguese haver, Spanish haber or Italian avere and it appears to me that they have some historical relationship. It ...
2
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1answer
66 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a list of common Middle English words and their corresponding Modern English translations, how many entries would have been replaced by an etymologically distinct word in Modern ...
5
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1answer
193 views

Use of degree symbol for Latinate ordinal number shorthand

I remember often having professors in college use degree symbols to write shorthand versions of Latinate ordinal numbers. For example: 1° Primary 2° Secondary 3° Tertiary 4° Quaternary ...
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40 views

Why verb phrases and verbals share the term “participle”

Grammar textbooks explain that to achieve the progressive form of the present tense, combine some form of the verb "to be" with the "present participle." Why use the term "participle" instead of ...
6
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2answers
105 views

What is the origin of the “once upon a time” idiom as the way to begin a fairy tale?

"Once upon a time" is the traditional way to start a fairy tale using the English language. But how traditional is it? I'm trying to find the first uses of this expression with this purpose. So far I ...
0
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2answers
53 views

What is the origin of the term EPK or Electronic Press Kit on movie productions? Any history welcome!

EPK stands for Electronic Press Kit, which I am defining as "recorded cast and crew interviews and other clips that capture the making of the movie to be used for publicity." Is that right? Next, ...
7
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1answer
607 views

Is there a word for when fictional media makes non-English speaking characters from the past speak in an old-timey English dialect?

There are many movies and TV shows that depict characters from historical eras who would not speak English, but do for the sake of the show's audience. In those cases, they tend to use an old English ...
0
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0answers
36 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.
0
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2answers
73 views

Why can 'lower' be a verb but 'higher/upper' cannot?

The title is basically my question. The word lower can be a comparative form of low as an adjective, but it can also be a verb. However, the antonym of the word such as higher or upper cannot be used ...
5
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2answers
148 views

Status of 'hypophora' as a word

I participate in other SE forums where it's common practice for experienced or knowledgeable participants to simultaneously submit both a question and an answer. This can be very helpful in technical ...
3
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2answers
168 views

Where does the term “on the nose” come from?

Where does the term, "on the nose" (to mean accuracy) come from? Dictionaries such as Oxford Dictionaries list the expression both under "nose" and on its own page, but the only etymology they list ...
7
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1answer
2k views

How did kid + nap come to mean abduct? [closed]

Why do the words kid and nap become kidnap as a meaning of abduct, when did that take form and why? Additionally, if nap is really nab, why did nab become nap?
2
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1answer
108 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 ...
2
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0answers
126 views

“solder” and “salve” phonetics between AmE and BrE

Many will know that there are differences in AmE and BrE pronunciation of the words "solder" and "salve". On the topic of "solder", there are already two questions here asking about the correct ...
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0answers
150 views

Question 100,000: What will English look like in 500 years? [closed]

What will English look like in 500 years? English started off on a small island off the northwest coast of Europe in the Early Middle Ages with some German tribes swimming across the channel and ...
0
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1answer
122 views

Why does “No” mean “Number?” [duplicate]

I frequently see the abbreviation "No" to mean "Number" (or "Nos" to mean "Numbers") instead of the much more common meaning of the word (a negative statement or denial). Sources cited here say it's ...
0
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3answers
119 views

“Sassanian” vs. “Sasanian”: Which one is more accurate? With one “s” or two?

Sassanian: Webster. Sasanian: Wikipedia. I am really confused which one is more accurate... Even the pronunciations are different.
1
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1answer
57 views

Artisanal whaling!? When did the use of artisanal start being used for activities not involving making fine products?

Wikipedia, Omura's whale uses the phrase Artisanal Whaling to describe hunting of whales by natives in the vicinity of the Mindanao Sea. Artisanal whaling As early as the late 19th century, ...
0
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1answer
38 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 ...
10
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3answers
274 views

Tennis: When and where did 30-all (and 15-all) start transitioning to the counterintuitive 30-up (and 15-up)?

At my tennis club in the suburbs of DC, about half the players (when serving) call 30-up when the score is 30-30, and the rest call out the more intuitive 30-all. To my mind, 30-up logically means ...
8
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2answers
201 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 ...
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3answers
450 views

What's so idiomatic about “unrequited”?

Unrequited, according to the most influential dictionaries, is a term mostly used in reference to love. As the following source notes: Unrequited is used almost exclusively in the context of ...
4
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1answer
175 views

From “breath of life” to “rescue breath”

While watching a YouTube video called How to Perform CPR, I was struck by the expression used by the instructor, “give one rescue breath” (1.52) and “to perform a rescue breath” (2.00). “Rescue ...
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2answers
23 views

Which came first: “do much of anything” or “do much if anything”

I came across the following online: I'm not actually sure this project will do much if anything to help since ... Since there are no commas, I first read it as I'm not actually sure this ...
13
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2answers
297 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 ...
9
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3answers
832 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 ...
3
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1answer
83 views

What is the origin of the phrase “frank and fearless”?

The phrase “frank and fearless” is commonly used in Australia to describe the way public servants should advise the politicians they work for. This is said to be an aspect of the Westminster tradition....
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201 views

History of Clean-Slate phrase

What was the phrase clean-slate originally used for? Or did it always refer to restart in something?
0
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1answer
25 views

a-verb-ing construct (e.g. a-hopping) [closed]

I sometimes here casual phrases in English like a hipping and a hopping (a hippin and a hoppin). How exactly does this fit into English grammar and what is the history of the construct?
13
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4answers
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Origin of figurative use of 'ugly American' in the pejorative sense of 'ignorant, arrogant U.S. citizen abroad'

The expression "ugly American" evidently became famous through a novel—William J. Lederer & Eugene Burdick, The Ugly American (1958). The title character, Homer Atkins, although physically ...
0
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0answers
23 views

…also has been suffering or …has also been suffering [duplicate]

He has a history of diabetes. He also has been suffering from hypertension. He has a history of diabetes. He has also been suffering from hypertension. Which one is correct?
4
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1answer
76 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, ...
2
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3answers
60 views

Is there a word such as “history” that refers to a personal past without traditional “historical” connotations?

I am creating an application that gives information about old buildings. The app has two modes: History mode and Requested Word mode. History mode would include buildings that are thought of in the ...
14
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4answers
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History of 10 foot pole phrase

According to Dictionary.com the phrase, ‘Not touch (something/someone) with a 10 foot pole’ dates back to the 18th century: This expression dates from the mid-1700s, when it began to replace ...
9
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1answer
1k views

Where does “nickel tour” come from?

I heard "Nickel tour" is to show you around. From usingenglish.com we can read: If someone gives you a nickel tour, they show you around a place. ('Fifty-cent tour' is also used.) I also read it ...
0
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1answer
84 views

Why did we merge “can” and “not” but not “do” and “not” to make *“donot”?

This is very illogical. If I cannot write * donot to mean "do not", it annoys me greatly. Is there a good reason we do not say * donot, or is it simply by chance that we cannot?
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2answers
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Is the etymology of “salary” a myth?

Since, perhaps forever, I had always ‘known’ that the English word salary was derived from the Latin salarium, to the time when Roman soldiers were paid in salt for their service. Salt was a highly-...
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1answer
1k views

As high as an elephant's eye

One of the most famous lines in American theater is "The corn is as high as an elephant's eye", written around 1942 by Oscar Hammerstein II, obviously the opening of Oklahoma, There's a bright ...
2
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2answers
115 views

Was the adjective 'Soviet' more commonly used than 'Russian' during the cold war?

Watching 'The Crown' made me wonder whether the usage of 'Russian' is anachronistic in the show. I.e. whether common usage in the UK and the USA would have been 'Soviet Tanks' or 'the Soviets' when ...
0
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1answer
29 views

Does “to share” the verb imply “without compensation”?

Growing up I was often taught to share things. I think I just implicitly thought it meant in some part "to give away". To share an object (toy, bike, hammer, scissors, ...) often means to give it to ...
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2answers
110 views

What would a 1940s audience have understood from the phrase “wired for sound”?

Another question asks for the meaning and origin of the phrase "wound [i.e., 'winded'] for sound." The obvious conclusion over there is that "wound for sound" is likely a rhyming variation on the ...
3
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3answers
113 views

Hemingway: “to put your hat on even under the canvas at noon”

Welcome, recently I bought a book called "Winner take nothing" by E. Hemingway. As soon as I started reading I came across rather weird sentence, as follows Hadn't you ought to put your hat on ...
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3answers
3k views

Where are all the Latin words?

It's often said that Latin and French each contribute about 29% of the English lexicon, with Germanic words an additional 26%. Wikipedia has a list of English words derived from Latin, however, a ...
5
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1answer
129 views

What is the first known Japanese loan word that entered the English language?

I would like to ask here a similar question I have asked in the Spanish language stack. It is known that nowadays the English language has a lot a words of Japanese origin. But what was the first one ...
2
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2answers
93 views

What case follows “fond of”? [closed]

What case is "I am fond of her"? Dative or possessive? My thought is that this form comes from the Anglo-Saxon, which is still heard in German, for example "ich bin derren bewusst" (I am hers aware) ...