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Questions tagged [history]

Questions about the history and trends of the English language

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Schools and Shoals

School, as a group of fish, entered Middle English: late Middle English: from Middle Low German, Middle Dutch schōle, of West Germanic origin; related to Old English scolu ‘troop’. (NOAD) Shoal, ...
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Ephialtes is somehow associated as the demon of nightmares. how did this come about as defined in English language refrences? [closed]

Ephialtes has earned a position in the dream world as the demon of the dream state. This is somewhat vague and some more information would be appreciated. "Ephialtes/ephialtes the more: oosterwal ...
3
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1answer
55 views

Devil take the hindmost!

I came across the following old proverb in which I noticed that a bare infinitive verb is used after a singular subject. Devil take ...
3
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1answer
28 views

The origin of the terms ' Attributive and Predicative Adjectives'

At present l am reviewing classification of adjectives: attributives and predicatives. I want to know who coined them, and when grammarians began using them. By the way, l have searched in vain for ...
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31 views

Is the term “BIOS” still prevalent when referring to UEFI? [migrated]

First of all, I am not sure whether this belongs to programming SE or in here- because I am asking about the usage of terms in English language, I decided to ask on here. I was chatting to my ...
10
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3answers
459 views

About the word 'finewirer' and researching obscure words

I can't seem to find anywhere where I can look up reliably the meaning and etymology of this word: finewirer. A quick search on Google gives you uses of this word in texts such as Terry Pratchett's ...
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1answer
90 views

History of “Above and Beyond” and other similar phrases as English and French

In an editing lecture, I learned about how some phrases are filler because they are literally just repetition of the same idea. Above and beyond is the only one I can think of now. The lecturer said ...
6
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2answers
532 views

Was the word “communist” used prior to Marxist/Leninist writings?

The word 'communism' and 'communist' were certainly popularized by the title of 'The Communist Manifesto' by Mark and Engels. But was the word 'communist' used prior to Marxist writings? Or was it ...
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2answers
77 views

What is the history of using “Jersey” for “New Jersey”?

I have long wondered the origin of calling New Jersey by the nickname "Jersey". To the best of my knowledge, no one has ever shortened New York or New Hampshire to "York" or "Hampshire", or ...
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5answers
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Have “choir” and “deer” ever rhymed?

It’s that time of year when the dodgy rhymes of Christmas carols abound, but I find the chorus of "The Holly and the Ivy" particularly intriguing. The rising of the sun And the running of the ...
4
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1answer
83 views

“X is the last refuge of Y” - who first?

What is the source of the snowclone: X is the last refuge of Y Here are the following examples I could find: Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel - Samuel Johnson Audacity is the last ...
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1answer
58 views

What do you call a person who does not stand up for themselves [closed]

What do you call a person who does not stand up for themselves? I'm looking for a word to describe how a slave thought of his kind back before the Civil War started. The word have to be a synonym to ...
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0answers
27 views

Continuous(Progressive) module in Old English

I'm curious as to the origins of the Continuous(progressive) module. Whenever I meet texts emulating old speech, like in: video game RPGs, books like the Saxon Chronicles, Hollywood movies about the ...
4
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1answer
154 views

Lavatory — US terms used in the 1950s

I am trying to find out what would be natural terms to refer to the lavatory in the US in the 1950s. I am specifically interested in how a woman who was a teenager at that time in a poor working class ...
35
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4answers
5k views

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 ...
6
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2answers
219 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 ...
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0answers
82 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?
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3answers
222 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 ...
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1answer
78 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
70 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
206 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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2answers
112 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 ...
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2answers
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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
613 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 ...
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0answers
37 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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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 ...
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2answers
162 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
396 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
132 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
194 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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152 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 ...
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1answer
223 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 ...
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3answers
125 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.
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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, ...
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1answer
40 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 ...
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3answers
324 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
212 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
487 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
249 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
27 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 ...
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2answers
319 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
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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
102 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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3answers
477 views

History of Clean-Slate phrase

What was the phrase clean-slate originally used for? Or did it always refer to restart in something?
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1answer
31 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?
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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 ...
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0answers
28 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
79 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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3answers
62 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 ...