Questions tagged [history]

Questions about the history and trends of the English language

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3
votes
2answers
64 views

History of Neither Nor - Negative Meaning with Negative Verb Structure

I know that neither–nor yields a negative meaning if used in a sentence that has a positive verb structure. That is, when we say: Neither George nor James goes to school. we mean: George does ...
6
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1answer
75 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: ...
4
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3answers
949 views

What are the indigenous English words for a prostitute?

Prostitution is referred to as the oldest profession, but the English word "prostitute" is a borrowing that started being used in the English language around 1600. I would like to know what the ...
2
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1answer
34 views

what's cooking — history of the expression [closed]

Does anyone know when the expression "what's cooking" began to be used in the United States? I'm interested because I'm writing a novel set in 1933. Thank you in advance for your help.
0
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0answers
42 views

What did “sector” mean in the 1590s?

Anybody have an OED subscription? I can't figure out what "sector" is supposed to mean in this context: Belatedly he noticed Matthew, who was glaring at him. "Oh. Good morning, Matthew. Would you ...
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 ...
4
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1answer
568 views

What is this word in a sample of blackletter script?

What is this word "seneney"? Am I right?
0
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1answer
45 views

Is there anyone whose first name is the same as their middle name? [closed]

For example, is there anyone with a full name like "David David Smith", where David is the first name and David is also the middle name? Also, I am wondering if there is anyone with a first and middle ...
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 ...
21
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4answers
5k views

Do the English have an ancient (obsolete) verb for the action of the book opening? [closed]

Do the English have an ancient (obsolete) verb for the action of the book opening? For example, in Russian we say otkrit' (open the book), but in the Old slavonic the verb razognuti (to unbend the ...
3
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0answers
37 views

First use of capital letters [closed]

The first latin script which consisted of both majuscule and minuscule letters (lowercase and uppercase, or small and capital letters) is Carolingian minuscule. It is a fact. But what is unknown to me ...
9
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2answers
207 views

When did Monkeys start making wrenches?

Why is the pipe wrench often called a monkey wrench? From the Ferris State University Jim Crow Museum website… Q: Did Jack Johnson invent the wrench? A: Jack Johnson, the first Black ...
-1
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1answer
56 views

Where does the term “physical” come from?

Physical in the bodily sense appears to have developed independently from its root original term physic. So, for instance, you can say you do physical exercise to keep your body, not your physic, in ...
2
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2answers
166 views

What is the use of the double L in Llama and double A in Aardvark? [duplicate]

Always wanted a clear explanation as to why these animals had double letters at the beginning of the spelling. What’s up with that?
0
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0answers
22 views

Why is “Colonel” spelled the way it is but pronounced similar to it’s homonym “Kernal” [duplicate]

Not sure what else I can say here. I never understood the logic behind this pronunciation and wonder what the origin May be and if that has something to do with how it’s pronounced.
5
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1answer
98 views

What did pooh mean in the early 1900s

When a 7-year-old child is new to Winnie the Pooh that child often interprets it to be poo. I'd like to be able to explain the history of that word. When I look it up I find an exclamation of ...
6
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1answer
149 views

Since when is “Ese” used in American “Spanglish”?

My question is about "Ese" when used to designate a person. How long has this usage been part of common speech in the US? 80s? 90s? Earlier? Later? I am thinking of 'Ese' as it used by Latino film ...
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 ...
-1
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1answer
47 views

Who and what was the first meme? What does meme mean? [closed]

I might already know this, but I actually want to know it, you can't trust the internet, well except for you guys
4
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1answer
111 views

When was “Chronic” first used as its own antonym?

The word "Chronic" means "long lasting", or "occurring over an extended period of time". A chronic illness one that you will have for a long time (if not for your entire life), or take a long time to ...
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 ...
1
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1answer
27 views

What's this “Jl. Sg.” appended to a name in the Social Register?

Screenshotted from the (fictitious) "1929 Social Register" in the opening sequence of the film Down to Their Last Yacht (1934). "Miss Linda Colt-Stratton" I get, but what's the "Jl. Sg." after her ...
5
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2answers
103 views

When did “committee” become a collective noun, and why?

According to dictionary.com, "committee" comes from late Middle English, with the suffix -ee added to the word "commit". Typical use of the -ee suffix would imply the meaning of "one who commits" or "...
1
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1answer
150 views

Why has the word “discombobulate” stuck around? [closed]

I was thinking of there being very silly sounding words. The first one that popped to mind was "discombobulated"... and then that was it. Is it just me, or are silly words not really around anymore? ...
2
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1answer
106 views

Singular “they” in 1954

During the June 13, 1954, episode of American television's What's My Line, the panel was blindfolded and had to identify the guests, Les Paul and Mary Ford, by asking a series of questions that the ...
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0answers
29 views

No Gender Nouns [duplicate]

Why do adjectives and some nouns in English not have gender? Is there a history beyond that? Don't this cause some ambiguity in the language itself?
10
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2answers
432 views

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, ...
3
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1answer
92 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 ...
2
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1answer
57 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 ...
10
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3answers
520 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 ...
0
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1answer
109 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
550 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 ...
4
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2answers
90 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 ...
47
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5answers
6k views

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
111 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 ...
-1
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1answer
669 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 ...
1
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0answers
36 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
177 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
491 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
851 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?
8
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3answers
473 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
vote
1answer
104 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
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 ...
5
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1answer
267 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 ...
6
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2answers
155 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
61 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
votes
1answer
637 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
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.
0
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2answers
326 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 ...