Questions tagged [history]

Questions about the history and trends of the English language

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Why is “x” used as an abbreviation for some nouns?

This question is related, but is not a duplicate, of Why do some words have "X" as a substitute?. I have noticed that a few nouns can be significantly abbreviated with an "x" at the end. ...
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62 views

What function does the comma serve in the salutation of a letter, and when did it come about?

In a letter we say "Dear Alexthecampbell," before starting the body. After this, we then captialize the first letter of the next sentence. Since the salutation functions like a header, and ...
3
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1answer
121 views

What do we call the past movement to latinize English?

When examining intriguing etymologies, Merriam-Webster often brings up a historic movement to regularize the English language by making it more like Latin, as they do in this video examining the ...
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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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574 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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81 views

Historical resistance to inanimate 'will'

English, it is said, has no future tense. To indicate future we do not inflect our verbs but instead use the modal verb will. In his answer to Why do we say “was supposed to” for “should have”? ...
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154 views

First mention in print of “magic smoke” (electronics)?

In electronics, "magic smoke" is the stuff that lets components work: once the magic smoke leaves the component, the component ceases to work. What is the earliest reference in print to "magic smoke"?...
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48 views

Would an American girl aged 12-14 really use the “F-word” casually like this in 1947?

In the 1997 movie "Lolita", in the beginning set in 1947, there is a scene where Dolores Haze (12 or 14, White, girl) has this conversation with a friend: Mary Rose: "See you later, ...
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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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32 views

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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29 views

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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101 views

Why is the adjective “below” rare compared to adjective “above”?

Above and below can be used as both an adverb and an adjective to indicate an earlier or a later part of a piece of writing respectively. However, adjective below is rare compared to adjective above (...
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50 views

What did daughters (roughly 19 and 11) affectionately call their mothers in the 19th century (1883ish)?

I'm writing a short historical fiction essay on Mercy Brown and family, and was wondering what Mary Brown (19) and Mercy (11) would have called her while she was on her death bed with consumption. ...
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33 views

How can there be any indicative if-clauses?

As far as I know, if-clauses always describe theoretical situations. Sometimes the theory is very obvious and self-evident, but it remains a theory. So how can we use the indicative in if-clauses all ...
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41 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 ...
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3k 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?
1
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1answer
133 views

Where and/or when is the term “flight ticket” used?

On a forum I frequent some users were complaining about a question using the turn of phrase "flight ticket" as something no English speaker would ever say. I disagreed because it sounds like ...
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1answer
113 views

Capitalization rules concerning historical time periods

What are the capitalization rules concerning historical time periods? For example, how would I write: post-classical Europe Is it: "post-classical Europe" "Post-Classical Europe" "post-...
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29 views

What were/are the rules regarding relative pronouns from c. 1800?

I've been reading some rather old literature, often ranging from the 18th Century through to the late 19th Century, and I'm trying to increase my comprehension of the material, at least to the extent ...
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20 views

History of 'acronym' versus 'initialism'?

Nowadays on the internet there's a contingent who make a strong distinction between 'acronyms', which they say must be pronounced "phonetically" (for lack of a better term), and 'initialisms'...
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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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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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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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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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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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222 views

No bigodd nonsense

I am writing a novel with a narrator who is (supposedly) writing in 1854-5. One of his characters refers to someone who is "a plain Englishman with no bigodd nonsense about him." As is well known, ...
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1answer
66 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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168 views

Are products of wordsmithing proper English?

Several languages in which English has its roots have easily definable rules. For example, sticking "a" in front of an adjective can mean the opposite of that adjective (symmetrical - asymmetrical), ...
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30 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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1answer
108 views

Historical meaning of “program” as a verb

Frozen since 1837, some guy just thawed up and confronted me with the verb 'to program' in the context of CS. If by programming an automatic computer, we mean “to put instructions in main memory for ...