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Questions tagged [twentieth-century-english]

For questions relating to 20th century English, i.e. 1901-2000.

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6 votes
2 answers
179k views

Where does the expression “spill the tea” come from?

According to Wiktionary, spill the tea (idiomatic, informal) means: To disclose information, especially of a sensitive nature. Apparently, the expression appears to be a recent one. 2012, Demetria ...
12 votes
4 answers
2k views

Understanding the joke, "Make an 'ell, I say" (from The Crux)

Reading chapter 1 of The Crux, there is a joke that I don't understand about the three "Foote girls," who are in their 50s and visiting Mr. and Mrs. Lane. Here is the paragraph in question: ...
11 votes
4 answers
5k views

"Machine" as a 1920s American term for "car"

I've recently been reading some of the short stories of Dashiell Hammett featuring the Continental Op. These stories were written in the 1920s and are about a detective investigating crime in and ...
-2 votes
2 answers
365 views

Pejorative term for Indian English [closed]

There was, it seems, a pejorative term during the British Raj to describe Indian people trying to speak English. What was it?
5 votes
3 answers
1k views

What is the meaning of "burke a school" in Anticipations?

In Anticipations (1901), chapter 9, in the middle of a long passage, H. G. Wells wrote (referring to a personification of Jewish people): ... He is a remnant and legacy of mediævalism, a ...
1 vote
0 answers
35 views

"died at New York" [duplicate]

While doing archival work I bumped into a few instances where the awkward verbiage "died at New York" appeared. Research using Google Books led me to these examples from over a century ago: ...
-2 votes
1 answer
74 views

Was "wasn't Chaplin in that one?" an expression in the 1920s?

Boardwalk Empire has Nucky saying to his showgirl ("Billy Kent" a smart person who made little jokes often) girlfriend as he describes helping feed his impoverished family as a child when ...
1 vote
2 answers
430 views

What is the origin of the Australian slang “pommers” to refer to English people? [duplicate]

What is the origin of the Australian slang “pommers” to refer to English people? (I’m uncertain as to the spelling) Why is this the term that is used?
2 votes
3 answers
1k views

Orwell: "A glimmer [is] one who watches vacant motor-cars." What does this mean?

Title is a quote from Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London. In this section he goes through a bunch of London slang terms and what they mean, but I don't understand his definition. What does it ...
1 vote
1 answer
135 views

What is the meaning of "to have" in old cartoons?

In old cartoons, particularly "Little Red Riding Rabbit" of Looney Tunes, characters say "to have" with a meaning that seems different to the modern sense. For example, in the said ...
3 votes
2 answers
1k views

Lozenge and lozenger, obsolete or not?

When I was a kid, I'd heard folks calling a confection as "LOZENGER". Nowadays, to my surprise, this word is completely replaced by toffees cough- drops sweet- tablets candies bla… bla… bla… ...
3 votes
2 answers
113 views

Meaning of "fresh drummer" 1890-1944

I've begun reading the introduction to Best of H.T. Webster on Archive.org and came across this paragraph on page 9: Webby had not yet reached his teens when the family moved to a small Wisconsin ...
-1 votes
1 answer
992 views

Why is weekend so called in the U.S., when it is not the end of the week by the reckoning that is standard there?

It is well known that in some parts of the world Monday is generally regarded as the first day of the week, while in others that status is bestowed on Sunday. Given that, in a continuously repeating ...
4 votes
1 answer
4k views

Origin of the phrase "dollars to doughnuts"

What is the origin of the phrase "dollars to doughnuts", and what is the phrase trying to convey when most commonly used? Grammarist says: Dollars to doughnuts means something that is ...
0 votes
1 answer
232 views

define "the dangerous age"

How many years-old is "the dangerous age"? Where does the term come from? (Google doesn't seem to know.) "I've reached the dangerous age, and lady, I'm going to have fun." X ...
0 votes
0 answers
32 views

Attributive modification of subjective pronoun - was possible in 20th century?

I noticed an article in Los Angeles Herald, Volume XLIII, Number 304, 22 October 1918: Link. The title says: Influenza-Crazed He Slays His Family Here 'Influenza-Crazed' seems to modify 'He'. Were ...
2 votes
1 answer
904 views

What did the word "Ade" mean in the English of a hundred years ago?

Saw this in the news today and think I see the word Ade, but have never seen it before. Is it Ade? Or Ode? Wde? What does it mean? Is it an abbreviation?
2 votes
1 answer
229 views

What does Scandinavian Home mean? Late XIX, early XX century. Great Britain

Joseph Conrad, "The Nigger Of The "Narcissus": A Tale Of The Forecastle": the two young Norwegians looked tidy, meek, and altogether of a promising material for the kind ladies who patronise the ...
3 votes
3 answers
2k views

Was Nabi Tajima (died this week at 117) born in the 19th or 20th Century? [closed]

A great-great-great grandmother thought to be the oldest person in the world has died in Japan aged 117. Nabi Tajima, who was born August 4, 1900, became the world's oldest seven months ago after the ...
2 votes
1 answer
130 views

What does "sidehill garger" mean? (early 20th-century American literature)

I am reading "Wood-Folk Comedies: The Play of Wild-Animal Life on a Natural Stage" written by William J. Long, a naturalist and author, published in 1920. When I was reading it I had a word that I ...
1 vote
0 answers
55 views

Did everyday Americans really speak like they did on the radio? [duplicate]

When you listen to old radio broadcasts such as the War of the World or this Dick Tracy radio feature, you can hear Americans having the kind of fast talking and inflections you associate with old-...
10 votes
2 answers
311 views

Abbreviation 'p.e.p' on postcard from 1928

I am a first year History and English BA student in Devon, England. I am currently writing an essay examining primary sources, one of which is a postcard. I was wondering if you were able to offer any ...
2 votes
0 answers
182 views

Was "St. Bartholomew's Day massacre" what people used before Kristallnacht happened?

The New York Times' first article on Adolf Hitler, "Hitler New Power in Germany", written in 1922 (but still paywalled), referred to fears of a St. Bartholomew's Day massacre. Was that the standard ...
3 votes
1 answer
131 views

Recent shifts in semantics which lead to misunderstandings [closed]

I was just answering this question. It is about a use of "should". The word seems to have undergone a semantic shift away from a simple first-person form of "would". Instead it is today most often ...
1 vote
1 answer
1k views

Definition of Female Empowerment [closed]

Does anyone have a good definition of female empowerment? It'd be extremely helpful if this came as a quote. Please link if possible!
3 votes
2 answers
1k views

Capitalization in mid-20th century British English

While reading the early "Thomas the Tank Engine" books (published in the 1940s and 50s in Britain) I was struck by the somewhat odd capitalisation used. Most of the text is capitalised as in modern ...
0 votes
2 answers
1k views

"Down in my boots"

May Sarton, an early 20th century poet, wrote in a letter: "Politically I am down in my boots." What could she mean? Angry? Frustrated? Disheartened?
2 votes
4 answers
302 views

Was West Germany commonly referred to as "Germany"?

During the Cold War, in everyday conversation, was West Germany referred to as "Germany" like South Korea is currently often referred to as "Korea" and the People's Republic of China is currently ...
3 votes
3 answers
2k views

Origin of “name happened” form: from “s*** happens” via “magic happens”?

There’s a form in current English Then <X> happened or <X> happened, where you transition the name of a thing (a person, a fictitious character, or object), to mean the dramatic ...