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92 votes

In 1700s, why was 'books that never read' grammatical?

English in Defoe's time was different. Commas were used differently; relative pronouns were used differently; capital letters were used differently (although that last isn't evident here). The that ...
Andrew Leach's user avatar
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54 votes

Does English use the word ‘thou’ in any situations nowadays?

Thou/thee/thy/thine still exist in some dialects in British English. However, unless you are one of those who speak the dialect, it is not used in general spoken and written English. https://en....
Greybeard's user avatar
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41 votes
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Meaning of "I thou thee"?

In "I thou thee", "thou" is a verb. The relevant definition in the OED is: trans. To address (a person) with the pronoun thou (or its equivalent in another language). (The quote in your question ...
Laurel's user avatar
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39 votes

What was "m(o)ustache" called before the term entered the English language?

The most likely answer to the first question is that one would simply refer to the facial hair above the upper lip as a kind of beard. An early attestation in OED under "mustachio" from 1551 -- in ...
RaceYouAnytime's user avatar
38 votes
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Deciphering two words from their Archaic spellings

These texts are from Middle English and most of the letters are composed of ııııııııııs. In Middle English, several letters such as u ~ v, i, w, m, n etc., were written using a sequence of a ...
Decapitated Soul's user avatar
33 votes

Why "Giraffe" as a name for the animal?

From the OED, Camelopard was first recorded in ▸ a1398 J. Trevisa tr. Bartholomaeus Anglicus De Proprietatibus Rerum (BL Add. 27944) (1975) II. xviii. xx. 1159 Cameleopardus hatte cameleopardalis ...
Greybeard's user avatar
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26 votes

Does English use the word ‘thou’ in any situations nowadays?

To the great majority of English speakers, 'thou' only sounds like quasi-theatrical, Shakespearean, or Biblical speech. Currently, it is not recognized grammatically as anything other than an archaic ...
Mitch's user avatar
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26 votes
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Was “thee” ever used as a nominative?

The fact that the character is a Quaker is very relevant. Quakers used thee for both the nominative and objective cases long after most other English speakers had stopped using thee and thou and ...
Peter Shor 's user avatar
23 votes
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Is the language used in patents archaic or intentionally obtuse?

Patent lawyer here. I wouldn't call the language you cited either "archaic" or "intentionally obtuse." "Pedantic" or "hyperliteral" may be better adjectives. The language you cited came from Claim 1 ...
Alan Kessler's user avatar
21 votes
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Meaning of "our eares are converted into cates"

Here is the version of the relevant passage from the original text of Archie Armstrong, A banquet of ieasts. Or Change of cheare Being a collection of moderne jests. Witty ieeres. Pleasant taunts. ...
Sven Yargs's user avatar
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19 votes
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Is "Who art" correct?

Yes, "thou (...) who art" or "thee (...) who art" are correct. I wasn't sure from the title whether you were asking about relative pronouns or interrogative pronouns, so I will discuss both in my ...
herisson's user avatar
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19 votes
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Is there any difference between "thou wast" and "thou wert"?

Wert is more likely to be subjunctive In the King James Bible, as well as in some other texts, wert appears only in "subjunctive" contexts. Using the online KJV bible search engines at King ...
herisson's user avatar
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18 votes
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Why "thine heart" but "thy whole heart"?

As pointed out by @Jeff Zeitlin, the rule was phonetic, it's just that initial h's are highly prone to elision/deletion. The Wikipedia article on thou says that thine was used before nouns beginning ...
Decapitated Soul's user avatar
17 votes

What was "m(o)ustache" called before the term entered the English language?

The Middle English Dictionary, in its entry for hēr (n.) ("hair") lists "hereliste" as a compound meaning mustache, as used in this quote: Iowe, temples, et iernoun -- Cheke, thonewonges, and ...
Laurel's user avatar
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17 votes
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In the old name Dreadnought, is nought an adverb or a noun?

As you surmise, dreadnought originates as a compound of dread and nought, and nought is a noun, so the original meaning was something like shies from nothing. But if you will forgive the use of that ...
choster's user avatar
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17 votes
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Word for "object of malignant joy"

A thrall is a reasonable match. Wiktionary surprisingly lists the archaic/literary count/concrete usage first: thrall (1) One who is enslaved or under mind control. (2) (uncountable) The state of ...
Edwin Ashworth's user avatar
15 votes

What was "m(o)ustache" called before the term entered the English language?

In Anglo-Saxon there was a word "cenep" or "kenep"(OE dict)(Wiktionary) that became "kemp" in Modern English. It meant moustache, and kept that meaning into Middle English, where it also picked up the ...
James K's user avatar
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15 votes

In 1700s, why was 'books that never read' grammatical?

The comment and answer at time of posting are right about what the phrase means - it could also be written "What should I do with books? I've never read half an hour in a year, I tell you." But I ...
ItWasLikeThatWhenIGotHere's user avatar
15 votes

Does English use the word ‘thou’ in any situations nowadays?

The term "holier-than-thou" remains in somewhat common usage, probably explicitly because the "thou" sounds both antiquated and Biblical.
Yes - that Jake.'s user avatar
15 votes
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Had rather; grammar explanation

The American Journal of Philology has an article entitled On the Origin of “Had Rather Go” and Analogous or Apparently Analogous Locutions. It says: Of the verb have, Dr. Johnson, in his Dictionary, ...
fev's user avatar
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15 votes

Meaning of "teen" in Aeschylus's play "The Persians"

I don't know what the exact context of the play is, but the ominosity of the nearby lines implies to me that it's intended in the word's second (now archaic) sense, "misery, affliction". (...
Heartspring's user avatar
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13 votes
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Does English use the word ‘thou’ in any situations nowadays?

The Only thing I can think of is if a suitor were being extremely formal in a proposal of marriage: Wouldst thou do me the honor.... It might also be used in a light teasing manner, pretending to be ...
mtugglet's user avatar
  • 243
13 votes

Does English use the word ‘thou’ in any situations nowadays?

Regarding the idea of using thou to, as you put it, humiliate an opponent by being overly familiar, that would not work in English because most English speakers don't know that thou used to be the ...
Mark Foskey's user avatar
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12 votes

Why "Giraffe" as a name for the animal?

In Middle English, camelioun (via Medieval Latin) and (sometimes) gerfaunt and orafle (both from Old French) referred to the giraffe (Middle English Dictionary). Authors with more knowledge of Latin ...
TaliesinMerlin's user avatar
12 votes

Unusual words used to denote a specific length of time?

Try sennight when you are speaking of a week. I know of no similarly archaic word for fortnight. Collins sennight in British English, Noun an archaic word for "week" The word makes sense ...
Anton's user avatar
  • 28.8k
12 votes

In H. P. Lovecraft's work - how is "The Prolonged of Life" understood when it comes to meaning?

To add to Glaadrial's answer on the literal meaning of the term, Lovecraft intends a parallel to "The Ancient of Days" (Daniel 7:9), one of the names of the Judeo-Christian God from the ...
Tevildo's user avatar
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12 votes

In H. P. Lovecraft's work - how is "The Prolonged of Life" understood when it comes to meaning?

The locution is literary in style. Compare the swift of foot, i.e. the swift-footed, [those whose feet are swift], i.e. fast runners. The prolonged of life" are those whose lives are prolonged. ...
11 votes
Accepted

What's the archaic past tense for "say"?

You can trust your sources, the past would be indeed said. Etymonline says that: The past tense form said developed from Old English segde. That saith is present there is no doubt, being formed from ...
fev's user avatar
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10 votes
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Explanation of the English in this University of Cambridge graduation certificate

This is simple reversal of clauses: see this question. If it helps, you could imagine a bracket after 'was', and a close bracket after '2016'. (I also think that using the Free Dictionary to ...
Tim Lymington's user avatar
10 votes

Why "Giraffe" as a name for the animal?

I ran a series of searches of the Early English Books Online database to see how frequently various names and spellings of the creature in question were used in unique instances (that is, excluding ...
Sven Yargs's user avatar
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