Alain Pannetier Φ
  • Member for 10 years, 11 months
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Origin and evolution of "hapless"
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57 votes

This is right; hap is a root that appears in many English words and its original meaning is indeed that of "good luck". It is traced back to Old Norse (the language spoken by the Viking invaders who ...

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How does the "be-" prefix change the words to which it is applied? How did it come about?
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44 votes

The formation of verbs in many Indo-European languages follows the following rule     prefix + root verb Examples English incoming, outgoing German einkommen (income), ausgehend ...

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From which language has English borrowed the most words?
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43 votes

I initially thought it was French, but actually it's a draw between French and Latin. There have been many studies on this topic, which came up as you would expect, with different percentages, but ...

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"Plausible" vs. "possible"
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42 votes

You can define something possible in mathematical terms as having a non null probability of being true. As for plausible, the concept does not draw on mathematics but rather on mere common sense. ...

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Why is there no plural indefinite article?
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36 votes

In most languages indefinite articles stem from that language's word for one. For instance in French un, or in German ein, In Italian and Spanish uno or in Portuguese um. English is no exception: ...

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How did English get the "What is your name?" construction?
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29 votes

There are some reasons to believe that this peculiarity of today's English can be ascribed to the influence of Celtic Languages with which English has been in contact for the last 1500 years. Celtic ...

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How did "sinister", the Latin word for "left-handed", get its current meaning?
28 votes

This goes back to the art of divination the early Romans named avspecium (coined after aves "birds" and specio "I watch" => specious). Bird-watching the Roman way so to speak. One way auspices ...

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"Checking" vs. "chequing" vs. "chequeing" with regards to types of bank accounts
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27 votes

This terminology dates back to the Anglo-Norman Kings who, having conquered Saxon England, started collecting taxes methodically, of which The Domesday Book is a famous example. For accounting, they ...

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Apart from place names, are there any Native American words used in English?
27 votes

Everyday English tuxedo - the etymology1 is worth citing in extenso. 1889, named for Tuxedo Park, N.Y., site of a country club where it first was worn in 1886. The name is an attractive ...

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Where did the "ue" in "tongue" come from?
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25 votes

Old English In Old English, a language from the West Germanic family, the standard spelling was tunge (wiktionary) and the corresponding pronunciation was /ˈtʊnɡe/ "tun-ghe" (/ʊ/ as in foot)....

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"Can hardly wait" versus "can't hardly wait"
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25 votes

The phrase "I can't hardly wait" is incorrect. I suspect it is the result of a confusion between: I can't wait and I can hardly wait which are both correct. The phrase I can't ...

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How and in what way did the Danes come to influence English?
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23 votes

The source you cite seems to confuse two different sources of Danish influence in the English Language: the Jutes and the Danes. The Jutes are one of the peoples who invaded Britain from 449 onwards, ...

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Old English instead of Latin in early Britain
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22 votes

In addition to the all the good reasons cited in the previous answers, I'd like to emphasise the role of the Catholic Church. When (ca. 496) Clovis, then young king of the Franks, resolved to convert ...

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Etymology of the color name "orange"
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21 votes

To support the explanation offered by Philoto invoking the intuitiveness of deriving the colour name from the fruit name one can only notice that the phenomenon is a widespread one, observed in many ...

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Is the "wit" in "to wit" the root of any other English words?
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21 votes

"witness" is one. As you already mentioned "to wit" is from an old Saxon root. I can see some link with the German "wissen" (also to know), Dutch "weten" and (I'm told) Danish "Vide" . As in many ...

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What is the word for when members of the same group attack each other?
20 votes

It could also be called internecine strife / conflict.

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Are 'consecutively' and 'successively' the same?
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20 votes

Overall, yes consecutively and successively are equivalent. On closer examination, there is a slight difference though. In consecutively, there is no gap. In successively there is just some order. ...

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"Liberty" versus "freedom"
20 votes

It's yet another example of this double foundation/richness of English The Saxon root : German Freiheit => Freedom. The Norman root : French Liberté => Liberty. As in other occurrences of this ...

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What do you call someone looking for a job?
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19 votes

Are you looking for applicant? Another synonym is candidate (but with a broader meaning). The Merriam-Webster definition is: ap·pli·cant - noun \ˈa-pli-kənt\   Definition   &...

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Why was the "th" combination chosen for the "th" sound?
17 votes

Let me offer my personal speculation, for what it's worth of course. But first, I need to introduce a fact well known to students of Old English but that probably needs to be mentioned here. The ...

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Why did 'y' disappear as an internal vowel in English spelling?
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17 votes

The spelling change from 'y' in Middle English to 'i' in Modern English in such words as wife or time is actually a consequence of the phenomenon known as the Great Vowel Shift. In wikipedia's chart ...

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Did English ever have a "you" plural?
17 votes

You is the plural. Thou is the singular form of you. Thou has now disappeared from common use and is used only to address God. The process resulting in the use of the singular pronoun to express ...

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Is "wot wot" or "what-what" an authentic British expression? If it's supposed to be mocking, what is it mocking?
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17 votes

Best of my knowledge, the "wot wot" verbal tic is specifically British, Georgian and definitely an upper-class marker. Indeed, one of the most famous adept of this "wot wot" verbal tic, was George ...

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Are the verbs that are conjugated to end in "-n" in the past participle related?
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16 votes

This is a simple question, which actually requires a quite complex answer (which I've made as simple as I can). This is because there are several phenomena at work here. English is of West Germanic ...

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What is a word for a man who has a lot of sexual relationships?
16 votes

It is often referred to as a Casanova after the Venetian womaniser. Also related, but actually predating the real person Giacomo Casanova is the fictional character Don Juan who has inspired among ...

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Was what happened to the pronunciation of the word "church", as compared to the Scots-English "kirk", a general phenomenon in Middle English?
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16 votes

1. What is this phenomenon called, exactly? The phonological phenomenon by which /k/ (as in kirk) is changed in /tʃ/ (as in "church") is termed Palatalisation. It applies to many languages (Romance, ...

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What do you call the eating of frogs?
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16 votes

I guess I should know !!! You could create some neologism such as - amphibiophagy ( ἀμφίβιος => both lives + φαγεῖν => to eat) - batrachiophagy ( βάτραχος => frog + φαγεῖν => to eat) - anuraphagy ...

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What's the meaning of the symbol ‡?
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16 votes

It is a double dagger and it is often used in typography to indicate a footnote. The simple one (†), with only one horizontal bar is called a dagger after it's resemblance with the blade. If you ...

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Origin of "jack sh*t"
16 votes

I guess your question is more about the jack part. In English a jack is by-name for a common person. In British English, jack is a very old (13th century) term to designate the average peasant - ...

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What's the difference between a cathedral and a basilica?
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15 votes

A basilica was originally, in Hellenistic Greece, a tribunal administering justice on behalf of the king (βασιλέως - basileus). The word and the thing were adopted by the Romans after annexing ...

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