Questions tagged [english-language]

For questions about the historical use of English. Linguistic questions are off-topic but can be asked on our sister sites for English Language & Usage and English Language Learners.

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Is "Old Black Joe" the reason coffee is known as Joe?

I was reminded recently that ‘joe’ was once a slangy term for coffee, at least in the United States (although I suspect less common than it once was). The Wikipedia article about the origin of the ...
Barnaby's user avatar
  • 101
23 votes
2 answers

Why did Henry III of England give his sons English names, other than naming them after his favourite saints?

Was the decision by King Henry III to give his two sons the very Anglo-Saxon, 'English' names of Edward and Edmund rather than any names of French derivation commented on at the time by contemporaries,...
user22453's user avatar
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38 votes
2 answers

When did the U.S. Army start saying "oh-six-hundred" for "6 AM"?

Last night I was watching The Pale Blue Eye (2022), a (bad) period piece set at West Point in the year 1830. At the 21m50s mark, Captain Hitchcock (Simon McBurney) snaps at a cadet: Effective oh-six-...
Quuxplusone's user avatar
  • 1,965
50 votes
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Why is AD in Latin and BC is in English?

Why does one abbreviation for designating time come from Latin (AD: anno Domini), but the other corresponding to the time before that from English (BC: before Christ)? BC = before Christ AD = anno ...
Jan's user avatar
  • 501
6 votes
2 answers

Did allied soldiers in the WWII Pacific Theater use the term 'flak' for anti-aircraft guns?

I just stumbled upon a clip from the movie 'Unbroken', where the crew of a bomber stationed in the Pacific refer to anti-aircraft fire as 'flak'. Flak, of course, is short for 'Flugabwehrkanone', the ...
Mastrem's user avatar
  • 333
2 votes
1 answer

In this letter from the English Civil War, what does THO stand for?

(Not sure if this should be on the English.SE. I ask here since it is quoted from a historical document.) Sir, I do by these summon you to deliver up the City of Oxford into my hands, for the use of ...
Allure's user avatar
  • 6,125
84 votes
4 answers

What were paper airplanes called before there were real airplanes? (i.e. untethered winged flyers, not kites or balloons)

According to the Google Ngram Viewer ( the English word "airplane" was practically unused before the year 1900. Given that paper is ...
dhinson919's user avatar
1 vote
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At what stage are the first two digits of a year's name dropped? [closed]

Today, we mostly refer to years in their full name: 2020 as "twenty twenty", or "two thousand twenty". In the late 1900s, we were mostly using the short form: 1995 as "ninety ...
Gimelist's user avatar
  • 273
11 votes
3 answers

What was the first documented mention of American English different from British English?

What was the first documented account (newspaper article or book) that points out American English emerging with its pronunciation, vocabulary and distinctly different from British English?
Alex Bulankou's user avatar
14 votes
4 answers

Why were Union troops referred to as "lop-eared Dutch"?

I am reading "A History of Southern Missouri and Northern Arkansas by William Monks" (published 1907). I am also recording it and posting my recordings to YouTube. In it, the Confederates ...
B. Clay Shannon-B. Crow Raven's user avatar
68 votes
3 answers

How and when did the word "nuclear" replace the word "atomic"?

In the early "Atomic Age", nuclear technology was generally termed "atomic" in English. There was "A-bomb", "atomic reactor" and "Atomic Energy Commission&...
b.Lorenz's user avatar
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5 votes
1 answer

What was the first college in an English-speaking country to use Latin in their motto?

I have looked at many universities and seen how in English speaking countries, their mottoes tend to be written in Latin. What was the first college/university in an English-speaking nation-state (...
Tyler Mc's user avatar
  • 803
6 votes
2 answers

Why does the name "England" hold no reference to the Saxons?

Something that has always surprised me was that originally Saxon kings were referred to as kings of the Angles or kings of the English when they conquered or reconquered the Germanic parts of the ...
Matthaeus's user avatar
  • 1,377
4 votes
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What is the origin of the name of the street Kings Butts in London, and its lack of apostrophes?

I’m mainly interested in why there are no apostrophes in this name. If Butts refers to archery, then why not “King’s Butts” or “Kings’ Butts”? Are apostrophes commonly omitted in historical London ...
jl6's user avatar
  • 545
10 votes
3 answers

Why has English become the global language?

I love the English and English. I am truly fascinated by the expansion of the English language across the globe. According to linguists all languages are great and unique. If it is a fact, why ...
Jvlnarasimharao's user avatar