When was “Guru” – sanskrit term meaning teacher – popularized?

I was interested to know about term Guru, when it was popularized really in Western countries ? At first I was trying to do a google books search of a word which showed that popularity of phrase sharply increased in 1955. So first question would be what affected such increase in popularity of “Guru” in … Read more

How many birds in the bush?

There is a well known proverb, A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush However, I have discovered that the earliest English version of this proverb according to phrases.org.uk is found in John Capgrave’s The Life of St Katharine of Alexandria, 1450: “It is more sekyr [certain] a byrd in your fest, … Read more

Does one ‘have’ an academic degree, or is one ‘in’ an academic degree?

I have always referred to an academic degree as something I possess—e.g. ‘I have a degree in $subject’. However, I recently had to get my degree certificate out for a job interview and noticed that it says the following: ‘It is hereby certified that $name has been duly admitted to the degree of Master of … Read more

How did “to wish that” come to hate the present tense in the subordinate clauses it governs, and why is it alone in this?

Inspired by this earlier question, I’ve realized that we have no canonical question addressing the stranglely one-of-a-kind special grammatical rules demanded by the verb wish of its subordinate clauses. This question seeks to remedy that situation. How did the verb to wish that come to require unique grammatical rules unlike any other? The verb wish … Read more

The spelling “ui” and the pronunciation /uː/ in juice, fruit, bruise, cruise, sluice, suit, nuisance, recruit, bruit

The words juice, fruit, bruise, cruise, sluice, suit, pursuit, suitcase, lawsuit, nuisance, recruit, bruit are spelled with ui and pronounced with the IPA phoneme /uː/. Full pronunciations from OED: nuisance: Brit. /ˈnjuːsns/, U.S. /ˈn(j)us(ə)ns/ juice:         Brit. /dʒuːs/, U.S. /dʒus/ cruise:      Brit. /kruːz/, U.S. /kruz/ bruise:      Brit. /bruːz/, U.S. /bruz/ suit:           Brit. /s(j)uːt/, U.S. /sut/ recruit: … Read more

Why did the use of “if you shall” and “if you should” dramatically decline?

Google Books statistics indicate that the use of the expression “if you should” and especially of the expression “if you shall” per unit of text length dramatically and steadily declined since the 1700s, as you can see in this graph. As compared to the 1700s, the former expression is nowadays used about 7 times less … Read more

Why are two-digit numbers in Jonathan Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels” (1726) written in “German style”?

I have been reading “Gulliver’s Travels” (Otherwise known more verbosely as “Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. In Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships”), and I have noticed that two-digit numbers are often written in the “German” style, that is it say that the … Read more

“Indian” comes from Italian/Spanish “gente in dios” (God-like people)? False etymology?

A while ago in January The Black Hebrew Israelites were speaking/shouting/proselytizing to surrounding people at Lincoln Memorial. The speaker claimed that the word “Indian” means “savage”. A member from the crowd approached the speakers, claiming he was a historian, and that “Indian” is a Spanish word meaning “God-like people”. Interestingly the speaker from the Black … Read more

How old is the use of “steal” for non-rival goods?

In the debate on copyright, there is a long-time discussion on the appropriateness of the word steal to refer to “make a copy of a non-rival good”; see for instance this article, or this essay. How old is the usage of the word “steal” in English with this meaning? Is it something that was widespread … Read more