When was “untactful” first used?

I came across “untactful” in a story and wondered when it was first used and how it came to be commonly used in speech. I’ve always used “tactless”. I checked a lot of dictionaries with no results. I searched for “origins of untactful” and “etymology of untactful” with no results. I had no trouble finding … Read more

What is the meaning of “annihilated in detail”?

I ran across the phrase “annihilated in detail” while listening to Professor Garrett G. Fagan’s instruction regarding the History of Ancient Rome. This comes from a lecture on Marius and Sulla with regards to a particular Roman battle: They split their forces. As a result when the Germans came on, they were annihilated in detail. … Read more

Where does the expression “triple-A” come from?

The term “AAA” or “triple-A” is a term mainly used nowadays in the video game industry, according to Wikipedia, … for video games produced and distributed by a mid-sized or major publisher, typically having higher development and marketing budgets. The same article states that it … began to be used in the late 1990s, when … Read more

Where was the term “A1” first used?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary says that “A1” means “of the finest quality” and it says that the term was first used in the year 1801 (with no reference): https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/A1#h1 However it does not give any information about the origin of the word. Wiktionary says the phrase comes from the classification of ships. A1 ships were the … Read more

Why is it a *canary* in a coalmine?

I understand what the idiom means: as per this question, it means a person or creature unwittingly used as a test for danger, often destructively. I understand why coalmines: as depositories of ancient organic waste, they are particularly prone to methane and carbon monoxide buildup. But why a canary? They are technically exotic, native and … Read more

History, origin & usage of term ‘Showroom’ instead of shop/ store/ storefront?

History, origin & usage of term ‘Showroom’ instead of shop/ store/ storefront? How/ where did it come about? Who came up with it? Answer The OED confirms the Merriam Webster assertion of 1616. It gives in all three senses of the word but I believe the one you are looking for is sense 1. But … Read more

History of Neither Nor – Negative Meaning with Negative Verb Structure

I know that neither–nor yields a negative meaning if used in a sentence that has a positive verb structure. That is, when we say: Neither George nor James goes to school. we mean: George does not go to school and James does not go to school. By positive verb structure, I mean the usage of … Read more

What are the indigenous English words for a prostitute?

Prostitution is referred to as the oldest profession, but the English word “prostitute” is a borrowing that started being used in the English language around 1600. I would like to know what the prostitutes were most commonly called in Britain before. My question is this: What are the main original English words or short expressions … 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