When was “Chronic” first used as its own antonym?

The word “Chronic” means “long lasting”, or “occurring over an extended period of time”. A chronic illness one that you will have for a long time (if not for your entire life), or take a long time to recover from. A short-lived, sharp/intense/severe illness would instead be referred to (in formal language) as “Acute“ However, … 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

When did “committee” become a collective noun, and why?

According to dictionary.com, “committee” comes from late Middle English, with the suffix -ee added to the word “commit”. Typical use of the -ee suffix would imply the meaning of “one who commits” or “one to whom something is committed”. Wiktionary agrees, and I understand that both of these meanings see usage in British Parliament today, … Read more

Schools and Shoals

School, as a group of fish, entered Middle English: late Middle English: from Middle Low German, Middle Dutch schōle, of West Germanic origin; related to Old English scolu ‘troop’. (NOAD) Shoal, meaning the same thing, entered English two to five hundred years later in the 16th century: late 16th century: probably from Middle Dutch schōle … Read more

Devil take the hindmost!

I came across the following old proverb in which I noticed that a bare infinitive verb is used after a singular subject. Devil take the hindmost. My question is: was it normal at that time to use a bare infinitive verb in such constructions? Answer ‘The Devil take the hindmost’ in the early sixteenth century … Read more

The origin of the terms ‘ Attributive and Predicative Adjectives’

At present l am reviewing classification of adjectives: attributives and predicatives. I want to know who coined them, and when grammarians began using them. By the way, l have searched in vain for their origin. Answer James Harris introduced the attributive into English in a grammatical sense, and the precise phrases “attributive adjective” and “predicative … Read more

About the word ‘finewirer’ and researching obscure words

I can’t seem to find anywhere where I can look up reliably the meaning and etymology of this word: finewirer. A quick search on Google gives you uses of this word in texts such as Terry Pratchett’s The Color of Magic: Brilliant constellations shone down on the Discworld. One by one the traders shuttered their … Read more

Have “choir” and “deer” ever rhymed?

It’s that time of year when the dodgy rhymes of Christmas carols abound, but I find the chorus of "The Holly and the Ivy" particularly intriguing. The rising of the sun And the running of the deer, The playing of the merry organ, Sweet singing in the choir. Wikipedia provides all the lyrics. First and … Read more

“X is the last refuge of Y” – who first?

What is the source of the snowclone: X is the last refuge of Y Here are the following examples I could find: Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. – Samuel Johnson Audacity is the last refuge of guilt. – Samuel Johnson Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative. – Oscar Wilde Conformity … Read more

Why are pubowners called landlords in the U.K.?

I just came across the fact that Brits call the owners\operators of their pubs landlords, (on the new show “The Reluctant Landlord”). Being from the USA I am only aware of the term landlord being used to refer to the person you pay your rent to if you are renting a house, apartment/flat or shop … Read more