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04-12-2016 10:32:49  #1


English Fossils

When I notice a fossil form in English I give it an internal nod but I have not recorded my observations.  I'm talking about words or forms of words that only survive in one stock phrase or context but otherwise have dropped out of the language - like "smitten", now only used for the smiting of love, "shrift", only seen these days in its short variety, and "fraught", a condition now achieved only by loading with meaning and never with grain or ore.

Which ones have you noticed?


"Damn the torpedoes! Four bells, Captain Drayton".
 

04-12-2016 18:09:43  #2


Re: English Fossils

Now are you talking about archaic words and phrases used in an older time where they were more universally used, but now have more specialized meanings?  There is one word to me that comes to mind we all know very well:  Typewriter.  It once not only referenced a machine that prints letters, numbers, and characters on a page, it also denoted the operator of said machine.  Later on, I'm not sure when, but "typewriter," in reference to the operator, was changed to "typist."  Typing, a verb describing the use of a typewriter, also is used in sorting, say, blood or tissue.  Today, it is used for the latter definition a little more, since typing as a means of communication has been substituted with "keyboarding."  Students don't take "Typing class," anymore, but "Keyboarding class."  It is doubtful that anymore than a mere handful of these students have ever seen a typewriter.  Which is why it is very important for each of us to preserve as any extant typewriters as we can, so that this part of our history will still be available to learn.


Underwood--Speeds the World's Bidness
 

07-12-2016 19:06:08  #3


Re: English Fossils

Yeah, typewriter. I like the German "writing machine", in German of course, which is just what a mechanical typewriter is - a huge collection of simple machine elements used in writing. Ball point pen? Only moving part is the ball - not much of a machine - though maybe by courtesy we could say it was a two axis axle, making the roller ball one of the simple machines. At least fountain pens sometimes use levers.

I am happy to say that "keyboarding" seems to have been a failed attempt to stop natural language - I never ever hear somebody describe what you do on a computer keyboard as keyboarding, but as typing. Words are free to alter their meanings as technology changes so what pedant would deny us "typing"? By that standard we can't drive a car because Apollo drove a different car, we can't ride coach because neither trains nor planes have horses, and we can't fire a gun because you don't have to put an open flame to a touch-hole.


"Damn the torpedoes! Four bells, Captain Drayton".
     Thread Starter
 

08-12-2016 21:08:25  #4


Re: English Fossils

And on that same note, there is no ham in hamburger, or pot in pot roast.  Slim chance and fat chance mean the same thing, as does quite a lot and quite a few.  We drive on parkways and park on driveways.  We send cargo by ship and we ship by truck.  Vegetarians eat vegetables--ever wonder what humanitarians eat?  And one last thing:  I wind up a watch or a toy, I start it.  I wind up this post, I end it.


Underwood--Speeds the World's Bidness
 

09-12-2016 13:19:53  #5


Re: English Fossils

Interesting topic, and I'm sure I have noted these myself but have failed to write them down. I'll have to keep better track in the future.

One that does occur to me is "hoist on one's own petard." I should look up "petard" to get its true meaning, though I expect it's French in origin. You never hear of the word except in this phrase -- and for that matter I think it's always "hoist," never "hoisted" or "hoisting."

 

09-12-2016 17:35:37  #6


Re: English Fossils

A petard, according to Google, is a small bomb with a metal or wooden shell used to blast down a door or blow a hole in a wall.  I am gathering that to be hoisted up by one's own petard means that one is blown upward or backward by the device they set to blow a hole in something.  The definition of being hoisted by on's own petard reads "to fall in one's own trap."


Underwood--Speeds the World's Bidness
 

12-12-2016 17:43:50  #7


Re: English Fossils

It was a small bomb, named after the word péter, which meant to break wind... 

 

13-12-2016 06:52:41  #8


Re: English Fossils

Now THAT is good stuff!

Not quite a fossil, but close: kine, as the plural of cow. The parallel is swine as plural of pig (actually sow). 

 

13-12-2016 12:17:53  #9


Re: English Fossils

Greetings All

The old saying "hoist by on one's own petard" as well as meaning to fall in one's own trap, can also mean your plan blew up in your face, or you were blown up by your own bomb. During the Normandy invasion of World War 2, one of the specialized tanks carried what was called a Petard Mortar. This mortar lobbed a breaching bomb at the German defensive walls along the coast to allow troops to pass. Interesting note about the origin of the word petard, thanks Kat.

All the best,

Sky

 

13-12-2016 14:54:43  #10


Re: English Fossils

Another fossil: "fell," as in "one fell swoop." Related to "felon," it means "deadly." I don't think the word is used anymore except in that phrase.

 

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