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13-12-2016 15:44:58  #11


Re: English Fossils

One of my favorites is "decimate," which, through misuse, today means obliteration but started out as but a 10-percent loss.

 

13-12-2016 17:36:21  #12


Re: English Fossils

Yup -- though that's more of a misuse or rather mutated meaning than a fossil.

A 10 percent loss doesn't seem so bad, but I think in military terms it's quite significant, higher than acceptable. So maybe the literal meaning of the word, in that light, still carries the sense of "devastating."

 

05-1-2017 18:37:35  #13


Re: English Fossils

I'm sure I can remember answering this thread, but maybe not. The thing was that 'petard' was also C16th (I think) slang for, er, breaking wind... so it's quite a funny saying in fact. 

The idea of these fossils is also like the dead metaphor - with which they overlap - being something we keep saying even though its original meaning os now over. I.e., dead as a doornail. Going at it hammers and tongs. Etc. Something I teach beginning writers over and over and over again not to use in their work, because it's dead.

 

05-1-2017 18:46:56  #14


Re: English Fossils

Horsewhipped is another one--No one in the last hundred someodd years has ever had to whip a horse just to make it pull a cart or a carriage.  You whip a horse today, your backside is sooner or later going to be turned into the Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals


Underwood--Speeds the World's Bidness
 

06-1-2017 05:22:31  #15


Re: English Fossils

Typing drove me to write, if you can call it that, by setting myself goals merely for the sake of exercising a typewriter and the longer I kept at it the more I became conscious of stock phrases which I strove to eliminate - only some of them word fossils and many of them book report filler ("book reports" are the primary instrument of writing torture in US primary schools). It's tough, but I eventually relaxed my standard to allowing them if I used them with conscious premeditation of my own linguistic perfidy.

My observation has been (is that a book report phrase?) that archaic... damn it all, it is! Archaic past participles are prone to fossilization and sometimes in multiple forms: it's always a cleft pallet but a cloven hoof and I believe there is a third form which the margin is too small to contain. I'm not too sure about "prone" either. Perhaps they are supine?


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

06-1-2017 05:35:00  #16


Re: English Fossils

Fleetwing wrote:

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

It is certainly archaic and maybe even obsolete but I would not call it a fossil - a living fossil? a zombie word? - because it does not appear in any stock phrase which continues to animate it with a weird and unnatural life. It is interesting that swine live on while the kine have wandered off. The swine would not sound so swinish if they had some kine to keep them company!


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

06-1-2017 15:35:54  #17


Re: English Fossils

TypewriterKing wrote:

No one in the last hundred someodd years has ever had to whip a horse just to make it pull a cart or a carriage.

It's a very big world we live in, and it's a mistake (and a big problem) when we assume that everyone enjoys our standard of living. Just as with typewriters, the daily use of horses to haul carriages in third world countries - even those with nuclear programs - is still a reality. (And yes, that's a whip in his hand.)

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/fa/Horse_carriage,_Gwalior.jpg


"To save time is to lengthen life."
 

06-1-2017 21:56:10  #18


Re: English Fossils

Pardon my error. I didn't know.


Underwood--Speeds the World's Bidness
 

07-1-2017 02:19:19  #19


Re: English Fossils

...and, of course, some of us ride regularly in 'the west', and carry a whip of one form or another - though it is never used as anything other than a reminder - a tap behind one's leg when the animal is not listening, and never enough to cause pain.


Sincerely,
beak.
 
 

08-1-2017 10:28:04  #20


Re: English Fossils

Uwe wrote:

TypewriterKing wrote:

No one in the last hundred someodd years has ever had to whip a horse just to make it pull a cart or a carriage.

It's a very big world we live in, and it's a mistake (and a big problem) when we assume that everyone enjoys our standard of living. Just as with typewriters, the daily use of horses to haul carriages in third world countries - even those with nuclear programs - is still a reality. (And yes, that's a whip in his hand.)

I took the remark to imply an advance in humanitarianism rather than in ground transportation - perhaps if you are using a horse to pull a cart now and the horse is recalcitrant you summon all your horse-whisperer skills and make the horse remember when it was a foal and when you gave it oats and how (you promise) when it can't pull carts anymore you are going to take care of it and wouldn't it help you now by trying to get the wheel out of the rut just a little harder? And if that doesn't work you keep the whip handy under the seat.

I just ran across an account of the monument to the last living cavalry mount on the roles of the United States Army - "Chief". Chief died in 1958 and his grave is marked by a monument based on a sculpture by Frederic Remington. Frederic Remington was a cousin to Eliphalet Remington, founder of the Remington Arms Company, which went on to spawn the Remington Typewriter Company. Believe it, or not.


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

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