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Thread: Obsolete & Archaic

  1. #1
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    Obsolete & Archaic

    We just went to our local shop to as for 'a dozen' second class stamps, and the lad behind the counter asked us what a 'dozen' meant!

    So many usages have become obsolete or archaic since I was young. It was common for people to express a time - say, 3.25 - as 'five and twenty past three', for example.

    And my grandfather didn't talk about the Jack of Diamonds, but the Knave of Diamonds.

    There's a scene in Great Expectations where Estelle derides the boy Pip for his vulgar usage of 'Jack' instead of 'Knave'.
    Last edited by Ella Beck; Dec-15-2018 at 16:12.
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    Another usage which is now archaic - a married woman, when I was young, was known by her husband's initial - e.g. if she was Lynne Smith married to Donald Smith, she was Mrs D. Smith, and the only time she'd become Mrs L. Smith was if she was a widow.

    Now it would probably be 'Mrs L. Smith' or just 'Lynne Smith' on business letters.

    I even remember a lot of letters being addressed to my father, not as Mr H. Danby but as 'H. Danby, Esquire'.

    Things were a lot more formal in the 1950s.
    Last edited by Ella Beck; Dec-15-2018 at 17:59.
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    When I was young, in the north of England, people used the historically-correct past tenses of what are called 'strong verbs' in Old English, verbs like to crow' and 'to thrive'.

    They'd say, 'The cock crew in the morning', and 'After he started selling eggs, the man's business throve.'

    But now that the media are ironing out dialectal differences and 'estuary English', from the south of England, is ubiquitous, people use the weak forms of the past tense.

    Now it's always: 'The cock crowed in the morning' and 'The man's business thrived.'

    It really grates on me!
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    Another example of usages which have become obsolete is the difference between to 'lie' and to 'lay'.

    The correct usage in my childhood was that 'to lie' was intransitive - meaning to stretch flat. (I'm not looking at this verb meaning 'to be mendacious'.)

    'To lay' is a transitive verb, and means to set something down - I lay the cutlery on top of the tablecloth.

    So one might have a 'lie-in' at the weekends.

    Only now, it would be a 'lay in'.

    This is now ubiquitous, even on the BBC. Such a usage would have marked the speaker as uneducated 'in my day', but it no longer does.
    It still makes me wince, though...
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    The Knocker-up.

    Morning comes early for me. Once a night owl, I’m now one of the earliest risers of my acquaintance. I have the advantage of setting an alarm clock for 4:30 in the morning and hitting the snooze button several times if I’m not quite ready to greet the day.
    Before the advent of the alarm clock, an entire profession emerged for the sole purpose of waking sleepy workers to ensure they made it to work on time. The Knocker Up was a common sight in Britain and Ireland during the Industrial Revolution, particularly in the northern mill towns and big cities like London and Dubline where people worked unusual shifts in factories or on the docks, often needing to be at work as early as three a.m.
    The trade spread rapidly across the country particularly in areas where poorly paid workers were required to work shifts but could not afford their own watches. Some factories employed their own knocker-ups to ensure their employees arrived on time. In return for their services, knocker-ups were paid a few pence a week.
    As more people employed the services of knocker-ups, neighbors who did not desire to be woken at odd hours began complaining about the loud noise the knocker-ups made when ringing bells and rapping on widows to rouse their sleepy customers. The solution they devised was modifying a long stick, with which to tap on the bedroom windows of their clients, loudly enough to rouse those intended but softly enough not to disturb the rest.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-35840393



    I can't get the article to show up, but if you right click and slide down from the top of the post ,as though you were highlighting a paragraph, it shows up.

    Last edited by elderpiano; Dec-31-2018 at 17:10.

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    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-35840393


    Sorry I couldn't get my post to show above about, Knockers-up in Britain before the advent of the alarm clock.

    If you right click on the post from the top and slide you finger down, then the article does show. Odd,I know. But that is the only way I can see it.
    Last edited by elderpiano; Dec-31-2018 at 17:12.

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    Returning to the subject of the thread, one language use that's becoming obsolete is the dialect use of 'like'. In Yorkshire, where I grew up, it would come at the end of a sentence for emphasis - 'I were walkin' along t'road, like...'

    That wasn't standard English, and the current usage from America isn't either - but it is ubiquitous.

    Young people say, 'It was so - like - awesome!'

    It's still used as an emphatic, though.

    Some interesting observations may be found here:
    https://www.theatlantic.com/entertai...f-like/507614/
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    The old way of saying 'various' was 'divers' - I always remember a boy reading the scripture lesson at a school I taught at where the old version of the bible was used. The boy's puzzled air when suddenly some 'divers' made their appearance in his text was most amusing.
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    With the change in the currency, the old ways of pronouncing 'twopence' 'threepence' and 'a halfpenny' have disappeared - used to be 'tuppence,' 'thruppence' and 'ha'penny'.

    Well, of course, there's no need to use these terms in 'real life' but they survive in literature.

    Another example of the difficulties facing young people reading extracts in assemblies etc.
    Last edited by Ella Beck; Jan-19-2019 at 11:36.
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    The use of 'thank you' has diminished among the generations - people even up to the age of 'forty' say 'Cheers' instead.

    But for my baby-boomer generation, 'cheers' is what you say as you raise your glass in a toast.
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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Watt View Post
    I'll return to my dialectic use of Proper English, something that never really caught on.
    It's said to be the language of Kings and Queens, and judges and lawyers, but is it?
    Sure, some slang could be saying "divers", but that's just a local way of saying diverse,
    nothing about using scuba equipment.
    There is no such thing as 'proper English'.

    Linguists & philologists do distinguish between different varieties & registers of English, but they would use 'standard English' for the dominant variety of English in a specified region - there's no morality involved to make English proper or improper.

    As for 'divers' - it isn't slang English or local but the old standard English way of saying 'different' or 'diverse', used in the Authorised Version of the Bible, 1611 - a text still used in schools, but not always understood because many words, like divers, have become 'archaic', which is what this thread is about...

    So yes, of course there was no scuba diving involved!!! -
    That was the whole point of my joke!



    Last edited by Ella Beck; Jan-23-2019 at 18:31.
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  12. #12
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    Unfortunately the links you post are too out of date to be useful, and are not really relevant to the thread topic* (See Below).

    The 1939 primer would have been too simplistic for the sixth form college syllabus I taught 18 years ago, an Advanced Level course in English Language, dealing with trends, registers and structures.

    And Language Study has advanced and changed even further since then.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    * This thread is about what MIMF posters have observed about the language spoken by younger and older people around them - specifically, which usages have become 'archaic' or 'obsolete' in their lifetime.

    Last edited by Ella Beck; Feb-21-2019 at 16:22.
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    What I find interesting, as I observe the developments in British English, are that the changes in the slang vocabulary in vogue also show changes in attitude.

    Yesterday, for example, we were doing a cryptic crossword together and the answers to one of the questions was 'saddos' - defined by Google, a saddo is 'a person perceived as contemptible or pathetically inadequate'.

    It follows on from the use of the word 'sad' to mean nerdish, worthy of being mocked rather than 'sorrowful' or 'lamentable' or 'piteous'.

    To me, it suggests a sort of flippancy or callousness in attitudes which wouldn't have been found openly displayed before about twenty years ago.

    The younger generation are not, in general, callous, of course - but it does indicate a shift in sensibility. Maybe away from Victorian earnestness & back to eighteenth-century satire and cynicism.
    Last edited by Ella Beck; Feb-21-2019 at 09:56.
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Watt View Post
    If you were playing "Scrabble", would you allow "saddo" as a word?
    When it comes to wordage, that's my bottom line.
    You can find anything and anywhere you want on Google.
    I know where that name came from.
    Anyone who is interested in the replies they get here, who doesn't know,
    would surely ask. I doubt anyone could find that answer online, American online,
    which is what we all are using, their "world wide web", www.
    If you think the Americanized form of English is undesirable,
    wait until you get into American military humour, aah, sorry, humor.
    Would I allow 'saddo' as a word in Scrabble - of course, because it's in the Official Scrabble Word Book.

    In the rest of your answer, and in the lengthy post above it, you seem to have (once again) missed the point I made, and the point of the whole thread.

    It's about particular usages which have superseded others which have now become obsolete.
    Not about language in general.

    If you are unable or unwilling to contribute to the thread in the spirit of the Original Post and Thread Title, then why not start your own thread called 'John Watt's Ruminations about the English Language'?

    Then you could pontificate about your predilections to your heart's content.
    Last edited by Ella Beck; Feb-21-2019 at 22:47.
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    'Whatever' - that's something that made its way into British English in the 1990s - it's flippant and dismissive, but I have to admit, it does have its charms on occasion.

    However, it seems to be an older usage in America.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whatever_(slang)

    Fascinating, as Mr Spock would say.
    Last edited by Ella Beck; Feb-21-2019 at 20:54.
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