Obsolete & Archaic

Ella Beck

Member
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'.
 
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Ella Beck

Member
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.
 
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Ella Beck

Member
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! :)
 

John Watt

New member
You're lucky that's all it is.
Here in North America, your font can be changed to conform to American standards.
You might be able to delete it and by typing it again get what you want to say to stick,
but that's not good. I want to use 's and s', not just s' all the time.
If I'm trying to be poetic sometimes I can't.
And that's on top of knowing Proper English, as awe-full as that can be.

Anthropologists say that during the times of Shakespeare in England,
the average person used over 14,000 variations of words during one day.
Here in North America, most people speak using less than two hundred words a day.
And during Shakespeares' feudal era, tenants met about two hundred different people in a lifetime.
I hafta laird that o'er ye.
 
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Ella Beck

Member
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... :)
 

elderpiano

New member
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.

 
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John Watt

New member
I'm seeing what Ella Beck is saying about a lie-in becoming a lay in,
but her description of it being a weekend activity is new to me.
Around here, seniors and drug addicts say they're going for a lay-down.

Have you ever watched that TV show called "Outlander",
about an English woman after the second world war who visits standing stones,
and gets transported to a Scotland that is over two hundred years ago?
I just watched the first year and it's playing games with my vocabulary,
and you hear Gaelic in there quite often.
I was surprised to see my favorite American soundtrack artist, Bear McCreary,
doing the music for that show. He first hit it big with "Sons of Anarchy".
 

Ella Beck

Member
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/entertainment/archive/2016/11/the-evolution-of-like/507614/
 

Ella Beck

Member
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. :)
 

Ella Beck

Member
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.
 
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Ella Beck

Member
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.
 

John Watt

New member
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.
Here in North America, seeing Prime Ministers and Presidents using social media,
Proper English and General English are being subverted and perverted,
anything to create a sensational reaction, as promotion, or anger and hate as a genre.
YouTube has to delete a lot of comments to President Donald Trump videos,
because they are so racist, full of anger and hate.

Now, I'm not specifying one word as being used in a modern way as changing it,
but seeing statements being made that are creating a modern backlash, saying fake news.
News reports are saying that government employees, from the F.B.I. to the Coast Guard,
to people who are teachers and security workers at airports and ports of entry,
are starting to use food banks to feed themselves and their families.
How real does that sound to you?
Do you really think an American employee with high profile jobs like that,
after thirty days of a government shut-down, don't have money to feed themselves?
How smart and organized is an F.B.I. agent if they haven't saved any money up?

If I was going to be nostalgic for any kind of English slang,
it would be all those Carnaby Street videos and fashion advertisements.
This reminds me of sitting around with other musicans,
trying to figure out what Mick Jagger was singing. That was never nice.
Oh no... I've got to go... I'm starting to hear Little Pip calling out...
I don't want Ella Beck to give me the dickens.
 

Ella Beck

Member
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!!! - :grin:
That was the whole point of my joke!



 
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John Watt

New member
For me, as to my upbringing, Proper English has a more important aspect to it, not just the language.
When you speak Proper English you mean what you say and you say what you mean.
I can agree with your use of "Standard English", when I was taught General English.
Beginning over 2,000 years ago, there is the Royal Scottish Register and the General Scottish Register.
That's where my use of general comes from.

Here's a scan I burned just for you, showing an Americanized version.
This is a booklet first published in 1939 in Wichita, Kansas.

Plain English.jpg

Somewhere, deep in these forums, you mention being the only woman who is currently posting.
I might be thinking of you as a woman,
but this video illustrates the world you refer to, when you talk about disappearing language.
And it's about a marriage.
Don't worry. I'm not going to ask you if you recognize anyone.


 

Ella Beck

Member
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.

 
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Ella Beck

Member
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. :)
 
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John Watt

New member
I can only imagine that when you say the links I post are too out of date to be useful, and aren't relevant, it's directed at me.
You might be forgetting I'm not in England, as a cultural reference, I'm in North America, the Niagara Peninsula.
When does irrelevance become obsolete, and when does obsolete become archaic?
And for me, somewhere in there, is the collectable and antique.

While I can appreciate your reference to language study, creating an Americanized form of English is different.
For me, as a North American, that makes General English, or Standard English, obsolete, with English history as archaic.
As far as Proper English being about legal and personal responsibility, American English is about plausible deniability.

I'm not going to get into a treatise about what callous means, thinking of it in medical terms myself,
but for me, "Victorian earnestness" is more about the ladies of langour and the Chinese opium war and tea from India.
The younger generation is an age bracket, but I see "a sort of flippancy or callousness" as being texting and hand-held device use,
not generational, but technology users.

Here's another scan of this American Plain English handbook.
It might not be a best seller, but if American politicians, judges, lawyers and civil servants used it,
it was very influential.
I'm having a difficult time deciding which page to scan, so I'm using an obvious one with Shakespeare.
As you can see, they are equating Shakespeare with Italian sonnets, something you might boo-hoo about.
Here in North America, it is generally understood that Shakespeare used the book "Tales of the Decameron",
by Giovanni Boccaccio, as the basis for his writing style and plot lines.
As far as the American language being used to denigrate other countries,
saying Shakespeare wrote some of the Holy Bible is popular.

When you are supplying new technology to government employees, such as typewriters,
dictating what form of Americanized English you should use, and the desired standard of typing layouts,
you can subvert an entire history, not only of language, but of reality.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary and the Encyclopedia Britannica were first created by Scottish people.
I would call them authentic as for history, new discoveries and all global and scientific understandings.
Here in North America, Americans subverted that with the Websters' dictionary, saying Noah Webster, as if it was the same.
I can read about a Dr. James Watt in a new printing as authorized by President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher,
and see a man I don't know about, not his actual history at all.
When I showed that to friends they agreed, seeing such a short bio, but they said he looks like a family member of mine.

As far as modern English people acceding to American use of the former English language,
you can look at the attack on Grenada, a small island that had 147 soldiers with rifles,
by the United States of America and England, that they called a war, as proof of that.
Yes, it's only getting worse, sonnetising a little, when verse becomes adverse.


primer.jpg
 

John Watt

New member
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.
 

Ella Beck

Member
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. :cry:

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.
 
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