In some ways, the English language behaves like a living organism. It seems to have a life of its own. It’s in constant change triggered by new discoveries, trends, fashions, inventions and what have you. As older generations hand over the baton to younger generations, the language renews itself. Old becomes new, then old, and new again in a never-ending cycle.
For example, if somebody asked you to go to a department store and buy a grip or a hand grip. I’ll bet you would be perplexed. What is a grip? Well, back in the good old days, that’s what they called a suitcase, for crying out loud.
Another example would be hiding an iPhone under a davenport. What in the heck is that? Well, during the forties a davenport was a couch or large sofa. The word peaked in 1930 and early 1940 and dropped off very sharply after that.
A sheeny or sheenie was a derogatory word used to identify a Jew. It was a contemptuous term for a Jewish person. Its roots date back to 1810-1820. The slur peaked shortly before the end of World War II and now is seldom used.
As a language evolves, words, phrases, and even whole tenses fall in and out of fashion. And then, every once in a while, a whole new way of expressing a particular thought will emerge seemingly out of nowhere and eventually win the day. That’s what happened over the course of the 19th century with the “progressive passive,” which took on a construction known as the “passival” and muscled it completely out of the English language.
By progressive passage construction in English, you mean an action that continues in time. It suggests an ongoingness; something in progress. For example: The house is being built. It is not finished yet, it’s being built. We understand that, and it is the proper way to say that an action is still in progress. But in “Old English” it was not the civilized way to write. The pure English grammar was the passival which a little bit confusing. Charles Dickens would write it this way: The street lamps were lighting. Another correct use of the passival construction is: The house is building, The house in on building, or The house is o’building.
Enormous discussions took place between those who defended the passival against the emerging progressive passive English grammar. With the passing of time the passival followed the way of the Dodo.
I learned these English lessons by listening to a podcast produced by Lexicon Valley property of Slate Magazine, which was recently sent to me by a dear friend. The title of the podcast is “When Being Done Replaced Doing.” The link provides twelve interesting English lessons which are a fun and exciting way to learn English, which is a tough cookie, as many of you well know. I’ve been trying to break the code for most of my life, but still consider that there’s a lot of wood to chop. Best of luck with your English lessons. Good Day.