‘chain-smoker’: meaning and origin

1885—a person who smokes continually, typically by lighting a cigarette from the stub of the last one smoked—loan translation from German ‘Kettenraucher’—originally referred to Otto von Bismarck

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‘Nacht und Nebel’: meanings and origin

the name of a decree issued in Nazi Germany in December 1941, under which individuals suspected of resistance or other underground activities were arrested and deported suddenly and without trace, frequently during the night—by extension: any situation, event, etc., characterised by mystery, obscurity or secrecy

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linguistic notes on the ‘one’ in ‘alone’ and ‘only’

Why is the element one in words such as alone and only not pronounced like the numeral one? Both the indefinite article an (a before consonant) and the numeral one are from Old English ān—which has survived in Scotland as ane, used both as indefinite article and as numeral. This Old-English word ān meant a/an, one, […]

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