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Sherlock Holmes and English
Posted: 02 February 2013 01:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 151 ]
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Well, it’s just a WAG, but if a Hindu or Sikh married a Muslim, “Mahomet Singh” would be a conceivable (sorry) name for their offspring, would it not?  I don’t really know anything about Hindu, Sikh, or Muslim naming conventions, and perhaps it would be more typical for the child to either take on a “fully” Muslim name or a fully Hindu or Sikh one, but even if “Mahomet Singh” would be a cultural anomaly, it nonetheless seems possible that a person could end up with such a name. 

I have no idea if Doyle entertained a thought along these lines, or if he just picked two “Middle eastern sounding” names out of a hat…

[edit] I did a little googling, and found some Facebook and other social media accounts for people named “Muhammad Singh.” To compound my WAG with more WAGs, it appears to be more typical to see Muhammad + Singh in a name if either Muhammad or Singh is a middle name, but Muhammad Singh does not appear to be unheard of, at least today (which doesn’t, of course, prove that it was heard of in Doyle’s day or in the day in which this tale is set.)

[ Edited: 02 February 2013 06:05 PM by Svinyard118 ]
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Posted: 02 February 2013 05:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 152 ]
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("Spelt" in that quote throws me too.)

Why is that? Is “spelled” more common in the USA?

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Posted: 02 February 2013 05:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 153 ]
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Not only more common, but spelt is virtually unknown. Although my Oxford Canadian Dictionary of Current English lists it as a variant. (This is the kind of word I have to be careful to check when grading student papers.)

[ Edited: 02 February 2013 05:40 PM by Dave Wilton ]
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Posted: 02 February 2013 06:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 154 ]
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Interesting.

Spelled is only used in Aust Eng to mean “rested” (usu of a racehorse or sportsperson.)

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Posted: 02 February 2013 11:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 155 ]
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And speaking of Aust Eng, The Boscombe Valley Mystery includes (and indeed hinges upon) the Australianism “cooee”. Because of this, the mystery wasn’t very mysterious to this Australian reader.

This is a call used to announce one’s presence and to check whether anyone else is present. It derives from Dharuk, an aboriginal language.

It is also now used in the phrase “within cooee”, meaning “anywhere near”. It would normally be used in the negative, the interrogative or in a restrictive sense. “Is there a hospital within cooee of Oodnadatta?”, “It’s the only hospital within cooee of Oodnadatta”, “There isn’t a hospital within cooee of Oodnadatta” but not “That hospital is within cooee of Oodnadatta.”

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Posted: 03 February 2013 01:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 156 ]
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Interesting.  We used to say “cooee!” in children’s games all the time in the UK and South Africa. It’s often used in the UK but I didn’t suspect, till now, that it was Australian.

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Posted: 03 February 2013 04:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 157 ]
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I too didn’t realize it was Australian.

My spell (in the sense of “to give a break or rest") story is that none of the other students in one of my graduate Old English classes at Berkeley, all native speakers born and bred in various parts of the US, knew that sense of the word. The professor used it and everyone else was confused. It just goes to show that you can find pockets of people unfamiliar with common usages just about anywhere. Since the professor and I were about the same age and the other students quite a bit younger, it also made me wonder if there is a generational difference in the use of this sense of the verb and if it will be all but gone in a few decades.

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Posted: 03 February 2013 05:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 158 ]
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How common is the phrase “sit for a spell”?

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Posted: 03 February 2013 08:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 159 ]
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Not particularly in the UK nowadays.  Spelt as in flour is related to the verb spald, OE speld, to splinter.

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Posted: 03 February 2013 08:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 160 ]
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even if “Mahomet Singh” would be a cultural anomaly, it nonetheless seems possible that a person could end up with such a name.

Clearly, Svinyard118, you live in a very different social environment from early 19th century India.  I suppose in contemporary North America, Muslims and Sikhs can intermarry—either by civil marriage; or by one converting to the other’s religion --- without devastating social consequences. But I doubt if there was such a thing as civil marriage in India 180 years ago. No.  I think it far, far more likely that Conan Doyle just didn’t think too hard when he gave names to the Four (Not, by the way, “Middle-East- sounding names”: Indian names. There are today 160 million Muslims in India, and more than that number in Pakistan. And very few Hindus, or Sikhs, in the Middle East).

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Posted: 08 February 2013 06:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 161 ]
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In “The Man with the Twisted Lip”, the term “dollars” is used to mean money, generally.

Then again, examples of this are also found in the works of Shakespeare. Does seem somewhat catchier than “pounds”.

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Posted: 08 February 2013 07:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 162 ]
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Many countries denominate their currency in “dollars,” and this was also true, perhaps even more so, when Conan Doyle was writing. So it’s not surprising at all to see it as the generic term for currency, even well before the US dollar became the standard reserve currency.

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Posted: 09 February 2013 01:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 163 ]
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I didn’t know the word appears in Shakespeare (thanks, OP Tipping!), but there’s no reason why it shouldn’t - both the word “dollar” and the coin itself are several centuries old.
In the USA, the word “dollar” is often regarded as a slightly altered form of the Dutch word daalder, which derives from the German thaler, which in turn is an abbreviation of the word Joachimsthaler. These large silver coins were struck in the early 16th century at Joachimsthal in Bohemia, and were soon widely copied all over Europe. The Spanish silver pesos which circulated widely in the American colonies (and which served as the model for the US dollar), were commonly referred to, throughout the English-speaking world, as “dollars”. In the UK, the 5-shilling silver piece ("crown") has for centuries been referred to colloquially as a dollar. These coins were never very popular, and were not struck in large numbers—but the half-crown (2s. 6d.) was, and right up till the decimalization of UK currency, half-a-crown was more often than not referred to as “half a dollar”. 
As Dave says, it’s not surprising that the word “dollars” should have taken on the generic sense of “money”.

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Posted: 10 February 2013 03:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 164 ]
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As Dave says, it’s not surprising that the word “dollars” should have taken on the generic sense of “money”.

Especially as the Maria Theresia thaler was in continuous production from 1741 to 1962 (and is still in circulation in some remote parts of the world). There is no other coin that has been used as currency for so long and over such a wide geographical area. Certainly anyone in Conan Doyle’s time who had spent much time knocking about the wilder parts of the British Empire (such as Dr Watson), would have encountered the MTT; indeed, he would have been well advised to supply himself with some before setting out.

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Posted: 12 February 2013 07:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 165 ]
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"The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle”

Carbuncle is a somewhat loose, non-technical term but it usually refers to a garnet, or failing that, another non-precious red stone. In this story, it is a blue diamond.

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