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Lexical Leavings

by Tom Gally



I don't have access to a systematic corpus of English, so I use Google, which, while useful, doesn't offer all the search flexibility of corpus software and requires care when interpreting results. But one superiority of Google to some corpora is its inclusion of the historical texts that have found their way onto the Web. Several times I've been able to identify a particular expression as primarily historical because most or all of the Google hits were from old texts; I'm not sure if I could have drawn the same conclusion with other corpora.

One example was the phrase "to come to a period," meaning "to end." Here are the only relevant hits from the first page of Google results for "came to a period":
Tho' Malachi be the last of the prophets, and in him prophecy ceased: yet the spirit of prophecy shines as clear, as strong, as bright, in him, as in any that went before. The Jews call him the seal of prophecy, because in him the succession of prophets came to a period: God wisely ordering, that prophecy should cease, some ages before the Messiah came, that he might appear the more conspicuous, and be the more welcome. (John Wesley's Notes on the Bible, mid-18th century)

Hoshea was the last king of Israel; in him the whole kingdom was cut off and came to a period; it may refer either to him or to some of his predecessors that were cut off by treachery. (Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, 1712)

But what rendered the event of his death, in my opinion, the more remarkable, was, that I considered with him the last remnant of the old practice of managing the concerns of the town came to a period. For now that he is dead and gone, and also all those whom I found conjunct with him, when I came into power and office, I may venture to say, that things in yon former times were not guided so thoroughly by the hand of a disinterested integrity as in these latter years. (John Galt, The Provost, 1822)

From thence, we ran along still on a westerly course, marking several trees in ye range, or line as we went; untill we came to a period, or end of said line, between Westfield, Suffield Plantations; which was on ye east side of ye hill, on ye west side of the pine plain; where we marked a young white oak tree, and raised a heap of stones about it. ("a legall meeting of the Inhabitants of Suffield; December the 23: 1703")
Based on these results, I deleted the following example from an English-Japanese dictionary for beginning learners:
come to a period 終わりを迎える
(February 15, 2003)