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The halt and the lame

Posted by RRC on October 17, 2009 at 16:29

In Reply to: The halt and the lame posted by Smokey Stover on October 17, 2009 at 14:42:

: : : "The halt and the lame"

: : : I know the meaning, but have been unable to find the origin. It seems to be the only real use of "halt" with this meaning in modern usage.

: : It's a tautology ("halt" in this phrase being a synonym of "lame"). I suspect it is a misremembering of the various occurrences of "halt" in this sense in the King James Bible, e.g. Luke xiii.21, "The poor and the maimed and the halt and the blind".

: : Although "halt" as a noun or a verb is more or less obsolete, we do still sometimes say "halting" and "haltingly". (VSD)

: I vote for "less obsolete." It may be my imagination that the word is part of the living tongue, even if only in specialized (military?) or literary uses ("The bus came to a halt," "he had to halt his monologue to drink some water"). It's possible that for a younger generation, like that of Victoria, the word is as old-fashioned as sentinels saying, "Halt, who goes there?"

Yes, the "stop" meaning of halt is perfectly common. It is the meaning of lame or limping that is obsolete. Even Victoria's haltingly can be taken as "with stops" rather than "limpingly". Etymonline shows that halt (to limp) comes from an Old English word from a Germanic root, while we re-adopted halt (to stop) from French or Italian at a later time. So some might say they're not even the same word, just homphones/homographs.

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