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Posted by Smokey Stover on September 24, 2007

In Reply to: New-fangled posted by William Cooper on September 24, 2007

: What is the origin of the phrase, "new-fangled"?

Interesting question, hard to answer. The Oxford English Dictionary reports the etymology of newfangle (adj.) as: new + "an otherwise unattested adjective (prob. with the sense 'inclined to take')". Newfangle has been used as an adjective from the 12th century on, first with the sense "caught up with a new experience" or inclined to be so caught up. Later it came to mean keen on new things or novelty, carried away by whatever is new. From about the 15th century on it alternates with newfangled, meaning the same thing.

Nowadays it is often used humorously to mean "Mewly or recently invented or existent, novel; gratuitously or objectionably modern or different from what one is used to" (OED).

It is often confusing to see the word in old texts, since the modern meaning is so ingrained in most English readers. But that sense just doesn't work in the old texts.

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