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In Old and Middle English, the suffix “-meal” (which meant a “measure”) was used to form compound adverbs.

Long-dead examples include “fingermeal” and “footmeal,” units of measure about equal to the breadth of a finger or the length of a person’s foot.

Contrast Older Than They Think, which goes the other way.

"The unusual thing about Russia is that it reached cultural maturity in the nineteenth century.

Some neologisms can be mistaken for being very old as well.

Compare Lost in Imitation (well-known elements of a story are a lot more recent than the story itself), The Newest Ones in the Book.

See also Dead Unicorn Trope, where a trope that is thought of as old and Clich wasn't actually present in the original work.

The , King Alfred’s ninth-century translation of a sixth-century work by Pope Gregory: “Ne fæst se no Gode ac him selfum, se þe ðæt nyle ðearfum sellan ðæt he ðonne on mæle læfð, ac wile hit healdan eft to oðrum mæle, ðæt he eft mæge his wambe gefyllan” (“He fasts not for God but for himself, who will not give the poor what he leaves of his meal, but wishes to keep it for another meal, to fill his belly with it afterwards.”) Very soon, “meal” was used more widely in Old English to mean the food itself.

Jumping ahead a millennium or so, someone without the time or inclination to eat an actual meal might “piece” instead—that is, nibble casually or eat small pieces of this or that.

Etymologically it means “by piece measure.” But not many people realize this, since it’s the last remaining example in English of a word formed with the obsolete suffix “-meal,” according to John Ayto’s .

And as we’ll explain later, both parts of the word have connections with eating.

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