The English language begins with the phrase
‘Up Yours Caesar!’ as the Romans leave Britain
and a lot of Germanic tribes start flooding in, tribes such as the Angles and the Saxons
– who together gave us the term Anglo-Saxon, and
the Jutes – who didn’t. The Romans left some very straight roads behind,
but not much of their Latin language. The Anglo-Saxon vocab was much more useful
as it was mainly words for simple everyday things like ‘house’, ‘woman’, ‘loaf’
and ‘werewolf’. Four of our days of the week – Tuesday, Wednesday,
Thursday and Friday were named in honour of Anglo-Saxon gods, but they didn’t
bother with Saturday, Sunday and Monday as they had all gone off for a long weekend.
While they were away, Christian missionaries stole in bringing with them leaflets about
jumble sales and more Latin.
Christianity was a hit with the locals and made them much happier to take on funky new
words like ‘martyr’, ‘bishop’ and ‘font’.
Along came the Vikings, with their action-man words like ‘drag’, ‘ransack’, ‘thrust’
and ‘die’, and a love of pickled herring. They may have
raped and pillaged but there were also into ‘give’ and ‘take’ – two of around
2000 words that they gave English, as well as the phrase
‘watch out for that man with the enormous axe.’