The History of English in 10 Minutes – Sub ENG


The History of English
In Ten Minutes Chapter One
Anglo-Saxon Or “Whatever happened to the Jutes?” 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 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 from latin like ‘martyr’, ‘bishop’ and ‘font’. Along came the Vikings, with their action-man words like ‘drag’, ‘ransack’,
‘thrust’ and ‘die’, 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.’ Chapter Two
The Norman Conquest Or “Excuse my English” True to his name, William the Conqueror invades England, bringing new concepts from
across the channel like the French language, the Domesday book and the duty free Galois’s multipack. French was de rigeur
for all official business, with words like ‘judge’, ‘jury’,
‘evidence’ and ‘justice’ coming in and giving
John Grisham’s career a kick-start. Latin was still used ad
nauseam in Church, but the common man spoke English able to communicate only by speaking more slowly and loudly until the others understood him. Words like ‘cow’, ‘sheep’ and ‘swine’ come from the English-speaking farmers, while the a la carte versions – ‘beef’, ‘mutton’ and ‘pork’ – come from the French-speaking toffs — beginning a long running trend for restaurants having completely indecipherable menus. All in all the English absorbed about ten thousand new words form the Normans though they still couldn’t grasp
the notion of cheek kissing. The bonhomie all ended when the English nation took their new warlike lingo of
‘armies’, ‘navies’ and ‘soldiers’ and began the Hundred Years War against France. It actually lasted 116 years but by that point no one could
count any higher in French and English took over
as the language of power Chapter 3
Shakespeare As the dictionary tells us
about 2000 new words and phrases were invented by William
Shakespeare He gave us handy words like ‘eyeball’,
‘puppydog’ and ‘anchovy’ and more showoffy words like
‘dauntless’, ‘besmirch’ and ‘lacklustre’ He came up with the word ‘alligator’ soon after he ran off of things
to rime with crocodile And a nation of tea drinkers
finally took him to their hearts when he invented the ‘hobnob’ Shakespeare knew the power of
catch phrases as well as biscuits Without him we’d never heard our
flesh and blood out of house and home we’d have to say good riddance
to the green eyed monster and breaking the ice would be
as dead as a doornail If you tried to get your money’s
worth you’d be given short shrift and anyone who laid it on
with a trowel could be hoist with his own petard of course, it’s possible other people
used these words first but the dictionary writers liked
looking them up in Shakespeare, because there was more crossdressing and people poking each other’s eyes out. Shakespeare’s poetry showed the
world that English was a rich, vibrant language with limitless expressive and emotional power and he still had time to open all
those tea rooms in Stratford. Chapter four
The King James Bible Or “Let there be light reading” In 1611 “the powers that be” “turned the world upside down” with a “labour of love” a new translation of the bible. A team of scribes with the “wisdom of Solomon” “went the extra mile” to make King James’s translation “all things to all men”, whether from their ‘heart’s desire’ ‘to fight the good fight’ or just for the ‘filthy lucre’. This sexy new Bible went “from strength to strength” getting to ‘the root of the matter’ in a language even
“the salt of the earth” could understand. “The writing wasn’t on the wall”, it was in handy little books and with “fire and brimstone” preachers reading from it in every church, its words and phrases ‘took root’ ‘to the ends of the earth’ well at least the ends of Britain. The King James Bible is the book
that taught us that “a leopard can’t change its spots”, that “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”, that ‘a wolf in sheep’s clothing’ is harder to spot
than you would imagine and how annoying it is to have ‘a fly in your ointment’. In fact, just as
“Jonathan begat Meribbaal; and Meribbaal begat Micah”, the King James Bible
begat a whole glossary of metaphor and morality that still shapes the way
English is spoken today. Amen. Chapter V
The English of Science or how to speak with gravity Before the 17th century,
scientists weren’t really recognized possibly because labcoats had yet to catch on. But suddenly Britain was full of
physicists: there was R. Hooke R. Boyle and even some people not
called Robert, like Isaac Newton. The royal society was formed out
of the invisible college after they put it down somewhere
and couldn’t find it again. At first they worked in Latin.
After sitting through Newton’s story about the ‘pomum’
falling to the ‘Terra’ from the ‘arbor’ for the umpteenth
time, the bright sparks realized they all spoke English and they
could transform our understanding of the Universe much quicker by
talking in their own language. But Science was discovering things
faster than they could name them: words like ‘acid’, ‘gravity’,
‘electricity’ and ‘pendulum’ had to be invented just to stop their
meetings turning into an endless game of charades. Like teenage boys, the scientists
suddenly became aware of the human body conying new words like ‘cardiac’,
‘tonsil’, ‘ovary and ‘sternum’ and the invention of ‘penis’ and
‘vagina’ made sex education classes a bit easier to follow, though
‘Clitoris’ was still a source of confusion Chapeter VI
English and Empire Or “The sun never sets on the English Language” With English making its name
as the language of science, the Bible and Shakespeare, Britain decided to take it on tour. Asking only for land, wealth, natural resources, total obedience to the crown and a few local words in return. They went to the Caribbean looking for gold and a chance to really unwind discovering the “barbeque”, the “canoe” and a pretty good recipe for rum punch. They also brought back the word ‘cannibal’ to make their trip sound more exciting. In India there was something for everyone. ‘Yoga’ — to help you stay in shape, while pretending to be spiritual. If that didn’t work there was the “cummerbund” to hide a paunch and, if you couldn’t even make it up the stairs without turning “crimson” they had the “bungalow”. Meanwhile in Africa they picked up
words like ‘voodoo’ and ‘zombie’ kicking off the teen horror film From Australia, English took the words ‘nugget’,
‘boomerang’ and ‘walkabout’ and in fact the whole
concept of chain pubs. All in all between toppling Napoleon
and the first World War, the British Empire gobbled up
around 10 millions square miles, 400 million people and nearly
a hundred thousand gin and tonics, leaving new varieties of English
to develop all over the globe. Chapter VII
The age of the dictionary or the definition of a
hopeless task. With English expanding in all
directions, along came a new breed of men called lexicographies who wanted to put an end to this
anarchy, a word they defined as what happens when people spell
words slightly differently from each other. One of the greatest was
dr. Johnson whose dictionary of the English Language took him
nine years to write. He was 18″ tall and contained
42773 entries meaning that even if you couldn’t read, it was still
pretty useful if you wanted to reach an high shelf. For the first time when people
were calling you a ‘pickleherring’, a ‘jobbernowl’
or a ‘fopdoodle’, you could understand exactly what they
meant and you’d have the consolation of knowing they
all used the standard spelling Try as he might to stop them,
words kept being invented and in 1857 a new book was started that would become
the Oxford English Dictionary. It took another 70 years to be finished after the first editor resigned
to be an Archbishop, the second died of TB and the third was so boring
that half his volunteers quit and one of the ended up in an Asylum. It eventually appeared in 1928 and has
continued to be revised ever since proving the whole idea that you can stop people
making up words is complete snuffbumble Chapter VIII
American English Or “Not English but Somewhere in the ballpark” From the moment Brits landed in America
they needed names for all the plants and animals so they borrowed words like ‘raccoon’,
‘squash’ and ‘moose’ from the Native Americans, as well as most of their territory. Waves of immigrants fed
America’s hunger for words. The Dutch came sharing
‘coleslaw’ and ‘cookies’ probably as a result of their
relaxed attitude to drugs. Later, the Germans arrived
selling ‘pretzels’ from ‘delicatessens’ and the Italians arrived with their
‘pizza’, their ‘pasta’ and their ‘mafia’, just like mamma used to make. America spread a new
language of capitalism getting everyone worried about the
‘breakeven’ and ‘the bottom line’, and whether they were
‘blue chip’ or ‘white collar’. The commuter needed a whole new system of
‘freeways’, ‘subways’ and ‘parking lots’ and quickly, before words like
‘merger’ and ‘downsizing’ could be invented. American English drifted
back across the pond as Brits ‘got the hang of’ their ‘cool movies’,
and their ‘groovy’ ‘jazz’. There were even some old forgotten
English words that lived on in America. So they carried on using ‘fall’,
‘faucets’, ‘diapers’ and ‘candy’, while the Brits moved on to ‘autumn’,
‘taps’, ‘nappies’ and NHS dental care. Chapter IX
Internet English Or “Language reverts to type” In 1972 the first email was sent. Soon the Internet arrived, a free global
space to share information, ideas and amusing pictures of cats. Before then English changed
through people speaking it but the net brought
typing back into fashion and hundreds of cases
of repetitive strain injuries. Nobody had ever had to ‘download’
anything before, let alone use a ‘toolbar’ And the only time someone
set up a ‘firewall’, it ended with a massive insurance claim
and a huge pile of charred wallpaper. Conversations were getting shorter
than the average attention span why bother writing a sentence
when an abbreviation would do and leave you more time to ‘blog’, ‘poke’ and
‘reboot’ when your ‘hard drive’ crashed? ‘In my humble opinion’ became IMHO,
‘by the way’ became BTW and ‘if we’re honest that life-threatening accident was pretty hilarious!’
simply became ‘fail’. Some changes even passed
into spoken English. For your information people
frequently asked questions like “how can ‘LOL’ mean ‘laugh out loud’
and ‘lots of love’? But if you’re going to complain
about that then UG2BK. Chapter X
Global English Or “Whose language is it anyway?” In the 1500 years
since the Roman’s left Britain, English has shown an unique ability to
absorb, evolve, invade and, if we’re honest, steal. After foreign settlers got it started, it grew
into a fully-fledged language all of its own, before leaving home and travelling
the world, first via the high seas, then via the high speed broadband connection,
pilfering words from over 350 languages and establishing itself
as a global institution. All this despite a written alphabet
that bears no correlation to how it sounds and a system of spelling that even
Dan Brown couldn’t decipher. Right now around 1.5 billion
people speak English. Of these about a quarter are native speakers,
a quarter speak it as their second language, and half are able to ask for
directions to a swimming pool. There’s Hinglish
which is Hindi-English, Chinglish
which is Chinese-English and Singlish
which is Singaporean English and not that bit when
they speak in musicals. So in conclusion, the language has got so little
to do with England these days it may well be time to
stop calling it ‘English’. But if someone does think up a new name for it,
it should probably be in Chinese.

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