Voiced by comedian Clive Anderson, this entertaining romp through the history of English squeezes 1,600 years of history into 10 one-minute clips. Bursting with fascinating facts, the clip collection looks at how English grew from a regional tongue into a major global language before reflecting on the future of English in the 21st century.
Video clips include…
• Anglo-Saxon: The Angles and the Saxons came up with the everyday words we really needed, such as house, loaf, and the days Tuesday through Friday. But if you wanted action words like ransack, drag, or die, you had to go to the experts: the Vikings!
• The Norman Conquest: William the Conqueror brought plenty of French concepts with him in 1066, including judge, jury, evidence, and justice. And the French had plenty of fancy words for food, beginning a tradition of confusing menus.
• Shakespeare: Was Shakespeare just making it all up? Over the course of his career, he invented some 2,000 new words and phrases, ranging from “eyeball” and “alligator” to “dead as a doornail” and “good riddance”! (We can also thank him for “hobnob,” “dauntless,” and “besmirch.”)
• The King James Bible: A team of scribes translated the Bible in the 1600s, “going the extra mile” to create a book that could be “all things to all men” and that even “the salt of the earth” could understand.
• The English of Science: When scientists get together, they can discover things faster than we came name them! Words like “acid,” “gravity,” and “electricity”—not to mention terms for people’s private parts—had to be invented to stop their meetings from turning into endless games of charades. Contains clinically explicit language.
• English and Empire: While communicating its language to the world, England brought many interesting words back home, including “barbeque,” “canoe,” “bungalow,” and “zombie.”
• The Age of the Dictionary: With English expanding in all directions, along came a new breed of men called lexicographers who wanted to put an end to this “anarchy”—a term they defined as “what happens when people spell words slightly differently from each other.”
• American English: Is “real” English the oldest version or the most popular version? Words such as “fall,” “faucet,” and “candy” were original English words brought to colonial America, where they caught on, while in England the Brits moved on to “autumn,” “tap,” and “sweets.”
• Internet English: Since the first e-mail was sent in 1972, we’ve been typing new words. Conversations shortened along with attention spans, leaving us more time to “blog,” “poke,” and “reboot.” “BTW,” how can LOL mean both “laugh out loud” and “lots of love”?
• Global English: Whether travelling by the high seas or high speed broadband, English has absorbed words form more 350 languages. And English has made plenty of friends among speakers of Hindi, Singaporean, and Chinese, creating Hinglish, Singlish, and Chinglish. Should English still be called “English”?
Produced by the Open University. (11 minutes)