Monday, September 23, 2013

History of English in 100 Words

The Story of English in 100 Words David Crystal.

Mead is an uncommon, old-fashioned drink. Back in its heyday (the 9th century) it was so popular, it permeated the English language. You would rest on a medu-benc (mead-bench) or medu-setl (mead-seat). You might live in medu-burh (a place known for its mead drinkers). You’d walk on the medu-stig (path to the mead hall) and maybe, you might even get medu-dream (mead-joy.) Not only does this tell us of the role Mead played back in the day, remnants still remain (or do you not use a whiskey glass for what comes out of the whisky decanter?)

Is Garage pronounced “garahge” “GArahge” or “GARridge”? Part of it is location, part of it is social class, but the accepted pronunciations have shifted over the years. A look at the BBC list of “standard” pronunciations makes that clear.

Crystal looks at 100 words, their history, and how they stand-in for larger trends in the development on English as a language.

I liked how he broke it up in 100 words, making it more manageable, using certain words to speak for larger trends and issues. I also really liked the parts on how history changed the language--the Norman conquest did a lot, as did globalization, and, of course, American English and our cultural exports have radically changed it as well.

Overall, a fun and short look at our crazy language.

Book Provided by... my local library

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1 comment:

Sonetka said...

And if you were very unlucky, you lived in Meduseld and got ripped apart by Grendel!