Posts Tagged ‘English’

English Stew

Posted in General, On This Day on October 14th, 2011 by Eugene Finerman – Be the first to comment

October 14, 1066Normandy’s Duke William the Bastard improves his nickname.  Furthermore, the imposition of Norwegian-accented French spares the English language from having umlauts and sounding like a summer stock production of “The Student Prince”.

Every word has a story. We might assume that the English language emerged fully developed from a business lunch between William Shakespeare and Noah Webster. In fact, language evolves. Words migrate from one culture to another, and their meanings mutate and deviate over time. French is based on Latin slang, and English is a complete linguistic hodgepodge: the ripe fermentation of barbaric German, Norwegian-accented French, second-hand Greek and punchlines in Yiddish. Our language is an ongoing odyssey.

Two thousand years ago, there was no England or an English language. Britain and the Germanic dialect of the Angle-Saxons had yet to meet. The language of Roman Britain would have sounded like a Welshman singing Verdi. Fifteen hundred years ago, the Angle and Saxons, not wanting to miss out on the fall of the Roman Empire, invaded Britain and imposed themselves and their Germanic language on the Romanised-Celtic populace. The linguistic consequence is called Old English and would sound like a Welshman gargling.

Of course, as everyone should know, in 1066 the Normans conquered England and grafted their smorgasbord French onto English. That hybrid is called Middle English. Its vocabulary was a scramble of French and German, and the language still had that Germanic tendency to elongate words by pronouncing each and every letter as a s-y-l-l-a-b-l-e. Perhaps the Bubonic Plague gave people the incentive to speak quickly; for whatever reason, five hundred years ago, Modern-recognizable-English had evolved. If thou met William Shakespeare, thou could understandeth him. However, his accent might sound like an audition for The Beverly Hillbillies, and he would be just as dumbfounded by the alien syntax from your mouth.

And the evolution continues. Right, dude?