The Routes of English
March 28, 2006 10:24 AM   Subscribe

The Routes of English on BBC Radio 4 tells the story of spoken english. If that's not enough for you, you can test your knowledge, learn about the spread of the language, play games (Do you know where 'ketchup' originates?) Check out the Q&A. Learn about Churchill's roar. Then check out the related links. Most sound clips are in RealPlayer format. Real Alternative here.
posted by blue_beetle (9 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Inspired by this MetaTalk thread.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:25 AM on March 28, 2006

I heard once that Churchill's "We shall fight them on the beaches" speech used almost entirely Anglo-Saxon words to add a sort of boldness to it. I don't have time to listen to the BBC thing on his "roar", but does anyone know anything about this?
posted by borkingchikapa at 11:10 AM on March 28, 2006

The analysis of "We shall fight them on the beaches" in the Roar report stresses more that he uses short words, not where they come from.

Thanks for the link to this Churchill report. I've been reading Alone because of this recommendation and it's great to hear spoken bits of the speeches quoted in that book.
posted by sohcahtoa at 11:29 AM on March 28, 2006

I have long wanted to do a post on how Bishop Robert Lowth damaged impacted the language with his Short Introduction to English Grammar. One of the things holding me back has been difficulty in finding an online copy. Given its importance and its obvious lapse of copyright that surprises me. Bishop Lowth is infamous for forcing English into Latin grammar construction despite the differences between the languages. German, a language with similar roots to English, evolved into a highly structured and logical, if not somewhat complex, language. That is, it has rules and they are ruthlessly followed. English has rules and they are ruthlessly excepted. Blame Bishop Lowth and his prescriptive grammar. With the passing of Roman and French as official languages and languages of the upper classes efforts were made to provide rules of grammar to what had been a vernacular language. Lowth's efforts were among the most influential. Alas, I will probably never find time to do the topic justice. Perhaps someone else already knows enough about Lowth to fill us in.
posted by caddis at 11:38 AM on March 28, 2006

Very cool stuff blue_beetle. I've often been more than inarticulate in trying to explain why English is the way it is--a mess born out of its conflicting Germanic and Romance roots. But the simple use of maps in the third link is really nice.

Caddis, that's interesting stuff too. I hope you find time to make an FPP out of it.
posted by bardic at 1:11 PM on March 28, 2006

Cool stuff, thanks. I've always enjoyed the cadence of Churchhill's manner of speech; Nice to hear a whole program about it.
posted by Gamblor at 1:41 PM on March 28, 2006

When I took Anglo-Saxon, I was amazed to find out that most of the stuff I was taught was irregular in English wasn't. Like most of the irregular verbs are actually regular Anglo-Saxon verbs of one kind or another.

Modern English makes a lot more sense after you study Anglo-Saxon and French. And toss out Bishop Lowth and all his spawn.
posted by QIbHom at 2:34 PM on March 28, 2006

Paet was gode cyning!
posted by bardic at 2:56 PM on March 28, 2006

The Churchill reference is attributed to Melvyn Bragg, either in his book The Adventure of English or the TV series (ITV) on which it was based. I found the following quote, which I recall from the TV series, but couldn't find it in a search of the text of the book.

“Like Henry V and Elizabeth I, Winston Churchill, at a time of great peril to England, addressed the moment in the country’s ancestral tongue. In 1940 he told apprehensive Britons “We shall fight them on the beaches, we shall fight them on the landing grounds, we shall fight them in the fields and in the streets, shall fight in the hills: we shall never surrender”. Every word is Old English save one: ‘surrender’ is French.”

The quote above is from an article printed in the Sydney Morning Herald (but not online), that a couple of bloggers posted online. They liked the French reference.
posted by bright cold day at 4:49 PM on March 28, 2006

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