History of the English Language in 10 Minutes

As a teacher, I occasionally am forced to answer questions about the absolute idiosyncrasies of the English language, like “Why can patient mean a sick person in a hospital and to wait calmly, yet not be spelled differently, or have different pronunciations?” or “How come sheep is a non-pluralized noun, but not goat?”

When I have to answer these things, I am often reminded of several good poems, such as:

The Pronunciation Game
The English Lesson
A was for Apple pie

However, my old favorite is positively delightful: The History of English in Ten Minutes is a short animation chronicling the evolution of English, from its Anglo-Saxon roots to modern day LOL speak. A very entertaining watch!

“Where did the phrase ‘a wolf in sheep’s clothing’ come from? And when did scientists finally get round to naming sexual body parts? Voiced by Clive Anderson, this entertaining romp through ‘The History of English’ squeezes 1600 years of history into 10 one-minute bites, uncovering the sources of English words and phrases from Shakespeare and the King James Bible to America and the Internet. Bursting with fascinating facts, the series looks at how English grew from a small tongue into a major global language before reflecting on the future of English in the 21st century.” – The Open University

Have a look at the video below:

What are some of the odd things about English that you love/hate?

12 thoughts on “History of the English Language in 10 Minutes

  1. Hi Alex!
    I THOROUGHLY enjoyed the video.
    Really quirky presentation which had me chuckling from beginning to end. Clever and witty use of proverbs/idioms/ambiguity/acronyms/ and a host of other ‘devices’ to make a point about the ever-changing nature of language! And all with accompanying illustrations. Really effective!
    I love etymology and yes, the English language is both interesting and frustrating. 🙂

    Nice to meet you!
    Thanks for visiting my blog.
    I’ll see you around on the A to Z circuit.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My biggest frustration about the English language is when words are phonetically indecipherable – in other words, sounding it out would be a big mistake. Guarantee is one of the ones I hate the most…I’m always spelling it wrong because I want to write it the way it sounds in my head: garuntee. Thank goodness for spellchecker, but these types of words also make it very difficult to teach a kid to read and write. My daughter loves to show off how she can spell words, but occasionally she’ll run into a word with a ph instead of an f, or something that REALLY sounds like an s but is actually a c, and she’ll get super upset when I correct her. I don’t know how teachers deal with it, to be honest!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re more than welcome! Unfortunately, that channel doesn’t have a lot of nifty shorts, but TED-Ed does; I recommend following them on Youtube if you aren’t already. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by! I’m delighted to see you here!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. My first language is Spanish, which is a lot simpler to spell, even if it suffers from many of the same ailments English does. What often makes me laugh is how words I’ve only seen written but never heard, actually sound. What frustrates me is how quickly words are added to many dictionaries, or how the meaning of others is changed on what seems like a whim.

    As an old curmudgeon, I would prefer if dictionaries took the ‘let’s wait a decade, see if that word is still in use, then add it’ rather than the ‘oh shiny, let’s put that in right now, I’ve heard it three times already so it’s totally used by everyone (and their cat)’ approach.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes! When I grew up, I always pronounced “colonel” as ko-low-nel, instead or ker-nel. I didn’t believe my brother when he told me the proper pronunciation! At least in Japanese, it’s a phonetic alphabet, so everything really is spelled exactly like it sounds (though you might have a bit of trouble if you don’t know what the kanji means…)

      I agree with you about dictionaries, but also wish, on the other hand, that computer dictionaries for word processors would update already. All the time my computer is telling me I’ve spelled something wrong, making me doubt myself, and then it turns out that what I was trying to spell really IS a word, like “chipperly.”


  4. Wonderful video – amusing and lots of new things I didn’t know. I’ve tried learning other languages (Spanish, French) and have been reasonably successful, but there are other languages that have been daunting. I think, despite the idioms, words that sound alike but are spelling differently, words that are spelled the same but sound different, English is still relatively easy to learn. And it’s clearly very flexible. Still I wonder: mouse – mice, blouse – blice?


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