Tag Archives: Linguistics


A short history of the English langauge

By Richard K. Munro


Figure 1 United Kingdom of Great Britain since 1707


Figure 2  William Shakespeare


After the King James Bible, the most influential English works are the plays, poems and of William Shakespeare (1564-1616).  Shakespeare is probably the most translated English author in history.

But more than English speakers have reason to be grateful. If a British Council survey of 18,000 people across 15 countries is to be believed, Shakespeare is more appreciated by those in the developing nations (Brazilians, Chinese, Mexicans, Indians and Turks) than by his fellow British. Across the globe he boasts a favorability rating—76% of those surveyed said they liked him—that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton can only envy. [1]

Cole Porter memorably said:

Brush up your Shakespeare, start quoting him now
Brush up your Shakespeare and the women you will wow

Just declaim a few lines from “Othella”
And they’ll think, you’re a helluva of a fella
If your blonde won’t respond when you flatter ’er
Tell her what Tony told Cleopaterer
If she fights when her clothes, you are mussing
What are clothes? “Much Ado About Nussing”
Brush up your Shakespeare and they’ll all kowtow[2]

Shakespeare himself coined many new expressions and words and wove them all together in the most artistic and imaginable way possible. 

Polonius ……What do you read, my lord?
Hamlet.  Words, words, words.   HAMLET act 2, scene 2

An entire book could be written just on the words coined by Shakespeare but I think it is also true that he passed on or revived many traditional sayings which otherwise might have been lost and forgotten such as “Every dog has his day” (Hamlet, Act 5, scene 1), “the naked truth” (sonnet 103), “something in the wind” Comedy of Errors (Act 3, scene 1).  These are not original to Shakespeare but were certainly preserved and popularized by his works.  As strange as it may seem it was Shakespeare who invented the word “to educate”; prior to his time the word used was “breeding” which indicated informal home schooling rather than formal instruction.[3] Shakespeare also coined the expressions well-read, well-educated and well-bred.   Shakespeare used the term “ship-wrecked” for the first time and “skim milk.”  He also coined the words “far-off”, eyeball, to champion, basta! (enough), Academe (higher education), amazement, uncomfortable and addiction.  Here is a list of famous phrases from Shakespeare with their source.

Shakespeare quotationsourceCharacter ; commentary
“All the world’s a stage”AS YOU LIKE IT, act 2, scene 7Jacques; we are all “players” on the world stage
The be-all and the end-all” (Everything)MACBETH, Act 1, scene 7Something superlative or extreme a paragon; Hitler thought he was the be-all and the end-all. The Alpha and Omega.  
For goodness’ sake” consider what you do!   (WATCH IT!) interjectionHENRY THE EIGHTH, Act 3, scene 1= for God’s sake due to Puritan influence many Protestants stopped referring directly to Mary, God or the Saints.
“Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look, he thinks too much; such men are dangerous.”JULIUS CAESAR Act 1, scene 2Ironically Caesar sees through Cassius’ noble exterior but Mark Anthony does not. Caesar dies but Anthony survives.
Hath not a Jew eyes?” (has)THE MERCHANT OF VENICE Act 3 , scene 1Shylock says Jews are human too; both Shylock and the Christians have lessons to learn about forgiveness, humility and human decency.
green-eyed monster” (envy)OTHELLO, Act 3, scene 3Iago tells this to Othello and ironically will encourage him to think the fortunate man KNOWS his wife is cheating, the unlucky man only SUSPECTS it. Iago plants doubt in Othello’ s mind and later Othello will murder his wife.
  “good riddancemenudo alivio    TROILUS AND CRESSIDA Act 2, scene 1  “Thank God he’s gone” “What a relief!”
“..a forgone conclusion”OTHELLO, act 3, scene 3A predetermined outcome that anyone could have predicted.  If you don’t study or train the result is a forgone conclusion.
“let slip the dogs of war….”Julius Caesar Act 3, scene 1The dogs personify the terror of war.  The Spanish conquistadores uses mastiff’s to terrorize the Aztecs.  (mastín: perro enorme y feroz)
“..our dancing daysRomeo and Juliet Act 1, scene 5Days of youth and strength; a famous Irish song says “Indeed your dancing days are done, faith, Johnny, we hardly knew ye.”
brave new world” We don’t know if the future is going to be good or badThe Tempest Act 5, scene 1Prospero and his daughter Miranda are exiled on an uncharted island for years; this play was adapted into a classic science fiction movie:
”Forbidden Planet” (1956) Aldous Huxley wrote a famous novel about a future dystopia called Brave New World (1932)

Of course, this very brief overview of some famous quotations of Shakespeare cannot do justice to his greatness as an author.  The plays written by  Shakespeare  are the very greatest in English literature and Shakespeare himself is the only possible peer of the ancient Greek playwrights such as Aeschylus, Euripides and Sophocles and authors and poets such as Dante, Goethe and Cervantes.  People are terrified at the idea of Shakespeare because of the dark seriousness of some of his tragedies or histories.  But Shakespeare was also a popular poet and song writer and wrong many delightful comedies.  My own introduction into Shakespeare came “with a spoonful of sugar” when I saw “Kiss me Kate” by Cole Porter which features scenes from “The Taming of the Shrew.”  Then I believe one can appreciate some of his love songs and then the sonnets.  In the past it was very common to study famous soliloquies or scenes of Shakespeare.  In this very brief introduction to Shakespeare we will present several sonnets. 


Shakespeare wrote 154 sonnets. They have been called “the most profound and suggestive poetry in the world.”  They are of unsurpassed lyric beauty. A sonnet is a lyric poem of fourteen lines (originally Italian).  A Shakespearean sonnet has four basic divisions: three quatrains (four line stanzas), each with a rhyme of its own followed by a rhymed couplet (two lines of verse with similar end rhymes). The typical rhyme scheme for his sonnets is abab cdcd efef gg. [4] I note the influence of Latin poetry, particularly Horace and Ovid.  Shakespeare is said to have written these poems when he was on an enforced vacation from the Globe Theater themes in the 1590’s when the theaters were closed due to plague.  I imagine Shakespeare may have taken refugee on the country estate of a wealthy friend because of the bucolic background of the poems but as always we really know very little about the personal life of the Bard of Avon.   such as the passage of time, love, beauty and mortality. The first 126 sonnets by tradition,  are addressed to a handsome young man of high (noble) birth; the last 28 to  mysterious “dark woman.” [5]  There has been much controversy as to the identity of this “dark woman”; it is possible she was exotic beauty of Black, Latin[6] or Hispanic immigrant stock. [7] We really don’t know for sure who this person was or if she was a fictional creation of Shakespeare’s inspired by someone he knew, admired, loved or met.  Nonetheless, like Helen of Troy the Dark Lady is one of the great beauties of world literature. It would not be impossible that this woman was, perhaps, African or a mixed race person of North Africa or Mediterranean origin.  Shakespeare populated his plays with people from many countries and cultures and one of his most famous protagonists was Othello, an African Capitan in service of the Venetians.


Sonnet CXXX

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red, than her lips red:
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound:
I grant I never saw a goddess go, 
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
   And yet by heaven, I think my love as rare,
   As any she belied with false compare.[8]

(Summary: My lover’s eyes are not like the sun nor like red coral nor are her breast white like snow but dun (dark brown or swarthy). Her hair is like black wires.Her cheeks are not red like the rose. Her breath is not like perfume but reeks (perhaps of garlic?) I like her voice but let’s face it music is lovelier. I don’t know about goddesses but she walks on the ground like any woman. And yet I think her as sexy as any woman praised by false comparisons.)

Sonnet XVIII. 
“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” 

SHALL I compare thee to a summer’s day? 
Thou art more lovely and more temperate: 
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, 
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date: 
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,         5
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d; 
And every fair from fair sometime declines, 
By chance, or nature’s changing course untrimm’d; 
But thy eternal summer shall not fade, 
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,  10
Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade, 
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st; 
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see, 
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.[10] (SUMMARY: You are lovelier than a summer’s day and and more more temperate (neither hot nor cold) Summer days are short and may be spoiled by heat, clouds or heavy winds. Everything beautiful is beautiful only for a while.  But your summer will not fade. Your beauty will live forever in these poems.)

 Sonnet XXIX. 

“When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes” 

WHEN in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes 
I all alone beweep my outcast state, 
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries, 
And look upon myself, and curse my fate, 
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,         5
Featur’d like him, like him with friends possess’d, 
Desiring this man’s art, and that man’s scope, 
With what I most enjoy contented least; 
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising, 
Haply I think on thee,—and then my state,  10
Like to the lark at break of day arising 
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate; 
  For thy sweet love remember’d such wealth brings 
  That then I scorn to change my state with kings.[11]

Summary (When I think of my problems and failures, I weep and curse my bad luck. Envying those who seem to be better off than myself. But when I think of you and your love I sing at the gates of heaven and glory at my happiness and good luck.

                                       Sonnet CXVI. 

“Let me not to the marriage of true minds” 

LET me not to the marriage of true minds 
Admit impediments. Love is not love 
Which alters when it alteration finds, 
Or bends with the remover to remove: 
O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark,         5
That looks on tempests and is never shaken; 
It is the star to every wandering bark, 
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken. 
Love ’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks 
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;  10
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, 
But bears it out even to the edge of doom. 
  If this be error, and upon me prov’d, 
  I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.[12]

(SUMMARY When there is the joining of true minds. Let nothing come between them even if there is physical change or physical absence . Love is like a beacon light that is immovable in the storm the Pole Star to every travelling ship. Love’s not time’s slave even though youth and beauty will fade and be cut down by Father Time. True love lasts forever. If I am proved wrong in this I never wrote nor no man ever loved.)

Figure 3 ever fixed mark

Figure 4 Father Time with bending sickle

Figure 5 an old married couple

. .

Close behind influence to the Bible and Shakespeare was Samuel Johnson’s dictionary first published in fateful year of 1755.[13] His English dictionary which was according to Thomas Pyles “the most important linguistic event of the eighteenth century…for it to a large extent “fixed” English spelling and established a standard for the use of words.  The purpose was, in Johnson’s words, “to produce a dictionary by which the pronunciation of our language may be fixed, and its attainment facilitated; by which its purity may be preserved, its use ascertained and its duration lengthened.” Johnson’s use of illustrative quotations from a wide range of works –including technical and specialist manuals- was a notable innovation; there is no question Johnson understood, intuitively, the best way to understand and teach a word was by seeing it in context.    John said, “In all pointed sentences, some degree of accuracy must be sacrificed to conciseness.”[14]  His dictionary ran through five editions in his lifetime the fourth edition was in 1775.   Johnson’s Dictionary contains over 40,000 words, illustrated by approximately 114,000 quotations taken from every field of learning and literature reflecting a lifetime of wide-reading.  It is still highly readable[15] and Johnson’s quotations form a veritable anthology of classic English prose and poetry which helped define the Canon of English literature.   Johnson remains one of the most quotable English writers. Here are some examples:

That man is little to be envied whose patriotism would not gain force upon the plain of Marathon, or whose piety would not grow warmer among the ruins of Iona.
          Journey to the Western Islands: Inch Kenneth.
Sir, I think all Christians, whether Papists or Protestants, agree in the essential articles, and that their differences are trivial, and rather political than religious.[16]
          Life of Johnson (Boswell). 21 Vol. ii. Chap. v. 1763. Dictionaries are like watches; the worst is better than none, and the best cannot be expected to go quite true.           Johnsoniana. Piozzi, 178. Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.           Life of Johnson (Boswell). 44  Vol. v. Chap. ix. 1775.     It matters not how a man dies, but how he lives.           Life of Johnson (Boswell). 33 Vol. iii. Chap. iv. 1769.  
A Very Fine Cat

Figure 6 Hodge, Johnson’s cat[17]

 Johnson’s Dictionary became a standard authority in the English-speaking world and remained unrivalled until the appearance of the Oxford English Dictionary in 1888 until this present day.  [18]

Here are some examples of his definitions:

Distiller: One who makes and sells pernicious and inflammatory spirits.

Dull: Not exhilaterating (sic); not delightful; as, to make dictionaries is dull work.

Excise.  A hateful tax levied upon commodities

Oats: A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland appears to support the people.

Tory: One who adheres to the ancient constitution of the state, and the apostolical hierarchy of the church of England, opposed to a Whig.

Whig: The name of a faction. {Johnson was a Tory}

The German linguist John Christopher Adelung (1732-1806) examined Johnson’s Dictionary  The title of his essay about it, ‘On the Relative Merits and Demerits of Johnson’s English Dictionary’, admitted the shortcomings of Johnson’s work but he said ‘The merit of this Dictionary is so great, that it cannot detract from it, to take notice of some defects’, ‘Any man who is about to compose a dictionary, or rather a grammar of the English language, must acknowledge himself indebted to Mr. J. for abridging at least on half of his labour’.[19] In Vanity Fair, first published in book form in 1848 and set in the teens of the nineteenth century, Thackeray makes plain the established nature of Johnson’s Dictionary as a reference work. Miss Pinkerton, who constantly refers to Johnson, invariably presents the scholars departing from her academy for young ladies with a copy of the work (price two shillings and nine pence).  Chapter one ends with the anti-heroine, Becky Sharp, flinging her copy out of the carriage window back into the academy garden. Becky’s repudiation of the Dictionary is an act of rebellion equivalent to her parting cries of ‘Vive la France! Vive l’Empereur! Vive Bonaparte!’

The classical writers of 18th century (Gibbon, Pope, Swift, and Boswell) used a highly polished syntax and an elaborate vocabulary borrowing many words from French, Latin and Greek with many classical allusions.  Boswell’s Life of Johnson was a landmark in biography and preserved many anecdotes and quotations of Johnson himself. Pope made famous translations of Homer into verse plus wrote didactic poetry.   Gibbon wrote, perhaps, the greatest literary history in history,  The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776).

 Here are a few exemplary quotations from Gibbon:

If a man were called to fix the period in the history of the world, during which the condition of the human race was most happy and prosperous, he would, without hesitation, name that which elapsed from the death of Domitian to the accession of Commodus. The vast extent of the Roman empire was governed by absolute power, under the guidance of virtue and wisdom. The armies were restrained by the firm but gentle hand of four successive emperors, whose characters and authority commanded involuntary respect. The forms of the civil administration were carefully preserved by Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, and the Antonines, who delighted in the image of liberty, and were pleased with considering themselves as the accountable ministers of the laws. Such princes deserved the honor of restoring the republic, had the Romans of their days been capable of enjoying a rational freedom.[20]


Vicissitudes of fortune, which spares neither man nor the proudest of his works, which buries empires and cities in a common grave.[21]

Pope also is highly quotable:


A little learning is a dangerous thing; 1
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian[22] spring:
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.

Essay on Criticism. Part ii. Line 15

A needless Alexandrine ends the song,
That like a wounded snake drags its slow length along.
          Essay on Criticism. Part ii. Line 156.
True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,
As those move easiest who have learn’d to dance.
’T is not enough no harshness gives offence,—
The sound must seem an echo to the sense.           Essay on Criticism. Part ii. Line 162. The day shall come, that great avenging day
Which Troy’s proud glories in the dust shall lay,
When Priam’s powers and Priam’s self shall fall,
And one prodigious ruin swallow all.           The Iliad of Homer. Book iv. Line 196 Injustice, swift, erect, and unconfin’d,
Sweeps the wide earth, and tramples o’er mankind.           The Iliad of Homer. Book ix. Line 628.

Jonathan Swift  was the master of satire in the tradition of the Roman Juvenal in works such as A Modest Proposal (1729) and his famous Gulliver’s Travels (1726).


So geographers, in Afric maps,
With savage pictures fill their gaps,
And o’er unhabitable downs
Place elephants for want of towns. 1
          Poetry, a Rhapsody.

Wisdom is a fox who, after long hunting, will at last cost you the pains to dig out; it is a cheese which, by how much the richer, had the thicker, the homlier, and the coarser coat; and whereof to a judicious palate, the maggots are best. It is a sack posset, wherein the deeper you go, you’ll find it the sweeter. Wisdom is a hen, whose cackling we must value and consider, because it is attended with an egg. But lastly, it is a nut, which, unless you choose with judgment, may cost you a tooth, and pay you with nothing but a worm.[23]

GOOD manners is the art of making those people easy with whom we converse.  1
  Whoever makes the fewest persons uneasy is the best bred in the company. *** 
Therefore I insist that good sense is the principal foundation of good manners; but because the former is a gift which very few among mankind are possessed of, therefore all the civilized nations of the world have agreed upon fixing some rules for common behaviour, best suited to their general customs, or fancies, as a kind of artificial good sense, to supply the defects of reason. Without which the gentlemanly part of dunces would be perpetually at cuffs, as they seldom fail when they happen to be drunk, or engaged in squabbles about women or play. And, God be thanked, there hardly happens a duel in a year, which may not be imputed to one of those three motives. ***  8
  As the common forms of good manners were intended for regulating the conduct of those who have weak understandings; so they have been corrupted by the persons for whose use they were contrived. For these people have fallen into a needless and endless way of multiplying ceremonies, which have been extremely troublesome to those who practise them, and insupportable to everybody else: insomuch that wise men are often more uneasy at the over civility of these refiners, than they could possibly be in the conversations of peasants or mechanics.[24] 

Swift: “A Treatise on Good Manners and Good Breeding

“They name thee before me, 
A knell to mine ear; 
A shudder comes o’er me–
Why wert thou so dear?
They know not I knew thee, 
Who knew thee so well–
Long, long I shall rue thee, 
Too deeply to tell.

In secret we met–
In silence I grieve, 
That thy heart could forget, 
Thy spirit deceive 
If I should meet thee
After long years,
How should I greet thee?–
With silence and tears.”

from When We Two Parted, George Gordon, Lord Byron

Here is an example of modern (British) English.  The spelling is almost identical with American usage EXCEPT  for the use of “s” f rather than “z” in words like paralysed (sic) –paralyzed in American usuage and “-our” in “neighbour (sic) rather than “neighbor”.  Among  most productive English language authors of the modern era are Charles Dickens, George Bernard Shaw, Gilbert Keith Chesterton and Winston Churchill.

In Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens has one of the most famous and original introductions of any novel:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.

Here Dickens uses parallelism –repetition of the grammatical structure …it was….as well as antithesis (contrast)…LIGHT….DARKNESS…HOPE…DESPAIR)

Taken from Oliver Twist, 1838, by Charles Dickens:

The evening arrived: the boys took their places; the master in his cook’s uniform stationed himself at the copper; his pauper assistants ranged themselves behind him; the gruel was served out, and a long grace was said over the short commons. The gruel disappeared, the boys whispered each other and winked at Oliver, while his next neighbours nudged him. Child as he was, he was desperate with hunger and reckless with misery. He rose from the table, and advancing, basin and spoon in hand, to the master, said, somewhat alarmed at his own temerity—

“Please, sir, I want some more.”

The master was a fat, healthy man, but he turned very pale. He gazed in stupefied astonishment on the small rebel for some seconds, and then clung for support to the copper. The assistants were paralysed with wonder, and the boys with fear.

“What!” said the master at length, in a faint voice.

“Please, sir,” replied Oliver, “I want some more    .”

The master aimed a blow at Oliver’s head with the ladle, pinioned him in his arms, and shrieked aloud for the beadle.[25]

Here is Gilbert Keith Chesterton’s commentary on Dickens’s Oliver Twist.

In considering Dickens, as we almost always must consider him, as a man of rich originality, we may possibly miss the forces from which he drew even his original energy. It is not well for man to be alone. We, in the modern world, are ready enough to admit that when it is applied to some problem of monasticism or of an ecstatic life. But we will not admit that our modern artistic claim to absolute originality is really a claim to absolute unsociability; a claim to absolute loneliness. The anarchist is at least as solitary as the ascetic. And the men of very vivid vigour in literature, the men such as Dickens, have generally displayed a large sociability towards the society of letters, always expressed in the happy pursuit of pre-existent themes, sometimes expressed, as in the case of Molière or Sterne, in downright plagiarism. For even theft is a confession of our dependence on society. In Dickens, however, this element of the original foundations on which he worked is quite especially difficult to determine. This is partly due to the fact that for the present reading public he is practically the only one of his long line that is read at all. He sums up Smollett and Goldsmith, but he also destroys them. This one giant, being closest to us, cuts off from our view even the giants that begat him. But much more is this difficulty due to the fact that Dickens mixed up with the old material, materials so subtly modern, so made of the French Revolution, that the whole is transformed. If we want the best example of this, the best example is Oliver Twist.[26]

Eliza Doolittle

Figure 7Eliza Doolittle in Shaw’s Pygmalion

One of the funniest and most influential English language playwrights (he also wrote movie scripts) is George Bernard Shaw.   Here is a famous fragment of his play Pygmalion, which was filmed several times including in am musical version called My Fair Lady which uses much of the dialogue of the original play. It features Shaw’s simplified orthography and phonetic rendering of English dialects.  Here Professor Higgins meets his future student Eliza Doolittle:

All the rest have gone except the note taker, the gentleman, and the flower girl, who sits arranging her basket, and still pitying herself in murmurs. 
  THE FLOWER GIRL. Poor girl! Hard enough for her to live without being worrited and chivied. 
  THE GENTLEMAN [returning to his former place on the note taker’s left] How do you do it, if I may ask? 
  THE NOTE TAKER. Simply phonetics. The science of speech. Thats my profession: also my hobby. Happy is the man who can make a living by his hobby! You can spot an Irishman or a Yorkshireman by his brogue. I can place any man within six miles. I can place him within two miles in London. Sometimes within two streets.110
  THE FLOWER GIRL. Ought to be ashamed of himself, unmanly coward! 
  THE GENTLEMAN. But is there a living in that? 
  THE NOTE TAKER. Oh yes. Quite a fat one. This is an age of upstarts. Men begin in Kentish Town with £80 a year, and end in Park Lane with a hundred thousand. They want to drop Kentish Town; but they give themselves away every time they open their mouths. Now I can teach them— 
  THE FLOWER GIRL. Let him mind his own business and leave a poor girl— 
  THE NOTE TAKER [explosively] Woman: cease this detestable boohooing instantly; or else seek the shelter of some other place of worship.115
  THE FLOWER GIRL [with feeble defiance] Ive a right to be here if I like, same as you. 
  THE NOTE TAKER. A woman who utters such depressing and disgusting sounds has no right to be anywhere—no right to live. Remember that you are a human being with a soul and the divine gift of articulate speech: that your native language is the language of Shakespear and Milton and The Bible; and dont sit there crooning like a bilious pigeon. 
  THE FLOWER GIRL [quite overwhelmed, and looking up at him in mingled wonder and deprecation without daring to raise her head] Ah-ah-ah-ow-ow-ow-oo! 
  THE NOTE TAKER [whipping out his book] Heavens! what a sound! [He writes; then holds out the book and reads, reproducing her vowels exactly] Ah-ah-ah-ow-ow-ow-oo! 
  THE FLOWER GIRL [tickled by the performance, and laughing in spite of herself] Garn!120
  THE NOTE TAKER. You see this creature with her kerbstone English: the English that will keep her in the gutter to the end of her days. Well, sir, in three months I could pass that girl off as a duchess at an ambassador’s garden party. I could even get her a place as lady’s maid or shop assistant, which requires better English. Thats the sort of thing I do for commercial millionaires. And on the profits of it I do genuine scientific work in phonetics, and a little as a poet on Miltonic lines. 
  THE GENTLEMAN. I am myself a student of Indian dialects; and— 
  THE NOTE TAKER [eagerly] Are you? Do you know Colonel Pickering, the author of Spoken Sanscrit? 
  THE GENTLEMAN. I am Colonel Pickering. Who are you? 
  THE NOTE TAKER. Henry Higgins, author of Higgins’s Universal Alphabet.125
  PICKERING [with enthusiasm] I came from India to meet you. 
  HIGGINS. I was going to India to meet you. 
  PICKERING. Where do you live? 
  HIGGINS. 27A Wimpole Street. Come and see me tomorrow. 
  PICKERING. I’m at the Carlton. Come with me now and lets have a jaw over some supper.130
  HIGGINS. Right you are. 
  THE FLOWER GIRL [to Pickering, as he passes her] Buy a flower, kind gentleman. I’m short for my lodging. 
  PICKERING. I really havnt any change. I’m sorry [he goes away]. 
  HIGGINS [shocked at girl’s mendacity] Liar. You said you could change half-a-crown. 
  THE FLOWER GIRL [rising in desperation] You ought to be stuffed with nails, you ought. [Flinging the basket at his feet] Take the whole blooming basket for sixpence.

  The church clock strikes the second quarter.
  HIGGINS [hearing in it the voice of God, rebuking him for his Pharisaic want of charity to the poor girl] A reminder. [He raises his hat solemnly; then throws a handful of money into the basket and follows Pickering].[27] 


Winston Churchill’s style, as mentioned was greatly influenced by the Bible, Gibbon, Dickens but he had a style all of his own. Churchill’s greatest speeches were during the WWII and early Cold War era.  For those speeches and for his biographies and histories Churchill was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.   On Monday, May 13, 1940, Winston Churchill made his first speech as Britain’s Prime Minister.    Hitler and the Nazis appeared to be on the brink of dominating all Europe having conquered Czechoslovakia, Poland, Holland, Belgium, Denmark, and Norway; Hitler was allied to Russia, Rumania, Hungary; Hitler’s U-boats threatened Britain’s trade routes from which she derived her food and war material.  The USA was neutral and Britain stood alone against the greatest army and air force the world had ever seen.   Many people believed England would surrender rather than see London bombed and thousands of civilians killed.  Churchill then made a relatively brief and subdued speech which became one of the most famous speeches of all time in which he recognized the situation was desperate but that surrender to “a monstrous tyranny” was out of the question and though  Hitler was very powerful he was confident that “our cause will not be suffered to fail among men” meaning that Britain’s cause was the cause of freedom and Churchill fully expected many volunteers to come to Britain’s aid and eventually many countries would join the Allied cause and that cause would achieve, in the end final victory.

Mister Speaker, on Friday evening last I received His Majesty’s commission to form a new Administration……

I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined the government: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.”

We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: victory; victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival. Let that be realized; no survival for the British Empire, no survival for all that the British Empire has stood for, no survival for the urge and impulse of the ages, that mankind will move forward towards its goal. But I take up my task with buoyancy and hope. I feel sure that our cause will not be suffered to fail among men. At this time I feel entitled to claim the aid of all, and I say, “Come then, let us go forward together with our united strength.”[28]

Shortly after this speech in June 1940 France surrendered to Nazi Germany; Italy also declared war on Britain. Winston Churchill then spoke to the House of Commons about the Fall of France and what it meant.   Did it mean the end of civilization?    Did it mean they would come under murderous attack any day?    Did it mean Hitler might starve the British Isles into submission?    Churchill responded with his “Battle of Britain” speech.  He told his listeners later that “all our hearts go out with the fighter pilots” and he knew that many of these gallant young men would be killed as they tried to fight against almost insurmountable odds against Hitler’s Luftwaffe (Air Force).  Churchill told his daughter in law that she need not fear did and he did not fear death because he said, echoing the Bible, “There is a time to live, a time to love and a time to die.”

I spoke the other day of the colossal military disaster which occurred when the French High Command failed to withdraw the northern Armies from Belgium at the moment when they knew that the French front was decisively broken at Sedan and on the Meuse. This delay entailed the loss of fifteen or sixteen French divisions and threw out of action for the critical period the whole of the British Expeditionary Force. Our Army and 120,000 French troops were indeed rescued by the British Navy from Dunkirk but only with the loss of their cannon, vehicles and modern equipment. This loss inevitably took some weeks to repair, and in the first two of those weeks the battle in France has been lost……… This brings me, naturally, to the great question of invasion from the air, and of the impending struggle between the British and German Air Forces. It seems quite clear that no invasion on a scale beyond the capacity of our land forces to crush speedily is likely to take place from the air until our Air Force has been definitely overpowered. In the meantime, there may be raids by parachute troops and attempted descents of airborne soldiers. We should be able to give those gentry a warm reception both in the air and on the ground, if they reach it in any condition to continue the dispute. But the great question is: Can we break Hitler’s air weapon? ….. In the defense of this Island the advantages to the defenders will be much greater than they were in the fighting around Dunkirk. We hope to improve on the rate of three or four to one which was realized at Dunkirk; and in addition all our injured machines and their crews which get down safely–and, surprisingly, a very great many injured machines and men do get down safely in modern air fighting–all of these will fall, in an attack upon these Islands, on friendly soil and live to fight another day; whereas all the injured enemy machines and their complements will be total losses as far as the war is concerned……. What General Weygand called the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilisation.[29] Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us.

Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science.

Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’

Churchill would give many famous speeches including his post war “Iron Curtain Speech” and he would write many more books including the “History of the English-speaking Peoples” but his finest hour speech was surely his most memorable and most famous.[30]


Figure 8 RAF scramble; Hitler is coming!!

1940 German air attacks in Battle of Britain

Figure 9 Winston Churchill speaking


Figure 11 JFK giving his famous speech on religious tolerance Sept 12 1960

John F. Kennedy listened to Churchill’s speeches on the radio and heard him speak in Parliament in 1940.  Kennedy read and studied all his speeches.  In 1963 John F. Kennedy even asked Congress to make Churchill an honorary U. S. citizen.   Kennedy was an avid reader and historian and became an orator second only to Churchill or Lincoln.   John F. Kennedy often quoted the Bible and always traveled with his own personal Bible so another great influence on his speeches is the Bible itself as was true in the case of Lincoln and Churchill.  [31]Matthew 5:14 states, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.” Those words are quoted in a speech of President-elect John F. Kennedy, Jan. 9, 1961. He is describing the type of leadership he would like to display when he is President.  This speech foreshadows Kennedy’s great inaugural address and his famous speech on Civil Rights in 1963.  In this speech, as in many of Kennedy’s public utterances we see the hand of a master rhetorician; his speeches are not for a day but are literature for all time.


But I have been guided by the standard John Winthrop set before his shipmates on the flagship Arbella three hundred and thirty-one years ago, as they, too, faced the task of building a new government on a perilous frontier.”‘We must always consider,’ he said, ‘that we shall be as a city upon a hill—the eyes of all people are upon us.’

History will not judge our endeavors—and a government cannot be selected—merely on the basis of color or creed or even party affiliation. Neither will competence and loyalty and stature, while essential to the utmost, suffice in times such as these.

For of those to whom much is given, much is required. And when at some future date the high court of history sits in judgment on each one of us—recording whether in our brief span of service we fulfilled our responsibilities to the state—our success or failure, in whatever office we may hold, will be measured by the answers to four questions:

First, were we truly men of courage—with the courage to stand up to one’s enemies—and the courage to stand up, when necessary, to one’s associates—the courage to resist public pressure, as well as private greed?

Secondly, were we truly men of judgment—with perceptive judgment of the future as well as the past—of our own mistakes as well as the mistakes of others—with enough wisdom to know that we did not know, and enough candor to admit it?

Third, were we truly men of integrity—men who never ran out on either the principles in which they believed or the people who believed in them—men who believed in us—men whom neither financial gain nor political ambition could ever divert from the fulfillment of our sacred trust?

Finally, were we truly men of dedication—with an honor mortgaged to no single individual or group, and compromised by no private obligation or aim, but devoted solely to serving the public good and the national interest.

“And these are the qualities which, with God’s help, this son of Massachusetts hopes will characterize our government’s conduct in the four stormy years that lie ahead.

Humbly I ask His help in that undertaking—but aware that on earth His will is worked by men. I ask for your help and your prayers, as I embark on this new and solemn journey.[32]

In his last speech never spoken[33] Kennedy said this, echoing the 127th Psalm:

We in this country, in this generation, are–by destiny rather than choice–the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and responsibility, that we may exercise our strength with wisdom and restraint, and that we may achieve in our time and for all time the ancient vision of “peace on earth, good will toward men.” That must always be our goal, and the righteousness of our cause must always underlie our strength. For as was written long ago: “except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.” [34]

File:Flag of the NSDAP (1920–1945).svg

The Enlightenment, the World Wars and the Cold Wars have added some German and Russian expressions to English.  Some have sinister connotation as they are related to Hitler and the Nazis (National Socialists): Der Führer (Hitler) Gestapo (secret police), Blitzkrieg (lightning war), ersatz (substitute),panzer, stuka (dive bomber), V-2 (vengeance rocket), U-boat (submarine), Herrenvolk (master race), swastika[35] (Nazi symbol), stormtroppers, anschluss (annexation of Austria to Germany), Zyclon B (poison gas), einsatzgruppen(action commandos or extermination squads), the Final Solution[36] , life unworthy of life[37], to strafe, Luftwaffe (Nazi air force), lebensraum (living space),Quisling (traitor/secret Nazi),Reich (Nazi empire),bunker, Wunderwaffe (wonder weapons)and of course, vertbotten (forbidden), kaput (meaning dead, finished).  Some German terms in English go back to a quieter time: kindergarten  (“a garden for children”), weltanschauung  (world view or philosophy), angst (fear or anxiety about life), kitsch (trashy sentimentality), leitmotiv (dominant or recurring theme in music or a novel), wunderkind(child prodigy),and  wanderlust ((desire to travel). Russian has given us gulag (Communist slave labor camp), zek (prisoner in Russian gulag), ukase (edict or command from Tsar or dictator), cosmonaut (communist astronaut), and sputnik (first Russian satellite in 1957.   Also more recently we find Glasnost (openness).

The rise of the British Empire (c. 1600-1948) led to the spreading of English all over the world (Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India[1], Canada, Bahamas, Jamaica,  the Thirteen Colonies)  After Independence American English consciously developed as a separate dialect with its own spellings , grammar and jargon.  After the industrialization of Britain and then the USA, the English-speaking peoples became a world-wide military, naval and commercial powers often trailblazing new business techniques and new technologies.   There is a joke that the reason why the French or the English don’t speak German is, because of June 6, 1944 (D-Day).  But there is great truth to the statement that 1914-1945 prevented the homeland of the French from being occupied (perhaps permanently) by the Germans and simultaneous seriously undermined the popularity of German in the world, particularly in the USA. [2]  At the same time both the Cold War and the World Wars strengthened and internationalized English to its greatest extent ever. In the modern era  English has had many great and prolific authors, Dickens,  Twain, Cather, Crane, Wharton, Hemingway, Shaw and magnificent orators such as Lincoln,  the Roosevelts, Winston Churchill (Nobel Prize for Literature) and more recently John F. Kennedy[3](Pulitzer Prize) and Martin Luther King, Jr (Nobel Prize for Peace). English bestsellers are translated to dozens of languages and most of the great books of the world are translated into English. English is the de-facto standard language of software engineers and air traffic controllers.  English has become a sine qua non in business, law, medicine, computers, and education. English and American sports have become popular all over the world bringing their own specialized vocabulary.[4] English has a vast and famous literature, an influential musical culture and arguably the greatest film and entertainment industry in the modern world.

            The great age of the primacy of the English-speaking peoples have reached its apogee but I think it is a fair bet that English will remain important in my lifetime and for the rest of the 21st century.  The story of English is far from over; we must, as John F. Kennedy said of Churchill, “face firmly towards the future” though we may “never forget the past.”   Keep learning the “right true Saxon tongue”; continue studies in the excellent English language.[5]

[1] India is one of the largest English-speaking countries in the world with over 300 million speakers; Some Hindi words in English are bungalow, dungaree, pajamas, pundit, sahib (Mr.), shampoo, thug, jungle, loot, khaki and sari. 

[2]  It is estimated that 36 million Germans speak English more than Canada and of course 41 million Nigerians speak English and more than 200 million Indians speak English.


[3] JFK has inspired much art and poetry.

Elegy for J.F.K.

When a just man dies,
Lamentation and praise,
Sorrow and joy, are one.

Why then, why there,
Why thus, we cry, did he die?
The heavens are silent.

What he was, he was:
What he is fated to become
Depends on us

Remembering his death,
How we choose to live
Will decide its meaning.

When a just man dies,
Lamentation and praise,
Sorrow and joy, are one. 

— W. H. Auden

[4] Golf, football (soccer) , hockey   etc.  Much of America’s distinctive language is sports related (derived from baseball, football and basketball).

[5] The first part of the sentence is consciously “Anglo-Saxon” and the second part is almost entirely Latinate with the exception of the articles.

[1] http://www.wsj.com/articles/brush-up-your-shakespeare-1461366120

[2] Brush Up Your Shakespeare (1948)


(wm) Cole Porter (I) Musical: Kiss Me Kate by Harry Clark & Jack Diamond; 1953 film version by Keenan Wynn & James Whitmore


[3] Compare the Spanish saying Para la virtud , la educación y para la ciencia la instrucción. First teach manners for virtue (discipline) then instruct for knowledge”.

[4] Rhyme scheme: the pattern or sequence in which the rhyme sounds occur.  These rhyme schemes for purpose of analysis are presented by the assignment to each similar sound of the same letter of the alphabet. Shakespeare himself did not think of rhyme in these terms nor did he consciously seek to use elements of style or literary style.  Like Winston Churchill centuries later, Shakespeare assimilated rhetoric from the classical education he received in school and by his reading of classics. To Shakespeare language was a tool to communicate ideas.  Therefore, the most important thing about Shakespeare is to enjoy his messages and his sheer beauty and originality of language.

[5] “The Dark Lady of the Sonnets” is a 1910 short comedy by George Bernard Shaw in which William Shakespeare, intending to meet the “Dark Lady”, accidentally encounters Queen Elizabeth I and attempts to persuade her to create a national theatre.

[6] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/theatre/william-shakespeare/9758184/Has-Shakespeares-dark-lady-finally-been-revealed.html  Aline Florio, the wife of an Italian translator, who “loved for her own gratification”

[7] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2194176/Dark-Lady-Shakespeares-sonnets-finally-revealed-London-prostitute-called-Lucy-Negro.html  “Lucy Negro”

[8] ANALYSIS: SONNET 130 C XXX. Structure (sonnet with three quatrains and summarizing rhyming couplet  More than three quarters of the words are Anglo-Saxon monosyllables and hence are very hot and direct. Are they perhaps directed to a person without much education?  The poem is interesting is that it has a series of negative similes and metaphors that seems to mock in ECHO (indirect allusion) the hyperbole and clichés of romantic songs of that era.  The rhyme scheme is simple ABAB CDCD EFEF GG.  Lines three and for have anaphora in the repetition of “if”.  Repetition…RED…RED…WIRES…WIRES….ROSES…ROSES…. CONTRAST (antithesis) perfume/breath that reeks. There is strong IMAGERY of color and sight (brightness of the sun) red, white,black,pink,red dun,gold,  IMAGERY of smell IMAGERY of human warmth,   Then there is parallelism in the use of similar grammatical structures….I have seen, see I, I love, I know. I grant I never saw, I think.  There is alliteration: M….M….S…S…S….R…R…R…R..R..Wh..Wh…B…B…H…H…then R…..R…..R…S…S…G….G…G.

[9] http://www.bartleby.com/70/50018.html

ANALYSIS: SONNET 18 (XVIII) The poet begins with the stock convention of comparing one’s love or friend to something special or beautiful.  One recalls Wordsworth’s lines:
We’ll talk of sunshine and of song,
And summer days when we were young,
Sweet childish days which were as long
As twenty days are now.

ANALYSIS: Structure (sonnet with three quatrains and summarizing rhyming couplet. The rhyme scheme is simple ABAB CDCD EFEF GG . We begin with contrast comparing lovely young person to a summer day. Repetition: more…more.   Alliteration…DAY>>>DO>>>>DARLING. The sun is an “eye of heaven” (metaphor). And summer’s lease hath all too short a date; this is a legal metaphor and the idea is that summer holds a lease for a limited time only.  Shakespeare must have been experienced renting theaters or rooms.   Eternal summer is a metaphor for immortality found in art and literature. Death is personified as a boasting devil.  The Elizabethan use of “his” where we might say “its” helps personify the summer.  Nature’s course “untrimmed” is a sailing metaphor for to trim is “to adjust the sails.  Fair means beautiful or good weather as in fair weather.  Death’s shade is a metaphor that goes back to the Bible and Psalm 23 ‘Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…” In Latin literature the shades wandered helplessly in the underworld like groaning ghosts. Shakespeare surely knew Virgil’s account of Aeneas’ descent into hades in Aeneid Bk. VI; this is an echo or indirect allusion.  So long as men can breathe or eyes can see is a hyperbole for as long as English-speaking civilization or Western civilization exist.

[11] ANALYSIS: SONNET 19 (XIX). Structure (sonnet with three quatrains and summarizing rhyming couplet. The rhyme scheme is simple but not complete ABAB CXCX EFEF GG.  Possessed does not rhyme with least.  We have simple repetition…and, and and.  Chiasmus –parallelism in reverse order- is varied with antithesis (contrast): this man’s art, and that man’s scope. There is alliteration with FORTUNE….FATE….FEATURED….FRIENDS.   There is the strong contrast that the poet is wretched but then awakes to count his blessings: “Haply I think on thee…”  How happy are the small birds said one poet and surely the song of the bird –in this case a lark has to be one of nature’s most joyous sounds with the beautiful imagery of the lark rising and singing and the simile of the poet’s spirit rising like a happy bird. Of course, birds don’t sing hymns this metaphor is an exaggeration or poetic hyperbole.  One wonders if Shakespeare actually suffered a financial setback or some great disappointment in his career but of that we have no evidence except the evidence of experience: everyone has ups and downs in life. Luck has turned against the author and he feels that he does not belong any more to society but is instead an “outcast.” Bootless means bringing no profit; useless. The earth is “sullen earth” sad because it perhaps represents mortality and death.   He was all alone, not among friends but he remembers his great friend his great love.  The poet reminds us that material wealth and worldly status (fame) are not important as love, friendship and happiness.  A most beautiful poem which is the epitome of perfection of human utterance.

[12] ANALYSIS SONNET 116 (CXVI) This is a famous paean to true love, eternal love that endures. ). Structure (sonnet with three quatrains and summarizing rhyming couplet. ABAB CDCD EFEF GG    COME and DOOM is an off rhyme or perhaps a rhyme in Elizabethan English; PROVED and LOVE are similar. . We see alliteration here …marriage….MINDS…admit….impediments….mark….LET…LOVE…LOVE…..SICKLE ….COMPASS…COME…>BENDING….BRIEF>>>>.BUT…>BEARS….. There is REPETITION and polyptoton (the repetition of a word in a different form) remover…remove….alters…alteration…There is an echo of religious or biblical language with “let not.”    There is strong IMAGERY of the “wand’ring bark” and the beacon light of the lighthouse: “‘ever fixed mark.” The mark or sea-mark is vividly personified as he looks on tempests like a living friend.  This is a frequent metaphor in Shakespeare.  Julius Caesar boasts of being immovable, like the northern  (Pole star:
But I am constant as the northern star,
Of whose true-fix’d and resting quality
There is no fellow in the firmament.

We have a metaphor of the bark (ship) as for the journey of life and love as the beacon of hope and happiness. The remover in the poem is the partner who goes on a physical journey or the partner who has strayed. Rosy lips and cheeks are a metaphor for youth and beauty. There is an allusion to astrology that a star might have an “worth” or influence like a “lucky star” The edge of doom; doom is a sad, irrevocable destiny: old age and death. 

[13] In 1755 the French and Indian War began .  One of its first participants was George Washington; this war guaranteed  a certain marginalization to the French language in North America and led to the establishment of the USA.

[14] On the bravery of the English Common Soldier (1787) Vol. X, p 286

[15] I have heard it said that Johnson’s etymologies are poor but they are generally accurate in so far as Greek and Latin roots are concerned; Johnson was constrained by he level of etymological knowledge of his time and of course he did not know Old English, German, Welsh, Old Norse, Irish Gaelic or Scottish Gaelic.

[16] Compare to Emerson :
I do not find that the age or country makes the least difference; no, nor the language the actor spoke, nor the religion which they professed,—whether Arab in the desert, or Frenchman in the Academy. I see that sensible men and conscientious men all over the world were of one religion of well-doing and daring.—Ralph Waldo Emerson The Preacher. Lectures and Biographical Sketches, p. 215. 

[17] Just outside Samuel Johnson’s house at 17 Gough Square in London stands this statue of Johnson’s cat Hodge, perched atop Johnson’s Dictionary. He was a black cat, as depicted here, and by his owner’s account “a very fine cat indeed.”  Johnson fed him fresh fish and oysters.

[18] Johnson’s Dictionary and the OED constitute the two great landmarks in English lexicographical history. http://johnsonsdictionaryonline.com/

[19] http://www.ull.ac.uk/exhibitions/displays/johnson.shtml\

[20] Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776). Chap. iii

[21] Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776). Chap. lxxi

[22] A spring in Macedonia sacred to the muses so therefore a source of inspiration.(Greek mythology)

[23] http://www.bartleby.com/348/authors/534.html

[24] http://www.bartleby.com/27/9.html

[25] a minor parish official formerly employed in the Church of England to usher and keep order (historic)

[26] http://www.dickens-literature.com/Appreciations_and_Criticisms_by_G.K_Chesterton/4.html

[27] http://www.bartleby.com/138/1.html

[28] http://www.historyplace.com/speeches/churchill.htm

[29] British spelling also correct; in America would we write “civilization”

[30] It is also among the most lampooned; in the 1970’s Purina Dog Chow ran a commercial in which they “interviewed” dogs about the quality of the new dog chow.  An English bulldog says, majestically, “this is dog food’s finest hour.”

[31] https://www.facebook.com/note.php?saved&&note_id=10151162172269369#!/notes/richard-k-munro/the-mystery-of-jfks-personal-bible-by-william-manchester/10151162172269369?notif_t=like

See William Manchester The Death of a President (1967). Kennedy’s personal Bible disappeared November 22, 1963 and has never been found.

[32] http://millercenter.org/scripps/archive/speeches/detail/3364

[33] the blood-stained copy was found in his suit on November 22, 1963.

[34] http://www.jfklibrary.org/Research/Ready-Reference/JFK-Speeches/Remarks-Prepared-for-Delivery-at-the-Trade-Mart-in-Dallas-November-22-1963.aspx

[35] Hakenkreuz (“crooked cross” in German)

[36] Translation used by Himmler head of the SS (die Endlösung der Judenfrage) Final Soluiton of the Jewish question.

[37] Lebensunwertes Leben, Term used for people with incurable mental health problems, serious birth defects who should be euthanized (murdered) for the “good” of Germany.

[38] India is one of the largest English-speaking countries in the world with over 300 million speakers; Some Hindi words in English are bungalow, dungaree, pajamas, pundit, sahib (Mr.), shampoo, thug, jungle, loot, khaki and sari. 

CH 6 influence of King James Bible on English.

(Short History of the English Language)

The Good Samaritan

By Richard K. Munro

The King James Bible was published in 1611 and is the most influential English book of all time.  We all know many words that are ultimately Hebrew words such as amen, behemoth (monster),cherub (angel), hallelujah, jubilee, rabbi, Sabbath, seraph (angel), shekel (money), Satan[1]   Many Hebrew or Yiddish words have entered via American English: such as nosh (to snack), meshughe  (crazy), mavin (expert), shiksa (non-Jewish girl), chutzpah (nerve, audacity)[2],goy (gentile person; non-Jew) goyim (plural), nudnik (pest; idiot); schmooze (gossip) and mensch[3] (a real man of honor, a decent, responsible person).   The Bible has often given us many metaphors and allusions such as “David and Goliath”, “ The Good Samaritan”, The Prodigal Son”, “A City on a Hill,” “a Flaming sword”, “Sodom and Gomorrah”, “Love thy Neighbor”, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” to list a few. .   Lincoln, FDR, Churchill and Kennedy often quoted the Bible.  Matthew Arnold read the Bible, not as a Christian but as literature and poetry. Churchill himself said, “English literature is a glorious inheritance in the English language and in its great writers are great riches and treasures, of which of course the Bible and Shakespeare stand alone on the highest platform.”[4]In May 1908 Churchill said in Scotland of the broad­ness and diver­sity of the British Commonwealth:

Cologne Cathe­dral took 600 years to build. Gen­er­a­tions of archi­tects and builders lived and died while the work was in progress….So let it be with the British Com­mon­wealth. Let us build wisely, let us build surely, let us build faith­fully, let us build, not for the moment but for future years, seek­ing to estab­lish here below what we hope to find above—a house of many man­sions, where there shall be room for all.[5]

Of course this is from John, Chap­ter 14, “ Let not your heart be trou­bled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 2. In my Father’s house are many man­sions…”  Later during the darkest days of WWII, Churchill found use of these fine words again, this time to assure via radio to Europeans crushed beneath the wheel of Nazi tyranny that their day of deliverance and liberation would come:

The day will come when the joy­bells will ring again through­out Europe, and when vic­to­ri­ous nations, mas­ters not only of their foes, but of them­selves, will plan and build in jus­tice, in tra­di­tion, and in free­dom, a house of many man­sions where there will be room for all[6]

Biblical poetry uses vivid images, similes, metaphors, and other rhetorical devices to communicate thoughts and feelings.  The Psalms in particular have been called “the pastoral heart of England”.[7]   For centuries they were among the best known poems in the English-speaking world and of course throughout the West in Latin and in other vernacular tongues.    Repetition and parallelism are literary devices used very effectively in the psalms.  In synonymous parallelism there is a repetition of the same idea with different words: “Hear my crying O God: Give ear unto my prayer.”   In antithetical parallelism there is contrast:  “A merry heart doth good like medicine: But a broken spirit drieth the bones.”

Here are some other famous examples:

Simile (the simplest of all the figures of speech in which there is a comparison to two different things that resemble each other in some way using like or as.  The poem says I have self-control like a young child carried by its mother and that I am content and safe in your love like that child.

           Example 1: Psalm 131

131 Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me.

Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child.  {SIMILE}

Let Israel hope in the Lord from henceforth and for ever.[8]

Metaphor: a figure of speech in which a word or phrase that ordinarily designates one thing is used to designate another without the use of a word of comparison as in “like” or “as.”   Psalm 23 is filled with rich figurative language. Here the poet says God is “a shepherd” who protects his flock of sheep.   God is not literally a “shepherd” but is compared to a shepherd because of his patience, his care, his love, his constancy, his protection.

  Example2 : Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. {METAPHOR}

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Hyperbole  This is the use of exaggeration to stress a point.  No matter how great the storm ships do not literally get blown up into heaven and sailors may be taxed to the point of exhaustion but their “souls do not actually melt” though this is a metaphor for their sweat, tears and supreme effort.  Note also the very memorable language (often quoted): “down to the sea in ships…” and “at their wit’s end.”

 Example 3: Psalm  107


23 They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters;

24 These see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep.

25 For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof.

26 They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble.  {HYPERBOLE}

27 They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit’s end.


Rhetorical question: A question to which no answer is expected but is used for rhetorical effect.

 Example 4: Psalm 106

Praise ye the Lord. O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.

Who can utter the mighty acts of the Lord? who can shew forth all his praise?  {RHETORICAL QUESTION}

Antithesis: a figure of speech in which sharply contrasting ideas are juxtaposed in a balanced or parallel phrase or grammatical structure.  The warlike youth (the “young lions” will not find glory but want and hunger; the righteous God-fearing person will not want for the good things in life.

 Example 5 :Psalm 34

10 The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing.    { ANTITHESIS}

        Life is a mystery as a medieval copyist wrote “omnia exeunt in mysterium[9] (all things vanish into mystery. Man proposes but God disposes; no one can predict the right season for anything.  No man is master of the line of his life. It is beyond human knowledge to know.  We can control some things but there is always chance, evil and death; our bodies are fragile, mortal vessels.    Note the use of repetition: “A time to…”  A distinctive feature of the Bible is the prodigious extent to which what is called parallelism prevails in it, that is a literary device by which similar or contrasting ideas are expressed by various forms of antithesis. 

 Example 6  Ecclesiastes 3

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; { Contrast/antithesis}

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.


16 And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there.

17 I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.

18 I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts.

19 For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity.

20 All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.

21 Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?

22 Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?

            The author in Ecclesiastes 3 sees the intractability of injustice in the world.The heart knows that history is not meaningless, but is frustrated in its efforts to discern the pattern of events.   We are all mortal, like the animals of the field, nonetheless the distinction between the good men and evil men is not obliterated by death but in the end everyone will come before the “Great Judge” for final judgment.  Being a man may have its advantages over being an animal and being wise may have its advantages over being foolish yet like many streams flowing out to a great ocean death is a great equalizer. It is a certain fate awaiting all living beings be they good or evil.   Yet even with death we should not lose hope. The physical body will return to dust but the immortal soul shall be joined with God. The following reading, Ecclesiastes 3, was dear to President John F. Kennedy and it was read at his funeral along with excerpts from his speeches as well as his complete inaugural address.  Mrs. Kennedy, who was very composed during most of the state funeral, visibly wept in the church upon hearing it and the music that followed.[10]There is no question that President Kennedy’s murder shocked the American people and the world. It seemed to come “out of season” as it was just days before his son’s third birthday, just days before Thanksgiving and only five weeks before Christmas.  Death came like a thief in the night reminding us all that “sergeant death is strict in his arrest.”[11] 
File:Stamp US 1964 5c Kennedy.jpg

[1] Satan is Hebrew, Demon is Greek and Devil is Latin.  Lucifer is Latin.

[2]  Some one once said the definition of chutzpah is when a boy who murdered both his parents asked the judge for mercy on the ground that he was an orphan!

[3] What the Scots would call a :”leal n’ true mon” and the Spanish un hombre de bien un hombre de honor

[4] James C. Humes The Wit and Wisdom of Winston Churchill p 33. Mr. Dooley of course disagreed he said, in Finley Peter Dunne’s Irish dialect “They’re on’y three books in th’ wurruld worth readin’ –Shakespeare, th’ Bible, an Mike Ahearns histhry iv Chicago.  I have Shakespeare on thrust, Father Kelley r-reads th’ Bible f’r me, an’ I didn’t buy Mike Ahearn’s histhry because I seen more thin he cud put into it. Mr. Dooley in Peace and War, p 66

[5] http://richardlangworth.com/bible-2

[6] Broad­cast, Lon­don, 20 Jan­u­ary 1940. Blood Sweat and Tears, 254.

[7] Paul  Johnson, The Quest for God, 1996 p 190.

[8] http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+131&version=KJV

[9] Gilbert Highet, Man’s Unconquerable Mind (1954) p.35

[10] Shortly afterwards Mrs. Kennedy requested an eternal flame for her husband’s grave.  She drew inspiration from the eternal flame at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris which she had visited with President Kennedy in 1961. [10] In addition, the flame itself is an indirect allusion to Camelot; the fourth book of the Once and Future King by T. H. White is called The Candle in the Wind.   The book was the basis of the popular 1960 Broadway musical Camelot which they had seen together in happier times and whose cast recording they often played during quiet evenings together.

[11] Shakespeare, Hamlet  Act V scene ii. Kennedy was buried two weeks from the day he last had visited Arlington on Veteran’s Day November 11, 1963.

CH 5 Influence of Romance languages and other languages on English

By Richard K. Munro

New concepts, new ideas, new discoveries and new inventionsdemanded new words for English during the Age of Discovery (1492-1750) Some of these words were borrowed from Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic or indigenous languages mostly for new plants, new animals, new fruits, new foods, music, exotic dress, religions and customs.  There are some but relatively few American Indian words in English (most are from Spanish).  Here are a few: tobacco, squaw, papoose (baby), tomahawk (hatchet) ,cigar moccasin, moose, puma, ocelot, opossum (playing ‘possum means playing dead), how (greeting), potato, caribou, raccoon (or “coon”) shack, canoe and perhaps OK(okay)[1] or” eh huh?(meaning yes).   

Some examples of Spanish loan words are corral, rodeo, bronco, lasso, mustang, tomato, chocolate, vanilla, jaguar, aficionado, ranch, maize, Negro, Mestizo,[2], mulatto (originally Arabic). Alligator, cannibal, armada, anchovy, avocado, cargo, hammock, hurricane  guitar, mosquito, sombrero, barbecue, canyon, bonanza, lariat, , stampede , guerilla and bandolier (bandolera). In modern times Spanish words and expressions continue to creep into English such as macho, machismo,  “tornado”, “pronto”(right away) and “mi casa es tu casa” (my house is your house). Many are foods, dances and drinks: paella, quesadilla, sherry,  margarita ,tequila ,piña colada, salsa, rumba, nacho, tango, burrito, taco, tortilla, tamale, enchilada as well as sports terms such as “punched out” (struck out in baseball”ponchado”),aficionado, olé, torero, matador, corrida,  churro, chipotle (smoked jalapeño) anda favorite, a calque:“ten-gallon hat” from the Spanish “tan galán”(so gallant looking!)  [3]

Spanish Empire in 16th-18th century

          Later some Spanish words were popularized by Hemingway such as “nada” (nothing)“mano a mano” (hand to hand)and “a moment of truth” (momento de verdad) and the surprising “cojones”.  In Death in the Afternoon Hemingway wrote “It takes more cojones,” he wrote, “to be a sportsman where death is a closer party to the game.”Surprising because not only is this word used on live broadcast television during sports programs but also by politicians and television announcers instead of I suppose, the vulgar “balls.”  In English “cojones” has literary cachet because it comes from Hemingway a famous author but in Spanish[4] cojones is a quite vulgar expletive that one would hear in a bar or in a trench or at a bullfight but not during the nightly news!  Here is another example of Hemingway using Spanish words in The Old Man and the Sea:

He always thought of the sea as ‘la mar’ which is what people call her in Spanish when they love her. Sometimes those who love her say bad things of her but they are always said as though she were a woman. Some of the younger fishermen, those who used buoys as floats for their lines and had motorboats, bought when the shark livers had brought much money, spoke of her as ‘el mar’ which is masculine. They spoke of her as a contestant or a place or even an enemy. But the old man always thought of her as feminine and as something that gave or withheld great favors, and if she did wild or wicked things it was because she could not help them. The moon affects her as it does a woman, he thought.”

Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls is also probably the last modern English book to use the second person singular “thou” frequently. We now think of that kind of language a biblical, archaic or Shakespearean.   After making love with Robert Jordan the innocent Maria says “But did thee feel the earth move?” Robert Jordan says “I love thee and thou art so lovely and so wonderful and so beautiful and it does such things to me to be with thee that I feel as though I wanted to die when I am loving thee.” Also “I am thee and thou art me and all of one is the other.”  To me, Hemingway captures the tone of an intimate, poetic, romantic Spanish language conversation almost perfectly.[5]  Only someone who knew Spain and Spanish as well as Hemingway could have written that.  Pilar says “Do you know how an ugly woman feels? Do you know what it is to be ugly all your life and inside to feel that you are beautiful? It is very rare.”   Here “rare” is used in the Spanish sense of “raro” meaning peculiar and Hemingway intentionally uses what would normally be a false cognate.

Hemingway writing; he was quite well-read in world literature and read much Spanish literature in Spanish
Another great book by Hemingway which almost reads like a translation from Spanish

I have always thought Hemingway’s use of archaisms in English was his way of saying his contemporary Spain of the 1930’s was really closer in many ways to John Donne’s 17th century England than 20th century America or England.  Edmond Wilson, a well-known literary critic of the mid 20th century  thought Hemingway’s diction in the novel was bizarre and created “a strange atmosphere of medievalism” and the did not mean this as a compliment.[6]   Arthur Waldorn, writing in 1972, did not agree: “Some of Hemingway’s most poetic writing…colors these passages about time and transcendence. There can be no argument about their adding a certain depth and dimension to an otherwise flaccid love affair.”[7]  Hemingway’s Robert Jordan urges Maria to escape to safety saying, “ Not me but us both.  The me in thee. Now you go for us both. “[8]But the main character of the book, Robert Jordan is a Spanish teacher speaking Spanish to Spaniards and the entire book reflects this and is an implied translation.   Robert Jordan’s status as un hispanista or hispanófilo (lover of the Spanish) is a crucial element to the plot.

He was lucky that he had lived parts of ten years in Spain before the war. They trusted you on the language, principally. They trusted you on understanding the language completely and speaking it idiomatically and having a knowledge of the different places. A Spaniard was only really loyal to his village in the end. First Spain of course, then his own tribe, then his province, then his village, his family and finally his trade. If you knew Spanish he was prejudiced in your favor, if you knew his province it was that much better, but if you knew his village and his trade your were in as far as any foreigner ever could be. He never felt like a foreigner in Spanish and they did not really treat him like a foreigner most of the time; only when they turned on you.

Of course they turned on you. They turned on you often but they always turned on everyone. They turned on themselves, too.[9] (11.77-78)

Hemingway may not be entirely successful in trying to reproduce the atmosphere and color of Spanish repartee but in my view he comes very close.  In fact, Hemingway does something even more unusual; he unites Spanish and English literature as no other author has done except Cervantes.  And there is no question no English language author has done as much to assimilate Spanish words and phraseology into English.

 Some Portuguese loanwords are albino, commando (via Afrikaans) flamingo, molasses, Madeira (wine), pagoda, pickaninny (small).   Some Italian load words are  zero, allegro, largo, opera, piano, solo, maestro, soprano, balcony, balloon, bandit, cameo, ghetto, grotto, incognito, inferno, lagoon, malaria, miniature, motto, piazza, replica, scope, studio, torso, also paparazzo , mafia, macaroni, spaghetti, ravioli, pasta, pizza, lasagna etc.

Most Arabic words English have come to us via French, Spanish and Latin such as  elixir, alchemy, sugar, syrup, orange, admiral, cotton, zenith, algebra, hazard, alcohol, azure, adobe, candy, assassin, lemon, magazine (store house), tariff, wadi,  coffee, tarboose (cap), salam (peace like the Hebrew shalom) (via Turkish).   Fellah (peasant or farm worker).   Islam is the religion founded by Muhammed.[10]

It is obvious that the Muslim world has been in crisis since about 1970 and the reasons why are beyond the scope of this short essay. Therefore Arabic words slip into English by mere repetition via news reports.  A mullah is a religious leader and the highest title a mullah can hold is “ayatollah” which means “reflection of Allah.” Allah. Arabic word for God.  Allahu Akbar is an Islamic phrase, called Takbir in Arabic, meaning “God is greater” or “God is [the] greatest”.  Imam is a cleric more or less equivalent to minister.   Fatwa is a religious decree. Bin Laden issued a fatwa in 1998, before the attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, declaring jihad against the United States. The fatwa said every Muslim must obey “God’s order to kill the Americans and plunder their money.”

Religious schools in Pakistan are called madrasas or madrasah and teach the strict Wahhabi version of Islam. Pakistan has 15,000 madrasahs similar to those where the Taliban studied. They do not teach other academic subjects, but do teach military strategy and tactics as well as anti-Zionist and anti-Western propaganda. Some more modern borrowings from Arabic are   Suffi, Sunni, Shiite, Shaira, fatwa, fedayeen (commandos/guerillas), mujahedeen (holy warriors; the Marines call them the “Muj”[11]), Madhi (the expected one) and of course Al-Qaeda (literally “the (terrorist) base.”   

Taliban (is the plural of Talib), Pashto word for students of Islam or seekers of knowledge. Clerics trained at madrasahs in Pakistan called themselves the Taliban (“Students of Islam”) when they started a rebellion against the Afghan government in 1996. Boko Haram, an Africa Muslim extremist group means Western Culture or education is “haram” or forbidden.[12]  ISIS or Islamic state is also known as “Daesh” (the acronym for the name in Arabic).  A Kafir is an infidel who becomes a dhimmi (inferior vassal), Shaheed[13] is a martyr or “suicide bomber.” If a terrorists kills or dies in a terrorist act he is guaranteed eternal life in paradise.   A Shaheed could be a terrorist according to the shariah (Islmaic law), Dar al Islam is the Islamic World and the Dar al Harb is the Non-Islam world where conquest, murder and terrorism are allowed even encouraged.   Non-Muslims must pay the special jizya tax as the price of their being allowed to live under shariah in the ummah. Hawala. Is the paperless financial system that al Qaeda is suspected of using.  From the Hindi for “in trust,” the system works on cash and promises of repayment, making tracing of transactions difficult.   Wahhabi is an18th Century Islamic movement that rejected all innovations in Islam and insisted on a strict, puritanical behavior code.[14] The Taliban and other fundamentalist (extremist) Muslims today are Wahhabis or are influenced by Wahhabism.[15] A burka is a full body covering required of modest Muslim women under the Taliban. Hijab is a headscarf.  The Niqab is a veil for the face that leaves the area around the eyes exposed.  

[1] The origins of “OK or OKAY are much disputed but there is no question it is an Americanism. Some say it was  joke based on  “OLL  KORRECT”   (all correct)..It was also widely used a slogan for Martin Van Buren who was born in  Kinderhook, New York and so was known as Old Kinderhook or OK.  However, this doesn’t explain why it was used frequently by Native Americans though it is possible they borrowed it from American slang.  Unless we can time travel we will never know for sure.

[2] In the Caribbean on English-speaking islands they use the term “Mustee” (or Mestee) meaning mixed race.  At one time it probably had some legal significance.

[3] And of course English has influence Spanish in baseball terminology as well. Here are some examples

Guirao! (You’re out /Get out of here) “estatua de la libertad”(statue of liberty-an umpire who consistently makes calls that go against one team!), tubey (a double or two-base hit), tribey (a triple or three base hit), tripleplei (triple play) jom (home plate) hit or jit de oro (clutch hit/key hit) una bola fául  ( a foul ball); bola fer  (fair ball)  cachucha (baseball cap; catcher’s cap)

[4] http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2010/08/a_ballsy_explainer.html

[5] As the Irish are more lyrical in their English than the average American so is the average Spanish-speaking more lyrical and romantic in his or her intimate moments.  Spanish popular music of today (2020) has an innocence of American music of the 1930’s and 1940’s.

[6] Edmund Wilson, ” Return of Ernest Hemingway” (Review of For Whom the Bell Tolls) New Republic, CIII (Oct. 28, 1940)

[7] Arthur Waldorn,  A Reader’s Guide to Ernest Hemingway,  Farrar , Straus and Giroux, New York (1972)

[8] Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940)

[9] For Whom the Bell Tolls.   Ch 11.

[10] Pillars of Islam. Five practices required of Muslims: the profession of faith, the five daily prayers, almsgiving, fasting during Ramadan and a pilgrimage to Mecca.

[11] Other military jargon used by the Marines and others for the enemy: “Ali Baba”; haji:

  • 1: Arabic word for someone who has made the pilgrimage to Mecca (FORMAL CONNOTATION)

[12] http://religionnews.com/2015/11/17/isis-isil-daesh-explaining-many-names-terrorists


[13] Strictly speaking it means “witness.”

[14] Founded by Syrian Ibn Abd al-Wahhab, it attacked and purged shrines in Saudi Arabia in the 19th Century.  It is a religious movement or branch of Sunni Islam Strict Wahhabis believe that all those who don’t practice their form of Islam are heathens (infidels) and enemies.  They often call their enemies (Muslim) “hypocrites” and non-Muslims “polytheists” or Nazarenes (Christians).

[15] Islamic fascism (first described in 1933), also known (since 1990) as Islamofascism, draws analogy between the ideological characteristics of specific Islamist movements and a broad range of European fascist movements of the early 20th century, neofascist movements, or totalitarianism.


by Richard K. Munro



Chapter 4:     Twilight of French dominance & the rise of Britain

French remained the spoken language par excellence for the elite in Scotland until the 17th century and 18th century. Until the Reformation, many Scots served in the French King’s Bodyguard Garde Écossaise  (The Scottish Archers) and so became bilingual[1] and dual nationals.[2]   Charles de Gaulle, visiting Scotland at the height of WWII said in 1942:  “In every combat where, for five centuries, the destiny of France was at stake, there were always men of Scotland to fight side by side with men of France”. [3] Of course, this was less true after the Scottish Reformation and the exile of the House of Stewart from France in 1748 but always remained literally true for a small band of  “leal n’ true men”.    Mary Queen of Scots, previously the Queen of France, never spoke English as the Queen of Scotland but habitually spoke French (or Latin).  General Wolfe used French-speaking Highlanders as interpreters and as scouts who could penetrate the French lines at will as they did at Quebec in 1759.   French remains an important foreign language in the British Isles as well as Canada and there are many mixed Belgian-English and French-English families who are completely bilingual and of course millions of Canadians speak French and English.   I daresay one of the differences between educated British English and American English is that British English uses far more French words and phrases than does American English.  In any case, thousands of French words are identical or nearly identical to their English cognates.   Though English continues to influence French as it does other languages, French continues to influence English.  In any case, the debt of English to French is very great.

  Other important early developments during the 15th century include the stabilizing effect on spelling of the printing press in.   William Caxton published the first printed English book in England in 1474.  This began a long process of standardization of spelling though sometimes this has resulted in the retention of silent letters  in words like “debt”,  “thought” and many “irregular” sight words such as “he does”  as opposed to the “does.[4]” English is, at best, only partially phonetic.  Nonetheless, I know from many years of experience that English learners benefit enormously from studying English phonics, orthography and word origins.

The new learning in the 15th and 16th centuries revived the study of ancient Greek and led to new translations, among them an important one by the Dutch humanist Desiderius Erasmus, who in 1516 published a dual language edition of the Greek New Testament with his own translation into Latin. During the Renaissance, there was a large influx of neologisms[5] from Latin and Greek in this great age of translations from Hebrew, Latin and Greek.   Until this time most Hellenisms came into English indirectly via French and Latin.  We see this in the names of mythological figures; we know them by their Latin forms:  Jupiter, Hercules, Ulysses, Mars, Mercury, Diana, Minerva and so forth. The first official full time university post in ancient Greek was established in Oxford in 1492. 

But while Spain and France created grammars and dictionaries for their national vernacular languages as early as the 15th and 16th centuries, England lagged behind.[6]It must be remembered that in the 16th and 17th centuries the scholarly languages of the schools and universities of England and Scotland were principally Latin, followed by French and supplemented by Greek (always very elite).An Latin–English vocabulary  was by the scholar John Stanbridge, published by Richard Pynson  in 1496.  The most comprehensive English–Latin dictionary was the Promptorius puerorum [7](“Storehouse [of words] for Children”) brought out by Pynson in 1499. In the 16th century the most important dictionaries were bilingual such as an English–French one by John (Palsgrave in 1530, Lesclaircissement de la langue francoise (“Elucidation of the French Tongue”). First English dictionary A Table Alphabeticall (1604) by schoolmaster Robert Cawdrey. With the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, men again looked to France. John Dryden admired the Académie Française and greatly deplored that the English had “not so much as a tolerable dictionary, or a grammar; so that our language is in a manner barbarous” as compared with elegant French.   In 1662 Dryden attempted to establish a Royal English Academy on the lines of France or Spain.  He failed and since this time usage has been determined primarily by influential dictionaries and influential grammars both in England and America. Nathan Bailey’s Dictionarium Britannicum (1730) incorporated and supplanted his Universal Etymological English Dictionary (1721). It was popular throughout the eighteenth century and was in the libraries of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.  Samuel Johnson used the 1736 edition of Bailey’s dictionary as the basis of his own lexicon. The most influential grammar of the 18th century was the Short Introduction to English Grammar (1762) by Robert Lowth.  Lowth was a very strong advocate of proscriptive grammar that is to say believing absolutely in a system of strict rules for usage and spelling.  An example of early modern English is Milton.  The spelling is not strictly modern and there are many biblical and classical references.

From Paradise Lost by John Milton, 1667:

Of Mans First Disobedience, and the Fruit
Of that Forbidden Tree, whose mortal tast
Brought Death into the World, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
Restore us, and regain the blissful Seat,
Sing Heav’nly Muse, that on the secret top
Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire
That Shepherd, who first taught the chosen Seed,
In the Beginning how the Heav’ns and Earth
Rose out of Chaos: Or if Sion Hill
Delight thee more, and Siloa’s Brook that flow’d
Fast by the Oracle of God; I thence
Invoke thy aid to my adventrous Song,
That with no middle flight intends to soar
Above th’ Aonian Mount, while it pursues
Things unattempted yet in Prose or Rhime.

Dryden a made a famous, influential–and still felicitous- influential English translation of Vergil’s Aeneid (1697)The publication of the translation of Vergil’s works was a sensation and brought Dryden the sum of ₤1,400 a huge sum for the time. It was the version studied by many of the Founding Fathers and remains in print.  Gilbert Highet wrote in the Classical Tradition:” His {Dryden’s} translations from Roman and Greek classics are of purity rare at any time, and of a range which many professional scholars could not now equal.[8] In The American Scholar (1837), Emerson wrote:

It is remarkable, the character of the pleasure we derive from the best books. They impress us with the conviction that one nature wrote and the same reads. We read the verses of one of the great English poets, of Chaucer, of Marvell, of Dryden, with the most modern joy,—with a pleasure, I mean, which is in great part caused by the abstraction of all time from their verses. There is some awe mixed with the joy of our surprise when this poet, who lived in some past world two or three hundred years ago, says that which lies close to my own soul, that which I also had well-nigh thought and said.[9]

Dryden was the dominant literary figure and influence of his age. He established the heroic couplet as a standard form of English poetry by writing successful satires, elegies, epigrams, prologues, and plays with it; he also introduced the alexandrine[10]  and triplet[11] into the form. In his poems, translations, and criticism, he established a poetic diction appropriate to the heroic couplet In the Restoration (17th century), poetry written in couplets is sometimes varied the introduction of a triplet in which the third line is an alexandrine, as in this example from Dryden, which introduces a triplet after two couplets:

But satire needs not those, and wit will shine

Through the harsh cadence of a rugged line:

A noble error, and but seldom made,

When poets are by too much force betrayed.

Thy generous fruits, though gathered ere their prime,

Still showed a quickness; and maturing time

But mellows what we write to the dull sweets of rhyme.

(“To the Memory of Mr. Oldham” (1684))[12].


Samples of Dryden’s poetic art:

EXAMPLE 1: I am as free as Nature first made man,
Ere the base laws of servitude began,
When wild in woods the noble savage ran.  {TRIPLET}  
          The Conquest of Granada. Part i. Act i. Sc. 1
EXAMPLE 2 Three poets, in three distant ages born,
Greece, Italy, and England did adorn.
The first in loftiness of thought surpass’d;
The next, in majesty; in both the last.
The force of Nature could no further go;
To make a third, she join’d the former two.17      {HEROIC COUPLET}
          Under Mr. Milton’s Picture.


O happy friends! for, if my verse can give
Immortal life, your fame shall ever live,
Fix’d as the Capitol’s foundation lies,
And spread, where’er the Roman eagle flies!
The conqu’ring party first divide the prey,
Then their slain leader to the camp convey.
With wonder, as they went, the troops were fill’d,
To see such numbers whom so few had kill’d.     {HEROIC COUPLET}

Aeneid of Vergil, translated John Dryden. Book IX


Nor let him then enjoy supreme command;

But fall, untimely, by some hostile hand,

And lie unburied on the barren sand!

(Aeneid ll. 890-892)       {TRIPLET}

Example 5

Her lofty courser, in the court below,  {courser: horse}

Who his majestic rider seems to know,

Proud of his purple trappings, paws the ground,

And champs the golden bit, and spreads the foam around.

( Aeneid ll. 190-193)    {ALEXANDRINE}

 Example 6

My Tyrians, at their injur’d queen’s command,

Had toss’d their fires amid the Trojan band;

At once extinguish’d all the faithless name;

And I myself, in vengeance of my shame,

Had fall’n upon the pile, to mend the fun’ral flame.

( Aeneid ll. 867-871)      {Alexandrine and Triplet}

  From the 16th century on English borrowed more and more words directly from Latin and Greek rather than French.  Michael Grant has specifically identified Latin words by Cicero-inspired by Greek philosophical concepts- and popularized by translations of his works. None of these words or concepts existed in Anglo-Saxon.[13]  It becomes clear that without the “brain boost” of Latin and Greek neither the Renaissance, nor the Enlightenment, nor the Declaration of Independence nor the Constitution nor the Industrial Revolution could have been possible.

  1. Quality…an inherent or distinguishing characteristic
  2. Individual…a single human being considered as a unique person apart from human society
  3. Vacuum…space empty of matter
  4. Moral…concerning with the judgment of the goodness or badness of human action and character
  5. Property….something tangible or intangible to which is owner has legal title or possession by law, custom or tradition.
  6. Induction….the process of deriving general principles from particular facts or instances.
  7. Element…a fundamental, essential or irreducible constituent of a composite entity.
  8. Definition….a statement of meaning of a word, phrase or term.
  9. Difference….the quality or condition of being unlike or dissimilar
  10. Notion…belief or opinion
  11. Comprehension….act of grasping the meaning, nature or importance of understanding
  12. Infinity….the quality of being infinite which is having no bounds or limits.
  13. Appetite….instinctive physical desire for food, drink, sexual pleasure or learning
  14. Instance….an example that is cited to prove or invalidate a contention or illustrate a point; an example; evidence.
  15. Science….knowledge, especially knowledge gained through experiments or experience.[14]
  16. Image…a reproduction of the form of a person or object
  17. Species….an organism belonging to a fundamental category of taxonomic classification.[15]

Many of these words were taken over to serve the expanding world of secondary and university education since it was felt that English was not sophisticated enough to meet the demands of the new learning in science, biology, geography, technology and mathematics.  English Scholars could not be help be aware that Italian, French and Spanish had grown markedly in strength, flexibility, subtlety and precision by assimilating Latin and Greek ideas, concepts and vocabulary. Without hesitation the scholars of the English Renaissance borrowed Latin words through French, or Latin words direct; Greek words through Latin, or Greek words direct.  Their Latin was no longer limited to Church Latin: it embraced all Classical Latin. For a time the whole Latin lexicon became potentially English. It is not possible to delineate exactly the origins of all English words of French, Latin or Greek origin because at the same time English was growing French was also assimilating many Greek and Latin words and it was the French style to imitate Latin spellings even if they did not pronounce them that way.   Some English words came directly from Latin such as et cetera, versus, arbitrator, explicit, finis, gratis, imprimis, item, memento, memorandum , data, neuter, simile.  And of course there are many Latin expressions (still) which are every day words for educated people such as A.M, P.M,  alumnus, alumna, alumnae, cum laude, summa cum laude, subpoena, rigor mortis, R.I. P., persona non grata, ipso facto, de facto, de jure,bona fide, ad hominem, amicus curiae, ad infinitum, and ad hoc. 

subpoenaA court order to appear to testify.
Persona non grataIn diplomacy, a persona non grata (Latin: “person not appreciated”, plural: personae non gratae) is a foreign person whose entering or remaining in a particular country is prohibited by that country’s government. Being so named is the most serious form of censure which a country can apply to foreign diplomats, who are otherwise protected by diplomatic immunity from arrest and other normal kinds of prosecution.
Ispo factoBy the fact itself; by that very fact: An alien or non-citizen, ipso facto, has no right to a US passport.
De factoin fact, or in effect, whether by right or not: BY CUSTOM
De jureaccording to rightful entitlement or claim; BY WRITTEN LAW.
Ad hoc (Ad hoc is a Latin phrase meaning “for this”.)ad hoc committee ad hoc group ad hoc basis something done informally.  I tutor after school without pay on an ad hoc basis.
AM  (Ante Meridiem)
Latin = “before midday”
Before noon
PM  (Post Meridiem)
Latin = “after midday”
After noon
RIP  (Requiescat In Pace)Rest in peace

Words that had already entered English through French were borrowed again. These are called doublets or “etymological twins” (or triplets as the case may be!).  Spanish has many doublets also.[16]


Word of French originWord of Latin originCommentary
benisonBenedictionBlessing (benedicción)
Blame  (culpar)Blaspheme (blasfemiar)Semantic  change
Chance (suerte)Cadence (cadencia)=balanced rhythmic flow
Count   (contar)Compute (computar) 
Dainty  (fino)Dignity   (dignidad) 
Frail   (débil)Fragile     (frágil) 
Poor    (pobre)povertyPauper (person)Pauper=pobretón
Purvey (proveer comida) to sell food etcProvide  (proveer)Semantic change Purveyor of fine foods Purveyor of lies
Ray (rayo)Radius (el radio)Semantic change
Sever (cortar/romper)Separate (separar)Semantic change
Strait 1)narrow water (estrechos) Strait2) (difficulty)( dificultad)Strict  (estricto)Semantic change
Sure (seguro, cierto)Secure (seguro) 
Royal (Real Madrid)regal≠ real estate (fixed property (land)
Loyal  (leal)Legal (legal)Leal (triplet) literary
Chattel (property/slave) bien/esclavoCapital (dinero)$$$Cattle (triplet) ganado
Wage/gage or gauge (salario base/GERMANIC ORIGINTo gage=to measure Gage= indicator Fuel gage
Warranty/guarantee (garantía)Warrant=court authorization (orden) guarantee/warranty are fairly close in form and have almost the same meaning
Ward (legal)/Guard (military) (albacea)     (guardia)GERMANIC ORIGNWarden (prison); (Alcaide) guardian (legal) tutor/guarda
Cave  (cueva)Cavern  (caverna) 
Frantic (frántico)Frenetic (frenético)Originally Greek
Price (Precio ) prize,(premio) To pry=curiosiar/fisgar To praise=alabarPremium (prima de seguros)Prix “Grand Prix” “Prix fixe”=complete meal at a fixed price; French style  
Chief (jefe/cacique), chef (de cocina)Captain (Late Latin (capitán)“Capitaneus” 
Castle/chateau (Castillo)Castellum (Latin)Note Castile (Spain) “Castle Border Land” Castilla
Pocket/pouch Bolsillo/bolsaGERMANIC/CELTIC 
Wallop/gallop Golpear /ir a galopeGERMANIC ORIGIN 
Wile/wily/guile Astuto/taimadoGERMANIC ORIGINAstute, tricky
Convey/convoy[17] (Sugerir /transportar)Convidare (Latin; to escort)Escoltar (to accompany)
BANK of a river BANK (financial institution)
BENCH (to sit on)
Indo-European and Germanic originRelated word Bankrupt (en bancarota)
Image result for French Latin doublets in English
re-borrowing le bœuf beef le biftek beefsteak el bistec Usually a word is taken from a language and never given back – so ...

Words about political theory and economics are Greek such as monarchy, democracy, tyranny and economics.  Almost all literary terms[18] are Greek, Latin and French in origin and almost all grammar terms are Latin in origin.[19]    The names of the seven liberal arts of the classical curricula (the trivium and the quadrivium), it is true, were all Greek in origin—grammar, logic, and rhetoric; arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music—but they had come into English by way of Latin and French.  The Spanish words are cognates (translations from Latin). [20]

GRAMMARa particular analysis of the system and structure of language or of a specific language.
LOGICreasoning conducted or assessed according to strict principles of validity. “experience is a better guide to this than deductive logic”  
RHETORICthe art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing, especially the use of figures of speech and other compositional techniques.
Arithmeticthe branch of mathematics dealing with the properties and manipulation of numbers.

  GEOMETRYThe area of mathematics that deals with points, lines, shapes and space.

Plane Geometry is about flat shapes like lines, circles and triangles.

Solid Geometry is about solid (3-dimensional) shapes like spheres and cubes.
ASTRONOMYthe branch of science that deals with celestial objects, space, and the physical universe as a whole
MUSICvocal or instrumental sounds (or both) combined in such a way as to produce beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion.

List of terms for specialists in Medicine from Greek

Medical Specialistpracticemeaning
Obstetrician (obstetra)Obstetrics (obstétrica)Providing care for pregnant women
Gynecologist (ginécologo)Gynecology (ginecología)Study of diseases peculiar to women
 Pediatrician (pedíatra)Pediatrics (pediatría)Providing care for infants and young children
Podiatrist (pedicuro)Podiatry or chiropody (podopatía/ quiropodía)Treats aliments or injuries of the feet
Osteopath (osteópata)Osteopathy (osteopatía)Diseases of bones and blood.
Ophthalmologist (optamólogo)Ophthalmology (optamología)Diseases of the eye
Optometrist (not a doctor); optician (Optómetro)Optometry (Optometría)Not a doctor; checks vision and fits eyeglasses
Dermatologist (dermatólogo)Dermatology (dermatología)Treats diseases of the skin
Psychologist (Psicólogo)Psychology (psicología)Specialist in mental ailments, emotional problems &psychoses 
Orthodontist (ortodontista)Orthodontia (ortodoncia)Specializes in correcting crooked teeth.

[1] Multilingual in many cases, speaking Gaelic, Scots, English as well as French.

[2] Scottish-French dual nationality remained in effect until 1906.

[3] http://www.electricscotland.com/france/degaulle.htm

[4] Does: female deer

[5] Neologisms: new words or phrases as yet unsanctioned by good usuage.  De Quincy said “Neologism is not an infirmity of caprice…but a mere necessity of the unresting intellect.” Letters of a Young Man, p161.

[6] Antonio de Nebrija made the first grammar for a modern European language (Spanish)as early as 1492.Many literary men felt the inadequacy of English dictionaries, particularly in view of the continental examples. The Accademia della Crusca, of Florence, founded in 1582, brought out its Vocabolario at Venice in 1612, filled with copious quotations from Italian literature. The Académie Française produced its dictionary in 1694, but two other French dictionaries were actually more scholarly—that of César-Pierre Richelet in 1680 and that of Antoine Furetière in 1690. In Spain the Royal Spanish Academy (Real Academia Española), founded in 1713, produced its Diccionario de la lengua Castellana, 1726–39, in six thick volumes. The foundation work of German lexicography, by Johann Leonhard Frisch, Teutsch-Lateinisches Wörterbuch, in 1741, freely incorporated quotations in German.

[7] It is better known under its later title of Promptorium parvulorum sive clericorum (“Storehouse for Children or Clerics”) commonly attributed to Geoffrey the Grammarian (Galfridus Grammaticus), a Dominican friar of Norfolk, who is thought to have composed it about 1440.

[8] Gilbert Highet, The Classical Tradition (1949) p. 295.

[9] http://www.bartleby.com/5/101.html

[10] An alexandrine is a line of poetic meter comprising 12 syllables Alexandrines  in French poetry  were popularized by Lambert Le Tort and Alexandre de Bernay in The Romance of Alexander; it is popular in German, French, Spanish and English poetry of the Neoclassical (Baroque) period and beyond.

[11] Group of three lines of verse.

[12] is an elegy written by John Dryden (1631–1700), commemorating the death of the poet John Oldham Greenblatt, Stephen et al. “John Dryden.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt et al. Vol. 1. 8th ed. New York, London: Norton, 2006. 2083-2084.

[13] Michael Grant, On the Good Life   Penguin, 1971  p. 21

[14] Later “science” came to mean the “observation, identification, description experimental investigation and theoretical explanation of phenomena.” The reader will note the key word are all Latin and Greek.

[15]  Today animals and plants are still known by their scientific names in Latin:  a horse is Equus caballus, a lion is Panthera leo  the capitalized name is the genus name. For example, dogs are Canis domesticus,  the wild dogs are wolves (Canis lupus) and coyotes (Canis latrans) All arose from a recent common ancestor, they are placed in the same genus: Canis. It is still possible to cross wolves with dogs and dogs with coyotes.  Red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) are wild dogs but they are not as closely related to wolves or coyotes and so they are placed in a different genus: VulpesFelis Catus is the domesticated  cat. A Puma, formerly Felix concolor but since 1993 Puma concolor, is known by many popular names but is not closely related to Leopards or Lions.  Cougar and Puma are indigenous names for this cat; early colonists called the cat the “Mountain Lion”, the “Panther” or “Painter” or “Catamount.” Cicero (and Aristotle before him) did not invent this system of categorization but they laid the foundations for modern scientific and philosophic language. Animals and plants can be known by many names in many languages and this can cause confusion.  Karl von Linné—a Swedish botanist better known as Carolus Linnaeus—solved the problem by using Latin as a universal scientific language.   In 1758, Linnaeus proposed a system for classifying organisms. He published it in his book, Systema Naturae. In this system, each species is assigned a two-part name; for this reason, the system is known as binomial nomenclature. The names are based in the universal language: Latin. The first part of the scientific name is the genus, and it is always capitalized. (The plural is “genera”). The second part is the species epithet. The entire name is written in italics. Our own species, for example, was given Homo sapiens (it means “man who is wise”).Linnaeus’ system gives each species a unique identity. The system also fulfilled a second need of humans: the need to classify things. Living things were first classified as plants or animals. These kingdoms were subdivided into smaller categories called classes, and these into still smaller divisions: genera.

[16] Here are some Spanish doublets or “dobletes”http://i.imgur.com/EKvHPa7.png

[17] Saki (H.H. Munro) said “ a look intended to convey sympathetic comprehension.”  A wonderful description. AHD.

[18] Such as protagonist and antagonist, poem, metaphor, character, persona, drama, history, comedy, irony, meter, syllable, rhetoric, hyperbole and so forth.

[19] Such as the tenses (future, preterit, present perfect, present progressive etc.) and the eight parts of speech: substantive Nouns, Adjectives, Verbs Adverbs,  (“NAVA “in English only they can take prefixes and suffixes), pronouns, preposition, conjunctions, interjections (“PCPI”;in English these function words never change).

[20] Image result for trivium and quadrivium


By Richard K. Munro

Chapter two “With God Came Letters and Numbers”

Anglo-Saxon and barbarian invasions of Britain (England)

Christianity came relatively late to the pagan Anglo-Saxons of whom it was said, “Neither numbers, nor letters, nor God.” Missionaries from Roman Britain spread Christianity to the Scotti (Gaels) of Ireland and the Picts of Scotland (St. Patrick c 432, St. Columba  c. 563 and St. Mungo c 560. for example) thus preserving the ancient faith and knowledge of schooling, books and the Roman alphabet. [1]

In turn, these Celtic missionaries reintroduced Christianity to southern Britain –now known as England- and the Latin alphabet to the Anglo-Saxons.   The Irish Gaels were instrumental in this time period in fomenting education and Christianity not only in England but on the continent as well planting an early missionary base on Lindisfarne Island as well as schools in Charlemagne’s empire (present day France, Germany and Switzerland). [2]

Figure 9 THE ROMAN ALPHABET The Latin alphabet originally had 20 letters; the Romans themselves added K plus Y and Z for loan words transcribed from Greek.

Figure 10 Book of Kells

Another force in Christianizing the Saxons came from Rome beginning with the mission of St.Augustine to Aethelbert, King of Kent, in AD 597. Aethelbert was chosen because he was married to a Frankish Christian princess[3] who encouraged the new religion. The story goes that Aethelbert, afraid of the powers of the Christian “sorcerers”, chose to meet with them in the open air to ensure that they wouldn’t cast a wicked spell over him!  In any case, St. Augustine, “the Apostle of the English” laid a solid cultural foundation for English Christianity and the English language.

St. Augustine

Augustine’s original intent was to establish an archbishopric in London, but at that time the London English were hard-core pagans, slavers and polygamists and so were very hostile to Christians.  Therefore, Canterbury, the capital of the Kentish kingdom of Aethelbert, became the seat of the pre-eminent archbishop in England. The Church was a very important force in medieval English society.  It was the only truly national entity –international really- tying together the various warring Anglo-Saxon kingdoms.  It is significant to report that no written records of the Anglo-Saxon language survive from before the seventh century AD.  The earliest substantial literature of the Anglo-Saxons is Beowulf[4]:

O flower of warriors, beware of that trap.
Choose, dear Béowulf, the better part,
eternal rewards. Do not give way to pride.
For a brief while your strength is in bloom
but it fades quickly; and soon there will follow
illness or the sword to lay you low,
or a sudden fire or a surge of water
or jabbing blade or javelin from the air
or repellent age. Your piercing eye
will dim and darken; and death will arrive,
dear warrior, to sweep you away.” 
(translation Seamus Heaney)

If the Anglo-Saxons had remained pagan it is possible that their language may never have been widely written and so may not have survived its many travails.  

Figure 11 Lindisarne Gospels

Anglo-Saxon England’s most famous historian and Doctor of the Church , the monk Bede, known as the Venerable Bede, lived most of his life at the monastery of Jarrow, in Northumbria (died 735). Nearby, the monastery of Lindisfarne  is famous for its’ celebrated hand-colored  illuminated  Bible, an 8th century masterpiece of Celtic- inspired art, which is now in the British Library.[5] Lindisfarne Gospels, is a Latin Vulgate text with interlined Old English paraphrase.  So it is very important in the history of the English language.

This is evidence that the Masses were given in Latin but the sermons were given (usually) in English.  King Alfred’s circle of (Old) English-speaking teachers (Plegmund, Waerferth, Aethelstan, and Werwulf) led to a late 9th century revival of learning in Latin as well as the growth of Anglo-Saxon literature. The Anglo Saxon Chronicle, for example, was written in Old English not Latin). Alfred the Great’s unique importance in the history of English letters came from his conviction that a life without knowledge or reflection was unworthy.  Alfred’s enthusiasm to spread learning to the people in English may have been a turning point for the survival of English. Under the auspices of Alfred the Great church schools were encouraged for common people, and many Latin works were translated into English.  English was becoming a literary language and a language of local commerce.  French was still important for the nobility and Latin for higher education but English soldiers, sailors and merchants continued to speak, to sing and to pray in English among themselves.  And, increasingly, keep records and write in English.     English became strong enough even to survive the catastrophic subjugation of the English which came after 1066.

Figure 12 Manuscript of Beowulf (Anglo-Saxon)

During this time the influence of Church Latin and St. Jerome’s Latin version of the Bible (known also as the “Vulgate” was colossal.  Churches were almost the only forum for higher education[6] during the middle Ages. The higher church officials also played important secular roles; advising the king, witnessing charters, and administering estates of the church, which were extensive. The Magna Charta (1215) was written in Latin and so was the Scottish Arbroath Declaration of 1320. Previously Anglo-Saxon had a few Latin words most of them products or indicating spheres in which the Romans excelled such as road-building, commerce, travel and communication. These early Anglo-Saxon borrowings from Latin or Greco-Latin include, anchor, butter, candle, chalk, cheap[7], cheese, kettle, kitchen, to cook, dish mile, mint, crisp, pepper, port,  pound, sack, school (originally Greek) ,shrine, street (paved road), tile and wall.   Now with the introduction of a literate Latin Christian culture we have many new words (many originally Greek like the word Bible meaning in Greek “books”)[8] Hundreds of words come into English at this time from Latin and here are just a few: altar, apostle, circle, crystal, monastery, martyr, monk, nun, priest, clerk[9], commandment, devil, demon,  relic, cat, fork, creed, mass, camel, psalm, paper, chapter, verse, lily, temple, and trout.

Viking-landing[1]The early monasteries of Northumberland were vital centers of learning and the arts until they were wiped out by savage Viking raids of the 9th century.[10] Much of England, Ireland and Scotland were conquered by the Vikings (c.800-1263) but the Vikings dominated the off shore islands, the sea and the coasts not the hinterland.


Figure 13 Viking attack on Christian monastery

The northern dialects of English were very influenced by Old Norse (an ancestor of Norwegian and Swedish but Germanic like Anglo-Saxon).  Some examples of Old Norse (Viking) words  are fellow, hit, sly, take, skirt, scrub, gill, kindle, kick, get, give, window, skipper, sister, thrall (slave),earl(warrior/noble),  want and dream (it meant ‘joy’ in Anglo-Saxon.). [11] Yet despite these sporadic attacks both English and Christianity set deep roots.  I cannot but help think that the Vikings were vanquished not only by the sword but by the faith and virtue of young Christian maidens with whom the Norseman cohabited and later married.  In time language and religion assimilated and transformed the invader.

[1]  After its adoption by the English, this 23-letter Roman alphabet developed W as a doubling of U and later J and V as consonantal variants of I and U. The resultant alphabet of 26 letters has both uppercase, or capital, and lowercase, or small, letters. 

English spelling is essentially based on 15th century orthography, but pronunciation has changed considerably since then, especially that of long vowels and diphthongs.

[2] See Thomas Cahill’s charming small book How the Irish Saved Civilization

[3] Named Bertha

[4] Beowulf, Seamus Heaney, trans. ( New York. Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2000)

[5] Older than this are the Book of Kells, its inspiration which was probably created in Iona generations before.

[6] Almost entirely in Latin.

[7] Cheap comes from the Latin caupo meaning “wine-seller”; a Chapman was original a merchant.

[8] Of course, the Anglo-Saxons called the Bible the Gospels, or the Good Book or the Old Book; these are expressions still used in modern English today.

[9] In Britain “clerk” is pronounced like “Clark” as in Clark Kent (Superman); it almost sounds like “clock”.

[10] There was an ancient prayer known round the Isles that went like this: A furore normannorum libera nos domine (“From the fury of the Norsemen deliver us, O Lord!”).

[11] Thomas Pyles and John Algeo The Origins and Development of the English Language Harcourt Brace, 1982 p299-300.

INTRODUCTION TO A Short history of the english language

By Richard K. Munro

Figure 1 Roman soldier and barbarian In English there has long been a battle between the LATIN  (Classical soul) and the ANGLO-SAXON soul.

That book you read,” she asked wistfully, “what’s it about?”

“It was written by a man named Plato,” Ranse told her stiffly.

“It was written in Greek.”

She brought him a cup of coffee and hesitated for a minute, and then asked, “You can read and write American, too, can’t you?”

“English, Miss Hallie, “he corrected. “English is our mother tongue. I am quite familiar with English.”

She put her red hands on the café counter. ‘Mr. Foster,” she whispered, “will you teach me to read?’    FROM “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” by Dorothy M. Johnson.



Brief timeline of English history

  • Neolithic (Stone Age) period, c. 5000-2000 BC, agriculture, mound tombs
    • Non-Indo-European speaking people of Britain (indigenous population; related to Picts and Basques?)
    • Stonehenge I & II (2800-2000 B.C.)
  • Bronze Age, 2000-500 B.C.
    • Indo-European language, burial with drinking vessels, flint, metal
    • Stonehenge III & IV (2000 B.C. -1100 B.C.)
    • Celtic inhabitants (British) arrived around 750 B.C., hill forts
  • Iron Age, , in Britain around 500 or 600 B.C.; Began in Europe around 8th century B.C
    • CELTIC  people in British Isles from Gaul and Spain: Britons (hence Britannia) Κελτοί Keltoi  was a Greek word and Celtae was the Latin equivalent.  Britain (Britannia) seems to be land of painted people (Picts).Albion is also an ancient name meaning land of the “White Cliffs” (Dover).  [1]
    • Celtic languages: Gaelic, Brythonic (British; ancestor of Welsh) Celtic place names in Britain:

London, Avon, Carlisle,  Dover, Devon, Cornwall, Tobermory, Glasgow,  Tremaine,Aberdour,Aberdeen,,Cardiff, Tredgar, Breedon, Braemar, Usk, Esk, Thames,

Camulodunum “Camelot” = chief Celtic town named after Camulos a God of War in Celtic Britain; later “Colchester”, York (Eboracum:”Place of the Yew Trees”) Bows were made of Yew wood so occupying this place would have of strategic importance.

Figure 3 Britannia circa 150 AD

  • Roman Britain
    • Julius Caesar invades Britain, 55/54 BC  Roman influence grows
    • 43 AD Roman Conquest begins under Claudius, Romanization of Britain 43-410 AD: introduction of Latin & Latin alphabet.  ; Roman place names (sometimes mixed with native Celtic) Castra meant military camp (fort):Chester (camp of XX Legion), Colchester,Gloucester, Manchester, Lancaster, Portchester;  Lincoln (Colonia)
  • Hadrian’s Wall (73 miles long), 121-127 A.D. Fortification against Picts and Scots.  First evidence of Jews and early Christians in 2nd century.  

Figure 4 Hadrian’s Wall

  • 4th and 5th centuries: Germanic tribes invade  Roman Empire ; Visigoths sacked Rome in 410 A.D.)
  • Roman departure from Britain 410 AD
  • Birth of St. Patrick in Roman Britain circa 432AD; his mother was the niece of St. Martin of Tours and his father was a deacon and a low-ranking Imperial official.
  • Fall of Roman Empire in the West 476 AD
  • Anglo-Saxon barbarian Invasions  of Britain
    • Roman Britain besieged by Picts, Scots, and Saxons (barbarian tribes) circa 375-410
    • Circa 410: British leader Vortigern invites Saxons (Angles, Saxons, Jutes) into as mercenaries against  other barbarians (Picts and Scots);
    • Large-scale Germanic invasions (Angles, Saxons, Jutes), 449
    • Saxon settlements in Britain  (Sussex and Wessex, 477- 495)
    • British Celts (Romano-Britons) driven into Wales, Cornwall and Brittany (on northwest coast of France)
    • British resistance, King Arthur, British victory at Mt. Badon, A.D. 500 (quasi-historical King of Camelot).[2]
    • Gildas, De Excidio Britanniae (The Fall of Britain) (c. A.D. 540) , a Latin work describing and lamenting the fall of Britain to the Anglo-Saxons.
    • Anglo-Saxons in control of “England” (Angle-Land)  by sixth century
    • St. Columba (Irish saint) establishes center of learning and Christianization at Iona which will spread the Latin alphabet and Christianity to Scotland and northern England. 563 AD.
  • Anglo-Saxon England    
    • Angles’ settlements in East Anglia, the Midlands, and Northumbria;  England (“land of the Angles”)[3]
    • Pope Gregory the Great sends St. Augustine (the “Apostle of the English)”a Roman Benedictine monk,[4] to Kent A.D. 597
    • Aethelbert I of Kent (Jutes), converted to Christianity by Augustine, first Christian king of Anglo-Saxon England (Rex Anglorum), also compiled law code (c. 600)
    • Gradual Christianization of pagan Anglo-Saxons by Roman and Irish (Gaels) missionaries (St. Aidan and others, 635-655); Theodore of Tarsus, Greek and Latin speaking archbishop of Canterbury organized the Anglo-Saxon church.
    • Lindisfarne Gospels 698, Latin Vulgate text with interlined Old English paraphrase
    • Circa 725 AD Beowulf    Old English epic poem consisting of 3182 alliterative lines. It is the oldest surviving long poem in Old English (Anglo-Saxon)
    •  Venerable Bede (673-735), Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum (Ecclesiastical History of the English People) (731), Latin work;
    • Offa, king of Mercia (r. 757-796); Alcuin of York (732-804), high level of Latin scholarship
    • First Viking attacks 787, sack of Lindisfarne Priory 793; Book of Kells: created in Iona:  Irish illuminated manuscript of four gospels (8th c.) in Latin.
    •  King Alfred the Great of England
    • King Alfred the Great (849-899), king of Wessex (r. 871-899), many victories over Vikings ; 886 Alfred captures London and is recognized as king of all England (except for Danish parts)
    • King Alfred’s employment of Mercian scholars (Plegmund, Waerferth, Aethelstan, and Werwulf) in educational and literary endeavors (885), revival of learning, beginnings of Anglo Saxon Chronicle (written in Old English not Latin) Alfred the Great’s unique importance in the history of English letters came from his conviction that a life without knowledge or reflection was unworthy.
    • West Saxon dialect became literary standard of Old English literature; oral tradition.  Many translations from Latin into English fostered by Alfred the Great.
    • late 10th and early 11th century, renewed Scandinavian (Viking) invasions of British Isles (England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales)
    • Aethelred II Unraed (r. 978-1016); married to Emma (daughter of Richard II, duke of Normandy); peak of monastic and literary revival: Aelfric (955-1020), Catholic Homilies, Lives of the Saints; Wulfstan d. 1023, Sermo Lupi ad Anglos (1014, “Sermon of the Wolf to the English People”) (in Old English with Latin introductory words).
    • Battle of Maldon 991; Old English poem Battle of Maldon recorded in manuscript Cotton Otho (destroyed by fire in 1731)
    • Cotton Vitellius (c. 1000), manuscript containing Old English poem Beowulf  Judith, partially destroyed by fire in 1731
    • Danish Canute (Cnut), king of England (r. 1016-1035), married Aethelred’s widow Emma and fathered Hardecanute, king of England (1040-1042)
    • Edward the Confessor (r. 1042-1066), son of Aethelred II Unraed and Emma; lived in exile in Normandy, during Danish rule of England, until 1041; conflicts and power sharing with Godwin, earl of Wessex, and his son Harold Godwinson (last Anglo-Saxon king, killed in 14 October 1066 at the Battle of Hastings)
    • 1066 Norman invasion; William the Conqueror, Battle of Hastings 1066, end of Anglo-Saxon Period   French and Latin become the languages of law and higher education.
    • Circa 1120  Eadwine’s Psalterium triplex, which contained the Latin version accompanied by Anglo-Norman and Anglo-Saxon renderings, appeared.
    • Circa 1350 Chaucer wrote The Canterbury Talesin Middle English using thousands of French borrowings.
    • By 1362 English had replaced French as the common language of the English parliament but the elite study Latin and speak French.
    • Inspired by John Wycliffe, Nicholas of Hereford leads English translation of the Bible. Circa 1380.
    • In 1408 a synod of clergy summoned to Oxford by Archbishop Arundel forbade the translation and use of Scripture in the vernacular (English). The Wycliffe Bible 1420-1450 in English gains popularity; thousands of handwritten copies (200 manuscripts extant).
    • Gutenberg’s Bible (1455); printing double-faced on linen paper spread rapidly throughout Europe opening unexpected possibilities in education, commerce, religion and communication.
    • Protestant Reformation 1519-1560; establishment of national churches with national languages undermines the supremacy of Latin.
    • 1523-1525 William Tyndale translates English New Testament directly from Greek, over 18,000 copies are printed.
    • Act of Supremacy(1534); confirmation of the  English-speaking Anglican  church by Parliament,
    • 1538“Great Bible” of Henry VIII placed in every parish church in England; 2500 copies are printed to start and six more editions are printed in 1540’s.
    • Colonies of dissident exiled Protestants   make the “Breeches” Bible new translation of the Bible published in Geneva (New Testament, 1557; Old Testament, 1560) by a colony of Protestant scholars in exile English will become the standard language of the Calvinist Church of Scotland leading to a decline of Gaelic and of Scots (Scottish dialect of English).Geneva Bible is an important influence on the translators of the James King Version of 1611.
    • Jerome’s Latin Vulgate served as the basis for translations of both the Old and New Testament into Syriac, Arabic, Spanish, and many other languages, including English. The Vulgate provided the basis for the Douai-Reims Version (New Testament, 1582; Old Testament, 1609–10) ,revised in 1740-1752 by Bishop Challoner which remained the only authorized Bible in English for Roman Catholics until the 20th century.
    • Execution of Mary Queen of Scots (1587); leads to war with Spain until 1604;  continues decline of French and Latin in England and Scotland
    • Destruction of Spanish Armada (1588) opens America to English and French colonization.
    • Famous speech by Queen Elizabeth (1588) “On eve of facing the Spanish Armada.”
    • First English dictionary A Table Alphabeticall (1604) by schoolmaster Robert Cawdrey
    • Colonization of North America by England : the South (Jamestown:1609) and the North (Plymouth 1620) Seed of USA and Canada
    • James King Version of Bible 1611.  Most influential English book of all history.
    • William Shakespeare (1564-1616) contemporary with King James Bible and the greatest poet and playwright of the English language.  Sonnets circa 1592;
    • Defeat of the French in the Seven Years War 1755-1763 (“French and Indian War”) leads to the eclipse of French on the Indian subcontinent, and the dominance of English in British North America.   French survives as a regional  (“official”) language in Canada but English will be the predominate culture language in South Africa, India, Australia, New Zealand , Singapore, Hong Kong and many islands in the Caribbean.
    • Johnson’s Dictionary (1755)
    • Declaration of Independence (1776); US Constitution “and Bill of Rights (1787-1791): English will become divided into what we may call a“British Standard” (Standard English based on the “received pronunciation”) and American English where the emphasis in on grammar “good usage and spelling” not pronunciation.
    • 1898 USA acquired Hawaii and the Philippines (Spanish was an official language until 1966) and English will become the lingua franca; Puerto Rico, officially bilingual remains Spanish-speaking.
    • 1914-1945  War with   Germany in two World Wars undermines use of German by German-American Communities (at one time about 20% of the American people -30 millions- spoke German and it was studied more than any foreign language except French and Latin.
    • 1900-1945 USA becomes major English-speaking world power;
    • about 50% of all native English speakers are American (C. 2016)


English is not the oldest native language of the British Isles and Ireland but today it is the preeminent language of many English-speaking nations such as England (the U. K.), the USA, Canada, Ireland, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.  English has become the native language of more than 380 million people and is the most important second language in the world spoken by perhaps 1 billion people.  English is worth studying because it is very useful in business, law, medicine, technology, computers, and education.  English has a vast and famous literature, an influential musical culture and arguably the greatest film and entertainment industry in the modern world.  English is also the language of the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Kennedy and the Roosevelts and so has been an instrument in spreading democracy and human rights throughout the world. The first step in gaining command of English is to know the story of English. Along the way you will be introduced to selection of great authors, orators and writers of the English language.

[1] Thomas, Charles (1997). Celtic Britain. London: Thames and Hudson. p. 82. “If we seek a meaning, the favored view is that it arises from an older word implying ‘people of the forms, shapes or depictions’  

  • [2] Morris, John (1977). The Age of Arthur: A History of the British Isles from 350 to 650. Chichester, West Sussex, United Kingdom: Phillimore & Co Ltd.   

[3] The legal name of the country we sometimes call England is “The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.”  Their passport is British, their Army is British, and the Parliament is British.  There is an English national football team (soccer) and a Scottish national football time.

[4] NOT the more famous St. Augustine, author of The Confessions who lived 354-430 A.D.)