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Thursday, August 23, 2012

History of the English Language in 100 Words


I like the exact word, and clarity of statement, and here and there a touch of good grammar for picturesqueness.                          ---Mark Twain
David Crystal, a linguistics professor in Wales, recently decided to tell the history of the English language in 100 words. Now that sounds like quite a task, especially when you take into consideration that English has been spoken in some form or other since the 5th century. That’s a long time!

First, Professor Crystal broke down English history into segments: Old English, Middle English, Early Modern English, and Modern English. Then, he chose words that were linguistically significant. These words represent changes in cultural norms, regional dialects, genres, technology, and religion. From the first known word “Roe” to the most recent addition “Twittersphere,” Crystal’s list gives us fascinating insight into how the English language has evolved.

THE LIST (The comments briefly explain why the word was chosen.)
1 Roe The first word (5th c)
2 Lea Naming places (8th c)
3 And An early abbreviation (8th c)
4 Loaf An unexpected origin (9th c)
5 Out Changing grammar (9th c)
6 Street A Latin loan (9th c)
7 Mead A window into history (9th c)
8 Merry A dialect survivor (9th c)
9 Riddle Playing with language (10th c)
10 What An early exclamation (10th c)
11 Bone-house A word-painting (10th c)
12 Brock A Celtic arrival (10th c)
13 English The language named (10th c)
14 Bridegroom Popular etymology (11th c)
15 Arse An impolite word (11th c)
16 Swain A poetic expression (12th c)
17 Pork An elegant word (13th c)
18 Chattels A legal word (13th c)
19 Dame A form of address (13th c)
20 Skirt A word doublet (13th c)
21 Jail Or Gaol? Competing words (13th c)
22 Take away A phrasal verb (13th c)
23 Cuckoo A sound-symbolic word (13th c)
24 C--- A taboo word (13th c)
25 Wicked A radical alteration (13th c)
26 Wee A Scottish contribution (14th c)
27 Grammar A surprising link (14th c)
28 Valentine First name into word (14th c)
29 Egg A dialect choice (14th c)
30 Royal Word triplets (14th c)
31 Money A productive idiom (14th c)
32 Music A spelling in evolution (14th c)
33 Taffeta An early trade word (14th c)
34 Information(s) (Un)countable nouns (14th c)
35 Gaggle A collective noun (15th c)
36 Doable A mixing of languages (15th c)
37 Matrix A word from Tyndale (16th c)
38 Alphabet Talking about writing (16th c)
39 Potato A European import (16th c)
40 Debt A spelling reform (16th c)
41 Ink-horn A classical food (16th c)
42 Dialect Regional variation (16th c)
43 Bodgery Word-coiners (16th c)
44 Undeaf A word from Shakespeare (16th c)
45 Skunk An early Americanism (17th c)
46 Shibboleth A word from the King James Bible (17th c)
47 Bloody Emerging swear word (17th c)
48 Lakh A word from India (17th c)
49 Fopdoodle A lost word (17th c)
50 Billion A confusing ambiguity (17th c)
51 Yogurt A choice of spelling (17th c)
52 Gazette A taste of journalese (17th c)
53 Tea A social word (17th c)
54 Disinterested A confusable (17th c)
55 Polite A matter of manners (17th c)
56 Dilly-dally A reduplicating word (17th c)
57 Rep A clipping (17th c)
58 Americanism A new nation (18th c)
59 Edit A back-information (18th c)
60 Species Classifying things (18th c)
61 Ain’t Right and wrong (18th c)
62 Trek A word from Africa (19th c)
63 Hello Progress through technology (19th c)
64 Dragsman Thieves’ cant (19th c)
65 Lunch U or non-U (19th c)
66 Dude A cool usage (19th c)
67 Brunch A portmanteau word (19th c)
68 Dinkum A word from Australia (19th c)
69 Mipela Pidgin English (19th c)
70 Schmooze A Yiddishism (19th c)
71 OK Debatable origins (19th c)
72 Ology Suffix into word (19th c)
73 Y’all A new pronoun (19th c)
74 Speech-craft An Anglo-Saxonism (19th c)
75 DNA Scientific terminology (20th c)
76 Garage A pronunciation problem(20th c)
77 Escalator Word into name into word (20th c)
78 Robot A global journey (20th c)
79 UFO Alternative forms (20th c)
80 Watergate Place-name into word (20th c)
81 Doublespeak Weasel words (20th c)
82 Doobry Useful nonsense (20th c)
83 Blurb A moment of arrival (20th c)
84 Strine A comic effect (20th c)
85 Alzheimer’s Surname into word (20th c)
86 Grand Money slang (20th c)
87 Mega Prefix into word (20th c)
88 Gotcha A non-standard spelling (20th c)
89 PC Being politically correct (20th c)
90 Bagonise A nonce-word (20th c)
91 Webzine An internet compound (20th c)
92 App A killer abb (20th c)
93 Cherry-picking Corporate speak (20th c)
94 LOL Netspeak (20th c)
95 Jazz Word of the century (20th c)
96 Sudoku A modern loan (21st c)
97 Muggle A fiction word (21st c)
98 Chillax A fashionable blend (21st c)
99 Unfriend A new age (21st c)
100 Twittersphere Future directions? (21st c)

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