The History of English Podcast

The History of English Podcast
The Spoken History of a Global Language

137: A Rose By Any Other Name
May 23 • 66 min
The rose is one of the most beloved flowers in western Europe, and it has a long association with English royalty. In this episode, we explore the history of English gardens and the use of the rose as a symbol … Continue reading →
136: The Real Robin Hood
Apr 24 • 63 min
The legend of Robin Hood has its origins in the murky history of England after the Norman Conquest, but the first written examples of Robin Hood ballads don’t appear until the mid-1400s. In this episode, we examine the earliest references … Continue…
135: A House of Cards
Mar 23 • 76 min
In the early 1400s, playing cards made their first appearance in England. Those cards provide evidence of an early form of printing, but it would take another generation for Johannes Gutenberg to invent the printing press. In this episode we … Continue…
134: A Lancastrian Standard
Feb 20 • 69 min
In the early 1400s, England welcomed a new king, a new ruling family, and a new role for the English language in the administration of government. In this episode, we explore the rise of the House of Lancaster and the … Continue reading →
133: Breaking Bread With Companions
Jan 21 • 69 min
In this episode, we explore words associated with mealtime in the Middle Ages. We also examine the important role of bread in medieval meals and impact of bread-related terms on the English language. Finally, we look at the important role … Continue…
132: Food for Thought
Dec 19, 2019 • 70 min
In the midst of the English literary revival of the late 1300s, the household chefs of Richard II compiled the first cookbook in the English language. In the episode, we examine the cookbook known as ‘The Forme of Cury,’ and … Continue reading →
131: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Nov 25, 2019 • 76 min
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is one of the most popular English poems of the Middle Ages. In this episode, we explore the language and story of the poem. We also examine how the poem reflects certain changes that … Continue reading →
130: Dialect Dialogues
Oct 22, 2019 • 55 min
Geoffrey Chaucer was one of the first English writers to compose dialogue in regional dialects to reflect the way characters spoke in the different parts of England. In this episode, we explore the dialogue of Chaucer’s northern students in the … Continue…
129: Chaucer’s Vulgar Tongue [EXPLICIT LANGUAGE]
Sep 25, 2019 • 75 min
Geoffrey Chaucer was one of the few poets of the Middle Ages to explore the vulgar side of English and the connection between the common people and their language. The Miller’s Tale exemplifies this style. In this episode, we explore … Continue reading →
Bonus Episode: The Life of Guy – An Interview with Allan Metcalf
Sep 10, 2019 • 22 min
In this bonus episode, Kevin interviews Allan Metcalf about his new book, “The Life of Guy: Guy Fawkes, the Gunpowder Plot, and the Unlikely History of an Indispensable Word.”
128: The Canterbury Tellers
Aug 23, 2019 • 59 min
The Canterbury Tales is a collection of stories told by pilgrims during their trek to Canterbury Cathedral. The pilgrims represent a cross-section of English society in the late 1300s, and Geoffrey Chaucer paints a vivid picture of each one. He … Continue…
127: The Road to Canterbury
Jul 24, 2019 • 62 min
In the mid-1380s, Geoffrey Chaucer gave up his London job and residence and moved to Kent along the pilgrimage route to Canterbury. This move inspired the creation of the Canterbury Tales which remains the most well-known work of Middle English … Continue…
126: A New Turn of Phrase
Jun 26, 2019 • 69 min
During the Middle English period, English grammar and syntax underwent significant changes. Old inflectional endings continued to erode, and new phrases were introduced in their place. The writings of Geoffrey Chaucer reflect these changes, so we examine…
125: The First English Bible
May 28, 2019 • 69 min
Many people are familiar with the King James Bible, but over two centuries earlier, an Oxford theologian named John Wycliffe produced the first Bible composed in the English language. Together with a group of close associates, he produced a Bible ……
124: Piers Plowman and the Peasant Revolt
Apr 24, 2019 • 69 min
The 14th century poem called Piers Plowman has intrigued and perplexed readers for over six centuries. In the 14th century, it was embraced by peasants who used it as inspiration in their struggle against the upper classes of England. That … Continue…
123: A Material Change
Mar 27, 2019 • 66 min
In the 1300s, the scribes of England began a gradual shift from the use of animal hides like parchment to a new material made from plant fibers. That new writing material was paper. In this episode, we explore the history … Continue reading →
122: The Name of the Game
Feb 28, 2019 • 64 min
In 1363, the king of England tried to ban all sports other than archery in order to ensure English supremacy with the longbow. The ban had little effect, however, as the people of England continued to play ball games and … Continue reading →
121: English Ascent
Jan 30, 2019 • 60 min
In the years immediately following the Black Death, a labor shortage in the countryside led to the rise of yeomen and other rural laborers. The rise of these English-speaking classes led to corresponding rise in the prestige of English. The … Continue…
120: The End of the World
Dec 31, 2018 • 59 min
In the mid-1300s, most of Europe was devastated by a massive plague known today as the Black Death. The disease killed about one-third of the population of England, and an even higher percentage of clerics and teachers who were trained … Continue reading →
119: The Road to War
Dec 13, 2018 • 73 min
The Hundred Years War is one of the most well-known conflicts of the Middle Ages. The long, extended war introduced new weapons and new types of warfare, and it marked a transition from the traditional feudal state to the modern … Continue reading →
Bonus Episode: Regarding English (Sound Education Conference Talk)
Nov 29, 2018 • 29 min
In November of 2018, I gave a talk at the Harvard Divinity School as part of the Sound Education Conference. The talk was an overview of the history of English called “Regarding English.” The final version of the speech was … Continue reading →
118: Trade Names
Nov 19, 2018 • 67 min
Like much of western Europe, England experienced a significant growth in population during the two centuries after the Norman Conquest. By the 1300s, the percentage of the English population who lived in urban areas had doubled. As towns and cities ……
117: What’s In a Name?
Oct 16, 2018 • 64 min
The origin of modern naming conventions can be traced to the period immediately following the Norman Conquest. Prior to the Conquest, almost all people in England had a single Anglo-Saxon name. After 1066, parents gave their children names borrowed from ……
116: The Celtic Fringe
Sep 17, 2018 • 60 min
In this episode, we explore the state of the English language outside of England in the early 1300s. This story takes us to the regions where Celtic languages were traditionally spoken. In some of those regions, English had little or … Continue reading →
115: The Measure of a Person
Aug 21, 2018 • 63 min
For much of human history, common measurements of length were based on body parts and were variable from region to region. Most other measurements were also inconsistent. During the 1300s, these measurements started to be fixed and standardized for the ……
114: The Craft of Numbering
Jul 26, 2018 • 67 min
The words for numbers are some of the oldest and most conservative words in most languages. The English words for numbers can be traced back to the original Indo-European language, but during the early Middle English period, English speakers began ……
113: A Zouthern Accent
Jun 27, 2018 • 62 min
In this episode, we turn our attention to the south of England and examine some of the unique features of the Middle English dialects spoken there after the Norman Conquest. We also take a look at a poem composed in … Continue reading →
112: Northern Messenger
Jun 8, 2018 • 59 min
At the dawn of the 14th century, Edward I was forced to deal with a popular uprising in Scotland. At the same time, a poet in northern England composed the oldest surviving poem in the Northern dialect of Middle English … Continue reading →
111: Laying Down the Law
May 10, 2018 • 62 min
One of Edward I’s most notable accomplishments as King of England was the conquest of Wales, and his desire to extend that authority to the north of Britain led some to call him “The Hammer of the Scots.” But beyond … Continue reading →
110: Dyed In the Wool
Apr 7, 2018 • 62 min
In this episode, we explore important role of the wool and cloth industries in Medieval England. Not only was England a major producer of sheep and wool, it also developed its own cloth industry in the 1300s. This was also … Continue reading →
109: The Romantic Warriors
Mar 8, 2018 • 56 min
In the late 1200s, romantic literature started to be composed in English for the first time. The oldest surviving English romance is a poem called King Horn. In this episode, we explore the poem and examine the linguistic developments revealed … Continue…
108: On the Move
Feb 9, 2018 • 55 min
In this episode, we look at the movement of people and their money in the 13th century. This was a period when international trading networks carried goods and people to the far-flung corners of the known world. This was also … Continue reading →
107: Parlez-Vous Anglais?
Jan 15, 2018 • 49 min
Even though English writing started to re-emerge in the early 1200s, government and legal documents remained the exclusive domain of Latin and French. English finally found a voice in the English government in the mid-1200s with a series of government ……
106: An Illuminating Development
Dec 31, 2017 • 57 min
The 12th and 13th centuries saw the saw the transfer of book production from monasteries to professional bookmakers. In this episode, we look at the birth of the Medieval book trade. We also examine how early illuminators worked with color, … Continue…
105: Suffix Summary
Dec 25, 2017 • 48 min
In this episode, we explore some of the suffixes that were in common use in the early 1200s at the time the Ancrene Wisse was composed. These include traditional Old English suffixes, as well as several new suffixes that were … Continue reading →
104: Prefix Preferences
Dec 18, 2017 • 57 min
During the early Middle English period, many loanwords from Latin and French were borrowed into English. Very often, those loanwords came in with prefixes and suffixes that were new to the English language. Many of those new affixes appear for … Continue…
103: Solitary Confinement
Dec 2, 2017 • 57 min
The early 13th century saw the rise of a monastic movement in which men and women locked themselves away in secluded cells to practice their religion. These monks were known as anchorites, and an early Middle English text called the … Continue reading →
102: A Medieval Glossary
Nov 6, 2017 • 59 min
In this episode, we explore the notes and translations left behind by scribes in the margins of Medieval manuscripts. Those marginal notes reveal numerous insights about the state of English in the early 1200s. Those early glosses and translations also ……
101: The Birth of English Song
Oct 11, 2017 • 62 min
Advances in musical notation allowed the first English folk songs to be preserved in writing in the early 1200s. These songs include “Mirie It Is While Sumer Ilast” and “Sumer Is Icumen In.” In this episode, we explore the Greek … Continue reading →
100: Decoding English
Sep 25, 2017 • 52 min
In this special 100th episode, we review the major consonant sound changes that have impacted English since the Proto-Indo-European language. These sound changes provide us with a set of general rules that we can use to distinguish loanwords from native ……
99: The Second French Invasion
Sep 9, 2017 • 70 min
The early 13th century saw the arrival of a new wave of Frenchmen on the English shores. Some came as conquerors, and some came as nobles and courtiers looking for land and titles. During this period, Norman French started to … Continue reading →
98: The Great Debates
Aug 17, 2017 • 59 min
Magna Carta is often presented as the culmination of a dispute between King John and his barons, but it didn’t settle the debate. In fact, the charter actually sparked a new debate over the power of the king. That debate … Continue reading →
97: Let’s Put It In Writing
Jul 27, 2017 • 62 min
The early 13th Century saw a massive increase in the production of government documents, including charters and official letters. In this episode, we explore the changing role of the written word in the Middle Ages. We also examine how King … Continue…
96: From Alpha to Omega
Jul 6, 2017 • 57 min
During the early Middle English period, the long vowel sound represented by letter A started to shift to a new sound represented by letter O. In this episode, we explore this early vowel shift, and we also explore the dispute … Continue reading →
95: Old School and New School
Jun 15, 2017 • 67 min
The 12th and 13th Centuries saw the rise of new institutions of higher learning called “universities.” In this episode, we look at the changing educational system in Western Europe and the rise of Oxford and Cambridge. We also explore the … Continue…
94: From British Legend to English King
May 23, 2017 • 65 min
The first version of the King Arthur legend to be composed in English is found in Layamon’s 13th century poem called Brut. In this episode, we explore Layamon’s version of the story, and we examine how the text reveals certain … Continue reading →
93: The Two Arthurs
Apr 22, 2017 • 61 min
In this episode, we look at the rivalry between John “Lackland” and Arthur of Brittany for control of the Angevin Empire. John eventually emerged victorious, but in the process, he set in motion the events that led to the loss of Normandy and most ……
92: The Lion Kings
Mar 29, 2017 • 51 min
During the Middle Ages, lions were adopted as symbols of European royalty. Many monarchs also acquired nicknames related to lions. That included Richard the Lionheart. In this episode, we explore the origin of that nickname, and we examine the popular ……
91: Traders and Traitors
Mar 8, 2017 • 77 min
During the Crusades, Christian forces and Muslim forces traded blows in the Holy Land. At the same time, Europeans and Arabs traded goods through an extensive trading network that passed through the Near East and the Mediterranean. In this episode, ……
90: Healers, Hospitals and Holy Wars
Feb 15, 2017 • 59 min
In this episode, we turn our attention to the Near East to explore the spread of the Islam and rise of Muslim science in the Middle Ages. This scientific and literary revolution in the Near East contributed to the English language in some … Continue…
89: ‘I Before E’ and All That
Jan 23, 2017 • 51 min
During the Middle English period, scribes developed a variety of spelling innovations to distinguish the sound of the various vowels. Some of those innovations were borrowed from French, and some were native to English. In this episode, we explore those…
88: The Long and Short of It
Jan 3, 2017 • 53 min
The Middle English document called the Ormulum is a goldmine for historical linguists because the text explicitly indicated how the vowel sounds in the text were to be pronounced. The text was written at a time when the vowels in many words were changing.…
87: The First Spelling Reformers
Dec 7, 2016 • 55 min
Following the Norman Conquest of England, the French-educated scribes encountered the English language used by the Anglo-Saxons. The new scribes discovered unfamiliar letters and strange spellings. Early Middle English documents like the Ormulum show…
86: Family of Rebels
Nov 15, 2016 • 49 min
The final years of Henry II’s reign were consumed with putting down rebellions. Those rebels included Henry’s sons and wife. In this episode, we explore Henry’s family of rebels. We also examine the book of homilies known as the Ormulum. … Continue…
85: How to Run an Empire
Oct 24, 2016 • 59 min
The massive realm of Henry II extended from southern France through the British Isles. The administration of the so-called “Angevin Empire” required an extensive bureaucracy. In this episode, we examine some of the key government officials who…
84: Law, Order and Murder
Sep 29, 2016 • 60 min
In the wake of civil war and anarchy in England, a crime wave gripped the nation. Murders and other violent crimes were rampant. Henry II sought to reimpose law and order throughout the country by reforming the English legal system. … Continue reading →
83: A Trilingual Nation
Sep 5, 2016 • 52 min
During the reign of Henry II, the speech of England was dominated by three languages – English, French and Latin. In this episode, we examine the relative roles of those three languages, and we also explore how the social barriers … Continue reading →
82: A Marriage for the Ages
Aug 3, 2016 • 52 min
The marriage of Matilda’s son, Henry, to Eleanor of Aquitaine was a crucial event in the history of England and France. It produced a powerful realm which contributed to the return of peace and the end of Anarchy. In this … Continue reading →
81: Love Songs and Troubadours
Jul 15, 2016 • 57 min
While civil war raged in England, a completely different culture was flourishing in southern France. In this episode, we explore the opulent court of Aquitaine and the rise of the troubadours. Love was in the air as a new type of poetry … Continue reading…
Announcement: 10 American Presidents Podcast
Jul 1, 2016 • 1 min
Check out the 10 American Presidents podcast for an episode about the development of American English and the influence of presidential speech on American English.
80: Knight Life
Jun 22, 2016 • 64 min
Much of the devastation of the Anarchy was carried out by knights who acted as thugs and bullies. For several generations, knights had served as the strongmen of western Europe. By the 12th century, the nature of knighthood was starting to change. ……
79: Anarchy
May 18, 2016 • 49 min
In the years after Matilda’s return to England, the country descended into chaos and civil war. This period is known by modern historians as the Anarchy. The events were recorded by a scribe in Peterborough who wrote in an early … Continue reading →
78: Under Siege
Apr 29, 2016 • 53 min
In this episode, we explore the outbreak of civil war in England as forces loyal to Matilda took up arms against King Stephen. The civil war led to a breakdown of central authority. The power vacuum was filled by local … Continue reading →
77: Rival Relatives and the Land of Scots
Apr 10, 2016 • 50 min
Following the death of Henry I, the king’s nephew Stephen seized the throne and claimed the English throne before Matilda could get to England. We examine the reasons why Stephen was considered an acceptable alternative to Matilda. As soon as … Continue…
76: The Gender Problem
Mar 24, 2016 • 48 min
The final continuation of the Peterborough Chronicle captured a major change in the history of the English language. That change was the loss of grammatical gender. The traditional distinctions between masculine and feminine nouns disappeared in the final…
75: Mixed Languages and Scrambled Eggs
Mar 2, 2016
In this episode, we continue our look at the gradual emergence of Middle English from the linguistic rubble left in the wake of the Norman Conquest. English remained fractured and broken, and foreign influences continued to come in. We explore … Continue…
74: Head Cities and Home Towns
Feb 15, 2016
The population of England grew significantly in the centuries following the Norman Conquest of England. That development led to the growth of villages, towns and cities. During that period, London also emerged as the capital of England. In this episode,…
73: Possession, Power and Checkmate
Jan 30, 2016
In this episode, we explore the connections between possessions and power – especially political power. No Medieval king exemplified that connection better than Henry I of England. Henry valued his possessions, and he made sure to collect every penny that…
72: The Dark Ages of English
Jan 11, 2016
The early part of the 12th century represented the darkest days of the English language. English writing had almost disappeared, and spoken English was divided among a variety of regional dialects that were often incomprehensible to speakers in other…
71: On The Hunt
Dec 4, 2015
In this episode, we explore the events leading to the death of William the Conqueror. And we’ll look at the reign of his son and namesake, William Rufus. The story of William’s succession is also the story of a sibling … Continue reading →
70: Mind Your Manors For Pete’s Sake
Nov 15, 2015
For more than a century following the Norman Conquest, English writing fell out of favor. During that hiatus, French words continued to flow into English. A lot of those words were associated with the manors that dotted the English countryside … Continue…
69: From Conquest to Domesday
Oct 30, 2015
In the two decades that followed the Norman Conquest, most of the land in England passed into the hands of French-speaking nobles. This process not only brought the feudal system to England, it also brought the French language to the … Continue reading →
68: Rebels With a Cause
Oct 16, 2015
It may come as a surprise that William the Conqueror embraced English after the Norman Conquest. He also maintained much of the existing Anglo-Saxon bureaucracy. Had William continued those policies, the English language would be very different today.…
67: The Year That Changed English
Sep 18, 2015
In this episode, we look at the events of 1066 – one of the most important dates in the history of English. Of course, this was the year of the Norman Conquest and the beginning of the end of Old … Continue reading →
66: Broken Promises and the Eve of Conquest
Aug 20, 2015
Many scholars consider the Norman Conquest of England to be the most important event in the history of the English language. The man who directed that conquest was William of Normandy. In this episode, we examine William’s rise from a … Continue reading →
65: Norman Dukes and Dialects
Jul 30, 2015
In the century before the Norman Conquest of England, Normandy gradually emerged as a powerful player in the politics of northern Europe. Meanwhile, the language of the Normans underwent a major transition. The original Scandinavian language of the…
64: Feudalism and Early Normans
Jul 10, 2015
The Normandy of William the Conqueror was a product of the feudal age of Western Europe. In this episode, we explore the history of feudalism, and we examine words associated with feudalism which entered the English language. We also look … Continue…
Bonus Episode 7: Stuffed Animals
Jun 25, 2015
In this bonus episode we look at the etymology of certain words related to animals. We also examine words related to stuffing.
63: Restorations and Remedies
Jun 2, 2015
In this episode, we explore two different types of restorations. We begin with the restoration of the traditional West Saxon monarchy under Edward the Confessor. Edward’s nickname reflects his piety and his purported ability to cure sick people with his ……
62: Flesh and Blood
May 10, 2015
In this episode we explore two aspects of the term ‘flesh and blood.’ We examine the human body from the perspective of the Anglo-Saxons by looking at their words for parts of the body. We also explore Old English words associated … Continue reading →
61: Earls and Churls
Apr 22, 2015 • 61 min
During his reign as King of England, Canute established a new class of nobles who became known as earls. The authority of the earls was second only to the king himself. The king and the nobles ruled over the common … Continue reading →
60: Danes, Death and Taxes
Mar 30, 2015
In this episode, we explore the Danish Conquest of England in the 11th century. The Danish victory brought a temporary end to Anglo-Saxon rule, but it didn’t bring an end to death and taxes. We examine the etymology of words … Continue reading →
59: Let’s Make A Deal
Mar 11, 2015
The decline of the Anglo-Saxon Golden Age occurred in the late 900s as the English kingdom passed from King Edgar to his son, Aethelred the Unready. it was a period surrounded by many deals, contracts, bargains and treaties. We examine … Continue reading →
58: Bibliophiles and Bookworms
Feb 17, 2015
The late 10th century and early 11th century was the Golden Age of Old English literature. But much of the literature produced during that period was lost to history. Thankfully, a handful of book collectors realized the value of those … Continue reading →
57: The Wessex Literary Revival
Jan 28, 2015
After the defeat of the Vikings in York, England was permanently unified under Wessex leadership. A period of peace and prosperity followed. Under the supervision of a cleric named Dunstan, the churches and monasteries were re-built and a great literary ……
56: The Weak vs The Strong
Jan 15, 2015
Do you say ‘dived’ or ‘dove’? How about ‘shrank’ or ‘shrunk’? And when do you say ‘hanged’ instead of ‘hung’? We’ll explore the answers to these questions in this episode. The answers lie in the history of the English language … Continue reading →
55: To Be or Not To Be
Dec 30, 2014
‘To be or not to be?’ That may be the question. But where did the various forms of our modern verb ‘to be’ come from? And what about other Shakespearean phrases like ‘he hath,’ and ‘thou shalt,’ and ‘fear not?’ … Continue reading →
54: Pronoun Pros and Cons
Dec 12, 2014
The Modern English pronouns were largely inherited from the Anglo-Saxons. While many of them have survived in tact, others have changed quite a bit over the centuries. Some disappeared, some new ones were created, and some were even borrowed from ……
53: The End of Endings
Nov 24, 2014
In the 10th century, several factors came together in northern England which resulted in the loss of Old English inflectional endings. This was a fundamental change to English grammar which simplified word forms and led to a fixed a word … Continue…
52: Bloody Axes and a Battle Royal
Nov 7, 2014
In the mid-900s, the English king battled a grand alliance of Celtic and Viking leaders at a place called Brunanburh. The result was an Anglo-Saxon victory, and one of the more important poems composed during the Old English period. But … Continue reading…
51: Norse Words and a New English
Oct 23, 2014
During the 10th century, the English language spoken in northern and eastern England began to change under the influence of Old Norse. These changes resulted in a north-south linguistic divide which still exists today. In this episode we examine how ……
50: A Unified Family of English Speakers
Oct 9, 2014
In the early 10th century, King Alfred’s children and grandchildren conquered the Viking region known as the Danelaw. This brought all of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms under the rule of a single monarch. That monarch was Aethelstan who became the first ……
49: Vikings Among the English and French
Sep 17, 2014
Following the death of Alfred, there was a decade of relative peace between the Anglo-Saxons and the Danes. During this period, Scandinavian settlers continued to migrate to the Danelaw. In this episode, we explore the early Scandinavian influence on…
48: The Unity of Alfred’s English
Sep 3, 2014
After defeating the Danes, King Alfred set about reforming the educational system of Wessex. His reforms promoted English to an unprecedented level. His reforms required the translation of many texts from Latin to English, and Alfred himself assisted with…
Bonus Episode 6: Beowulf Deconstructed
Aug 28, 2014
In this bonus episode, Kevin Stroud discusses the new audiobook, “Beowulf Deconstructed.” An excerpt from the audiobook is included.
47: The Man Who Saved English
Aug 4, 2014
King Alfred is the only English monarch to be known as “the Great.” His struggles and ultimate victory over the Danes ensured the survival of the Anglo-Saxon culture and the English language. In this episode, we explore the life of … Continue reading →
46: Cynewulf and the Kindred Kings
Jul 15, 2014
In this episode, we look at the English terms associated with kings and nobility and explore the concept of Anglo-Saxon kingship. We also look at the poetry of the 9th century poet Cynewulf. The link between kings and Cynewulf is … Continue reading →
45: To Coin a Phrase – and Money
Jun 26, 2014
At the end of the 8th century, Western Europe saw its most powerful kings to date. That included Charlemagne in Francia and Offa in Britain. Those kings shared a close relationship which extended to their currency. The establishment of an … Continue…
44: The Romance of Old French
Jun 6, 2014
The modern French language evolved from a Latin dialect spoken in Gaul during the period of the late Roman Empire. That language ultimately became mixed with Old English after the Norman Conquest of 1066. Approximately half of the words in … Continue…
43: Anglo-Saxon Monsters and Mythology
May 20, 2014
Many Anglo-Saxons believed in a world inhabited by monsters and mythological creatures. They also believed in the power of sorcery and witchcraft. These ideas are reflected in the literature of the Anglo-Saxons, most notably the epic poem Beowulf. In this…
42: Beowulf and Other Viking Ancestors
May 6, 2014
The Viking-era states of Denmark, Sweden and Norway emerged from several North Germanic tribes in Scandinavia. These tribes also included the Geats who were prominently featured in Beowulf. In this episode, we explore the early history of these tribes and…
Bonus Episode 5: Odds and Ends
Apr 25, 2014
In this bonus episode we explore a few odds and ends which didn’t make into the earlier episodes. We examine the Old English words related to knowledge and wisdom. And we also look at the original terms for the … Continue reading →
41: New Words From Old English
Apr 8, 2014
The Anglo-Saxons created new words within Old English through the use of compound words, as well as standard prefixes and suffixes. This process expanded the vocabulary of Old English and enabled the language to emerge as an important literary … Continue…
40: Learning Latin and Latin Learning
Mar 20, 2014
Long before the Normans arrived in England, the Anglo-Saxons were borrowing Latin words from the monastic culture which was emerging in the 7th and 8th centuries. In this episode, we explore the spread of monastic schools and scholarship in Anglo-Saxon ……
39: Not Lost in Translation
Mar 5, 2014
The early Christian Church in Britain gradually embraced English as a way to spread to the message of the Church to the masses. This required the translation of Christian words and concepts from Latin into English. In this episode, … Continue reading →
38: Nobles, Nuptials and a Cowherd Poet
Feb 17, 2014
The kingdom of Northumbria emerged as a center of scholarship and learning during the 7th century. We explore the political and religious events which led to the Northumbrian Renaissance. We also explore the importance of strategic marriages and marital…
37: Seafarers, Poets and Traveling Minstrels
Jan 21, 2014
Old English poets were ‘word weavers’ who often created new words to comply with the strict requirements of Germanic poetry. In this episode, we explore the role of the traveling minstrel in Anglo-Saxon culture. We also explore the etymology of … Continue…
36: Finalizing the Alphabet
Dec 23, 2013
We complete our look at the first Old English alphabet by exploring the remaining letters of the original alphabet. The north-south divide resulted in distinct letters and different spelling conventions. But over time, these differences blended together.…
35: English Sounds and Roman Letters
Dec 11, 2013
As the sounds of English evolved in the 7th century, the first English scribes began to write the language with the Roman alphabet. But the English scribes had to invent ways to represent the unique sounds of Old English. In … Continue reading →
34: Sounds Like Old English
Nov 27, 2013
The sound of English began to change as soon as the first Anglo-Saxons arrived in Britain. We explore the specific sound changes which occurred and the impact which those changes had on modern English.
33: Missionaries and Manuscripts
Nov 7, 2013
In this episode, we explore the events which led to the first document written in the English language – the laws of Aethelbert of Kent. We look at the rise of monasteries, the role of St. Patrick in the conversion … Continue reading →
Bonus Episode 4: Let Me ‘Buoy’ Your Spirits
Oct 29, 2013
How do you pronounce ‘buoy’? In this bonus episode, we explore the history of the word and the reasons why the word is pronounced differently in various parts of the English-speaking world.
32: The Oldest English
Oct 18, 2013
We explore the early Anglo-Saxon kingdoms and their regional Old English dialects. The ‘Saxons’ soon become the ‘English.’ And ‘English’ provides the name of a new nation.
31: Saxons, Franks and Other West Germans
Sep 24, 2013
During the period of the Anglo-Saxon migrations, the West Germanic tribes of northern Europe continued to fight for power against the Romans and against each other. This period saw the emergence of the High German dialects, the creation of the … Continue…
30: The Celtic Legacy
Sep 6, 2013
We explore the linguistic legacy of the native Celtic Britons on Modern English. The historical legacy of the legendary Celtic king named Arthur is also examined.
29: The Anglo-Saxon Invasion
Aug 13, 2013
The Anglo-Saxons arrived in the British shores as permanent settlers in the 5th century. They encountered native Britons who spoke Latin and Celtic languages. The two groups soon fought for control of the region we know today as England. We … Continue…
28: Angles, Saxons, Jutes and Frisians
Aug 6, 2013
We explore the origins of the Angles, Saxons, Jutes and Frisians in the North Sea region of northern Europe. The early raids on the coasts of Britain and Gaul set the stage for the later mass migrations. The similarities between … Continue reading →
27: Broken Empire and Fractured Languages
Aug 5, 2013
Parchment books begin to replace papyrus scrolls as the Western Roman Empire crumbles. New Germanic Kingdoms emerge in the west, but Latin remains the dominant language in Western Europe. Latin itself begins to fracture without the Roman educational…
26: Imperial Crisis and the Goths
Aug 5, 2013
Rome is racked by ‘Imperial Crisis’ while strong Germanic tribes gather along the Rhine and Danube. The Alamanni, Franks, Vandals and Goths rise to power and provide us with many words in modern English. The Goths translate the Bible into … Continue…
25: Germanic Markings and the Runes
Aug 5, 2013
We explore the expansion of Germanic tribes into the Danube region where the Germans encounter the Etruscan alphabet. The Germanic runes develop and provide the first opportunity for the Germanic tribes to write their own language.
24: Germanic Mythology
Aug 5, 2013
The role of Germanic mythology on modern English is explored. Germanic gods and religious traditions are examined with an emphasis on words and phrases which are still found in modern English.
23: Tacitus and Germanic Society
Aug 5, 2013
We explore the Germanic languages during the 1st century AD. The society of the early Germans is examined in the context of ‘Germania’ by the Roman historian Tacitus. Modern English words originating during this period are also discussed.
22: Early Germanic Grammar
Aug 5, 2013
We look at the grammar of the early Germanic tribes. The decreasing use of inflexions is explored. Elements of modern English grammar are identified within the original Germanic language.
21: Early Germanic Words
Aug 5, 2013
We look at the first inscription found in a Germanic language and the vocabulary of the early Germanic tribes. The impact of Grimm’s Law on the early Germanic language is examined.
Bonus Episode 2: History of the Alphabet
Aug 5, 2013
Kevin discusses the new History of the Alphabet series. An excerpt from the series is included. The history of the ‘constant consonants’ (B,D,L,M,N,P,R,T) is explored.
20: The Early Germanic Tribes
Aug 5, 2013
The first Germanic-speaking tribes emerge in northern Europe. We explore the connection between these tribes and the original Indo-Europeans. We then look at the expansion of the Germanic tribes into the Celtic region of central Europe and their early…
19: The Romanization of Britain
Aug 5, 2013
The Roman Empire emerges following the death of Julius Caesar. Emperor Claudius sets his sights on Britain, and the native Celtic culture becomes Romanized. We look at the evolution of Latin words related to law, money and social classes.
18: Keeping Time With The Romans
Aug 5, 2013
We explore the origin of modern English words related to time. A direct connection is made to the calendar reforms of Julius Caesar. The etymology of English words related to time illustrate the combined influences of the Germanic languages and … Continue…
17: Ancient Celts and the Latin Invasion of Gaul
Aug 5, 2013
We look at the arrival of Celtic speaking people in Europe, and the invasion of Celtic Gaul by the Romans. Celtic is replaced by Latin in Western Europe, leading to the modern Romance languages. Celtic words in modern English are … Continue reading →
16: The Rise of Rome – and Latin
Aug 5, 2013
We look at the rise of the Roman Republic from a small Italian city-state to the dominant political and military power of the Mediterranean. The expansion of Rome also led to the expansion of Latin which emerged as a common … Continue reading →
15: Etruscans, Romans and a Modified Alphabet
Aug 5, 2013
The first Indo-Europeans settle into Italy, but they encounter an existing civilization known as the Etruscans. The Etruscans borrow the alphabet from the Greeks, and soon pass it on to the Romans. Our modern alphabet finally begins to emerge.
14: The Greek Word Horde
Aug 5, 2013
The Classical Greek period is explored with an emphasis on Modern English words which originated during this period of Greek history.
13: Greece, Phoenicia and the Alphabet
Aug 5, 2013
Mycenaean Greek writing disappears during the Greek Dark Age, but the Greeks encounter the Phoenicians and adopt their alphabet. The Greek alphabet results in the spread of literacy. Modern English words from this period of Greek history are examined.
12: Early Greek, Hittite and the Trojan War
Aug 5, 2013
The first Greek and Hittite civilizations emerge from Indo-European tribes in the eastern Mediterranean. The Greeks adopt an early form of writing and fight the Trojans. An alphabet allows the ancient history of the Greeks to be recorded in the … Continue…
Bonus Episode 1
Aug 5, 2013
Kevin Stroud updates listeners regarding the podcast and the website for the podcast. Kevin also answers some questions posed by listeners.
11: Germanic Ancestors
Sep 9, 2012 • 30 min
We look at the emergence of the Usatovo culture which spoke an Indo-European dialect believed to be the ancient ancestor of the Germanic languages – including English. We also look at the later migrations of the Indo-European tribes throughout Europe ……
10: Early Indo-European Migrations
Sep 5, 2012 • 42 min
The emergence of the first Indo-Europeans and the early migrations of these steppe herders is examined. The specific advantages favoring the expansion of these people is explored in detail.
9: Who Were the Indo-Europeans?
Aug 24, 2012 • 40 min
The evidence is examined to determine when and where the original Indo-Europeans lived. Based upon this evidence, the probable identity of the first Indo-Europeans is revealed.
8: Indo-European Grammar (Where have all the inflexions gone?)
Aug 16, 2012 • 32 min
The grammar of the original Indo-European language is compared to Modern English. We explore the word endings called ‘inflexions’ which were a prominent feature of the original Indo-European language.
7: More Indo-European Words
Aug 8, 2012
We complete our review Indo-European words which have impacted modern English. Social terms are explored to provide an insight into Indo-European society and culture.
6: Indo-European Words
Jul 25, 2012 • 38 min
A look at words used by the original Indo-Europeans and the clues such words provide to the identity of the first Indo-Europeans. The etymology of modern English words is explored in relation to the original Indo-European words.
5: Centum, Satem and the Letter C
Jul 17, 2012 • 43 min
A look at the early division of the Indo-European languages into the Centum and Satem languages. The sound shift which marks the division of the Centum and Satem languages is then explored in the context of the modern English letter … Continue reading →
4: A Grimm Brother Resurrects the Dead (…language)
Jul 10, 2012 • 50 min
The famous fairy-tale collector Jacob Grimm formulated the rules which help modern linguists reconstruct the ancient Indo-European language. In this episode, we look at Grimm’s Law and how the Germanic languages evolved from the original ancestral…
3: The Indo-European Family Tree
Jul 2, 2012 • 34 min
A look at the family tree of Indo-European languages and the relationship of English to those related languages. The closest relatives of English are highlighted, including the Germanic languages, Latin and Greek. We explore the background of English from…
2: The Indo-European Discovery
Jun 25, 2012 • 33 min
The story of the discovery of the ancient language which gave rise to most of the languages of Europe, including English.
1: Introduction
Jun 18, 2012 • 23 min
In this introductory episode, we look at the emergence of English as a global language and the evolution of the language from its Germanic origins.