The Story of English in 100 Words

Friday, December 27, 2013

Linguistics expert David Crystal looks at 100 words that best illustrate the wide variety of sources, influences and events that have shaped the English language. The Story of English in 100 Words takes readers on a tour of the winding byways of our language via the rude, the obscure, and the downright surprising.



David Crystal
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Comments [7]

Wendy from Port Jefferson

One thing that frustrates ne is that the "'I' before 'E' except after 'C'" is wrong too much of the time.

Jan. 15 2014 10:09 PM
Jerry from Melville, NY

If you really want to know how ridiculous our language is, try teaching 10 year olds how to spell!

Dec. 30 2013 12:44 PM
Accentpro from Valley Stream, NY

The th spelling is a transliteration of the Greek sound/letter THETA. The pronunciation of the ph spelling as F is also from the Greek (I don't know that letter's name). Many other spelling/pronunciation anomalies evolved through a shift from one part of the mouth to another. COUGH, probably was "kokh", with a linguo-velar friction sound that shifted forward in the mouth to "koff".

Dec. 30 2013 11:32 AM
Brian from Hamburg, NJ

Two pronunciations that drive me beyond the speed limit.
The first is excetera and the other is ax as in ax a question.
Even people from non English speaking countries have better pronunciation of these words than we do.
As we accept letting our language slip letter by letter and syllable by syllable, we will end up loosing a lot more than we think.

Dec. 30 2013 08:41 AM
Amy from Manhattan

How did English lose such a useful thing (or actually 2) as a way to write each "th" sound w/a single letter? Did the "th" spelling come in from French, even though it's not pronounced the same way in French?

Dec. 27 2013 12:45 PM
Joe Mirsky from Pompton Lakes, NJ

From my book Ornamentally Incorrect

Language Isn’t Fixt
You rarely see discust that the evolution of English hasn’t stopt. Altho it may look here as if some letters have been dropt and another affixt, everything has been spelt correctly. Surprized? This was the way we wrote from the 1910’s into the 1930’s.

Copyright © 2013 Joseph Mirsky Jewelry Inc.

Dec. 27 2013 12:35 PM
rose-ellen caminer from Jackson Heights

Sounds like absurd revisionist history; "hiccough" is spelled the way it is , because it was originally pronounced "hic cough".French spelled words exist because they were/are [originally] French words.

Dec. 27 2013 12:27 PM

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