Origins of The English Language in Less Than 800 Words.

DO You Know What You`re Writing?: Origins of The English Language in 800
Words For as long as I can remember (which, admittedly, isn`t that long) I have been interested in words and language.
As a writer it`s important to understand (at least in part) where the words come from.
English is a fascinating language, Its words are rich in both history and cultural content.
But how did these words, this language, come to be? What are these scrawlings writers write? In this article we`re going to take a look at a little history and a few entertaining resources too! I`ve kept it as short as I could, and though it did tempt me to become a 5000-word essay Isteadfastly resisted ;) 1.
Old English No, not those in the twilight of their lives. This is the name given to the dialects spoken in England up until about AD 1100. Where did it all begin? Well, I`m not going back all the way.
We`ll start, for our purposes, during the 5th-6th Century AD.

Three tribes speaking the Western Germanic language decided that they would come settle in England. These we know as the Jutes, Angles and Saxons. They pushed the native celts into Scotland, Wales and Cornwall and established settlements across England.
Their language divided into four dialects: Northumbrian (spoken in northern England), Mercian (the Midlands), Kentish (the south- east), and West Saxon (south and west). These dialects we collectively call Old English. You can see and hear some Old English by visiting the link below (I found some readings from the well-known Old English epic, Beowulf!). 2. Old Norse Around AD 850 the North Germanic tribes decided to start invading the land (mostly in the north) and thus Old Norse started to permeate the language.

It was King Alfred the Great who pushed the Danish invaders back but they still held the north of England and so that`s where the main Old Norse infusion occurred, but it spread and the two mixed - often leaving two words with the same meaning intact; which means, today, your thesaurus has a lot more entries than it otherwise would have had! ;) But many more synonyms were to be added... 3. Anglo-Norman Yes, that strange Norse-French hybrid that is used to describe all those heraldic terms. This language dominated England after the successful invasion made by William of Normandy in 1066. The Normans (the word comes from `Norse man`) were actually of Western Germanic stock but had settled in France. England became dominated by this French language and Old English (which also became known as Anglo-Saxon in Alfred`s time) went underground. Not only that but the Normans brought with them the Latin script which was used in ecclesiastical and legal matters. It was to be another 300 years before English became the language of the rulers again, Middle English (Chaucer), Modern English (Shakespeare) and Late Modern English (today!) followed. Summary English, influenced heavily by Old English, Old Norse, the Norman French and Latin has become a rich and multi-synonymed language. Personally I wouldn`t write or speak another! Well, actually I can`t do either anyway ;) I thought I`d end this article by providing you with some interesting linguistic facts as well as a couple of great links.
Interesting Linguistic Facts .
1. The last native Cornishspeaker died in 1777. The dead language of Cornish (though it is being revived) was spoken in the far southwestern extremity of England.
2. Although only a sixth of known Old English words form the origins of today`s English, a full half of today`s most- commonly-used
words are from Old English. Read that again ;).
3. The modern-day English counties of Sussex and Essex take their name origins from `South Saxonland` and `East Saxonland` respectively; Wessex (`West Saxonland`)no longer exists but was the homeland of King Alfred the Great.
4. The influence of the Norman French `good life` as rulers can be seen in the language. For instance, many animals (such as deer, pig, sheep, chicken) retain their Anglo- Saxon (Old English) names whilst the `meat for the table` employs the French (`venaison`, `porc`, `mouton`, `poulet`).
5.It was largely the blending of Anglo-saxon and French to bring about multiple synonyms that today gives English the largest vocabulary of all languages. Examples include sweat/perspiration, dead/deceased, want/desire, ad inf! (oh, ad. inf. is Latin ;) ).
6. It is thought that the mispronunciation of the Anglo-Saxon letter, `edh` (likely pronounced as th as in `the`) was responsible for the emergence of the word `Ye` as in `Ye Olde Worlde...` It should probably be `the` not `ye`. A Couple of Great Links You can read more details about by visiting:
You can find some good resources (including Old English fonts) by checking out this web site: For those who know HTML, you can use the three weird-looking characters from the Anglo-Saxon alphabet (eth, thorn and the ae/AE ligature) with these named entities: eth,thorn,aelig and AElig.
I hope you feel a little better now you know what you`re writing ;)
P.S. There`s a bit more in the online version of this article which cannot be conveyed in text: ------ Darren Andrews is a writer and writes about anything he jolly well likes. He lives in England and tries to help writers understand the Internet. You can take his free mini-course, "Write Your Way To Success & Profit" by visiting:


Anonymous said…
Vest, you would have been much better to teach me history than the gentleman who called himself my history teacher!

Jay said…
This is interesting stuff.

I always admire the kids in the major spelling bees - they ask for word origins and such, and they just seem to know what that means in terms of spelling.
Jim said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Vest said…
jd's rose and Jay: Thanks for your comments. It was good people like Mr Stokes(The Mr Chips of the school)my history teacher and a Mr Phillips my English teacher, who when in class gave us a rare opportunity to escape from the harsh reality of that wretched boarding school.

Jim: Or who ever, what else did you expect.

It has been pouring with rain here, the roads flooded again. We were without power between 8-15 pm last night until 2-30 pm today.
During my childhood, a power cut mean't; when The Coal Delivery Man failed to turn up on time.
The good old days??
Anonymous said…
Gad zooks thou doth hath a brace of comely wenches adorn the vellum.
Anonymous said…
in India we have developed HINGLISH
Vest said…
Anon; There are many things that have been developed in India.
Crutch crabs, many pox varieties, carnal catarrh, new strains of Aids and the persistence of gut wrenching 'Delhi Belly'.
The need to develope a vaccine for the masses of India in the hope its success would diminish the sexual activity and promote a lower population by lowering the sperm count within the male testimonials (bollocks).
Anonymous said…
The British Empire is no more
but old timers like VEST are still reliving the old glory of the British Raj

Just as convicts were deported to Australia, the drop outs of British society landed in India and gave us Indians a weird sense of etiqutte and dress code and what not

these guys were fat slobs and cud not play football

so they played cricket (with the natives as runners)

see LAGAN, the hindi movie
Vest said…
Like the bans of marriage this is the third bloody time the previous comment has cropped up on this blog, Saby 1st & 2nd and now anon who is jim anyway,and of course saby as well.
Jim said…

Here are some other ideas that I really wanted to explore this week to see what YOU had to say...

I wanted to explore the historically predictable victory of the English language (the black hole vortex, word stealing great whore of Babble-On) and discuss the inevitable future fonetic spelling chainjiz that wee can’t stop.
With 42 sounds spelled in 400 different ways it will continue to adapt, morph and survive even langwij killerz like txt msgs.

China is a country where three quarters of the population, 750 Million people, basically live in impoverished, archaic, rural, obscurity. This is not some Monolith that will steamroll over the rest of the world anytime soon and may even disintegrate if democracy ever gets a foothold.
Anonymous said…
Saby 1st & 2nd and now anon who is jim anyway,and of course saby as well.

VEST needs help
he is going nuts
Jim said…
The type of man who makes a woman’s heart flutter has a lot to do with whether she was a daddy’s girl, according to a new study.

Women who got along well with their dads as kids are attracted to men who resemble their fathers, whereas women who had a bad father-daughter relationship do not.

Lynda Boothroyd, a psychologist at Durham University in England, and her colleagues at the University of Wroclaw and the Institute of Anthropology in Poland asked a trained anthropologist to perform facial measurements on the photographs of 15 random men as well as the photographs of the fathers of 49 Polish women participating in the study.

The anthropologist calculated 15 key proportions based on how various features—such as the lips, nose, cheekbones and brows—related to each face’s height and width. The researchers also compared the 15 random faces to each of the father’s faces to determine how closely they resembled one another.

The women then rated their childhood relationships with their fathers based on how emotionally invested they felt their dads had been in raising them and how much time their fathers had spent with them. The women were split into two groups based on how positively or negatively they rated their relationships.

Then the researchers asked the women to rate how attractive they found each of the 15 random male faces.
The women who had reported positive relationships with their fathers were much more likely to be attracted to men resembling their fathers, the researchers found. On the other hand, women with bad dad relationships did not find men who looked like their fathers appealing.

“While previous research has suggested this to be the case, these controlled results show for certain that the quality of a daughter’s relationship with her father has an impact on whom she finds attractive,” Boothroyd said in a prepared statement. “It shows our human brains don't simply build prototypes of the ideal face based on those we see around us, rather they build them based on those to whom we have a strongly positive relationship.”

Although no one yet knows for sure why females show these preferences, a woman with a great dad may choose a similar-looking mate in the hopes that he will also be a good father, the researchers wrote.

Fatherhood at First Sight:
Women Can Spot Good Dads By Their faces
Anonymous said…
Now i no why the beautiful Rosemary married VEST
Jim said…
Sunday, June 3, 2007
The Cure
It was requested that I write a story... So I did. Its a story that starts at the ending and the ending begins wit me and you. Do enjoy!

The Cure is a journey. A journey called destiny. A destiny filled with romance, love, hate, sorrow, joy, pain and much more. To experience joy is to have experience sorrow, to celebrate a win you must have lost a game or two. I enjoy the rays of sunshine because my face has beaten by the rain. All these emotions come through living out ones destiny. Destiny is not something that happens by chance. It only happens when one makes decisions to chase a dream. When in pursuit of these dreams, your dreams will pursue you. The Cure is a tale of two men unalike other than their common thread to live a purpose filled life. These thin threads commonly known as occurrences connect many pieces of the puzzle called fate. The fate of these two men and the world rest on ones ability to live a purpose fill life that will ultimately affect the destiny of mankind.

When taking any journey one must first know the destination in order to chart the route he should take. The destination is where we will start. Imagine a world where no disease can destroy man or a section of mankind, as some believe to be planned events. In order to conceive this one must be willing to remove the limitations of “reality.” Reality is nothing more than ones world that he or she has architected using self-imposed limitations as the mortar to hold it together. Man only uses on average 5% of their brain capacity. Some of our top performers like Einstein used less than 15. Top performing athletes; train hours on end to get their body to do amazing things. The four minute mile once perceived to be un-accomplishable by man, was broken because one man decided it was not impossible. Since that sunny day many men have broken through that wall of impossibilities. The mere existence of rules and records is to spear man’s inter-self to push him and others beyond that point. Pushing past the mental block that ask why, and start asking why not? This competitive nature of man shows its face everywhere. Bath Ruth’s’ records broken by Mark McGuire only lasted a few years to be broken by Barry Bonds. The phenomenon known as Michael Jordan, Air Jordan or simply MJ, birthed such talent of LeBron James and Kobe Bryant who emulate his greatness. The definition of an empire was forever changed by the legendary Roman Empire. The bar of a wealth of a nation is reset time and time again by the world power The United States of America. However un-united we are at times; nobody has yet got on a water craft to sail away from our shores. And however traitorous Our past history is, men made the most of opportunities they were presented with. Destiny, the thin threads created by our decisions, once again has brought the stage of opportunity to prove that we are the greatest nation birthing our greatest resource… our people.

Now that we know were we are going we can start at the beginning.
Posted by Andrew The Asshole at 11:41 PM 20 ASS-Haules Commenting ;
Labels: Poems/Quotes/Stories
Jim said…
my bp is acting up again
hence the flooding


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