The History of English Podcast

By Kevin Stroud

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Subscribers: 4182
Reviews: 26
Episodes: 180

 Apr 25, 2023

 Aug 21, 2022

 Feb 1, 2022

Chris Ryan
 Jul 14, 2021
what an epic podcast! The host is clearly an expert but manages to keep this deep subject friendly and approachable. He wonderfully weaves history and knowledge together to create a very enjoyable narrative.

 May 3, 2021


The Spoken History of a Global Language

Episode Date
Episode 168: Witches, Demons and Fairies
In this episode, we explore the Elizabethan fascination with witchcraft and mysterious creatures like fairies and demons. Those subjects feature prominently in the literature of the period, and they reveal a lot about the world view of the people who … Continue reading
May 31, 2023
Episode 167: The Rhythm of English
All languages have their own rhythm and cadence, and English is no exception. That rhythm has actually shaped the language over time. It contributed to the structure of English poetry, and during the Elizabethan period, it shaped the way drama … Continue reading
Apr 24, 2023
Bonus Episode: Rise and Fall of the Classic Movie Accent
In this episode from the Patreon archives, we examine the accent used by actors and actresses in very old movies. We look at the origin of that accent and examine why it was adopted by the film industry in the … Continue reading
Mar 31, 2023
Episode 166: The Arte of Warre
In 1588, the Spanish Armada set sail for England in an attempt to depose Elizabeth I and replace her with a Spanish princess. In this episode, we examine how the English victory secured the status of English within the Church … Continue reading
Mar 07, 2023
Episode 165: Glamorous Grammar
William Bullokar composed the first formal grammar of the English language in 1586. Prior to that point, the concept of grammar had been largely restricted to Latin. Bullokar’s work extended the concept to English, but it did so by employing … Continue reading
Jan 30, 2023
Episode 164: Somewhere in the Middle
Throughout her long reign, Queen Elizabeth I was faced with many difficult decisions, and she often chose a middle path when she could. In this episode, we explore the middle paths taken during her reign, and the consequences of those … Continue reading
Dec 20, 2022
Episode 163: An Elementary Education
By the second half of the Elizabethan period, the perception of English had changed significantly in England. It was increasingly perceived as a sophisticated language capable of matching the refinement of other European languages. One of the language’s most vocal … Continue reading
Nov 09, 2022
Episode 162: The Pirate Queen
In the 1570s, Francis Drake plundered Spanish ships throughout the New World with the private permission of Elizabeth I. His actions marked the first direct challenge to Spanish naval supremacy in the region, and also marked the beginning the English … Continue reading
Oct 06, 2022
Episode 161: Y U and I Have a Problem
In this episode, we explore the complicated history of the letters Y, U and I, and we examine how they gave birth to the letters W, V and J. We also look at the Gothic script of the Middle Ages … Continue reading
Aug 31, 2022
Episode 160: Approximant-ly English
In this episode, we explore the sounds represented by the letters L and R. Linguists refer to these sounds as ‘approximants,’ and they are some of the most challenging sounds in the English language. They are consonants with vowel-like qualities. … Continue reading
Jul 15, 2022
Episode 159: Elizabethan Voices
In 1569, an English scholar named John Hart published a manuscript called ‘An Orthographie.’ The text argued for a phonetic spelling system, and it provided one of the earliest detailed descriptions of the sounds of English. In this episode, we … Continue reading
May 18, 2022
Episode 158: Planting Seeds
In the mid-1500s, England attempted to expand its influence in Ireland by establishing plantations there. This same process would soon be applied to North America. In this episode, we explore those early attempts at Irish colonization and England’s first encounters … Continue reading
Apr 06, 2022
Episode 157: Highlands, Lowlands and Netherlands
During the first decade of the reign of Elizabeth I, Protestants in Scotland and the Netherlands rebelled against the Catholic authorities who controlled those countries. Those rebellions were supported by England, and eventually Scotland and the Netherlands joined England as … Continue reading
Mar 04, 2022
Episode 156: Beggars, Cheats and Thieves
In the 1500s, England saw a significant rise in the number of beggars and vagabonds. Those who couldn’t survive by begging often turned to thievery, gambling and fraud. By the mid-1500s, books and pamphlets were being published that highlighted the … Continue reading
Feb 04, 2022
Episode 155: Back to Basics
In the 1553, Mary Tudor became the first queen to rule England as the head of the government. She promptly turned back the clock on the religious reforms that had taken place over the prior few years. Meanwhile, scholars of … Continue reading
Jan 04, 2022
Episode 154: English Equality
By the mid-1500s, scholars were becoming more confident in the ability of English to express sophisticated ideas and concepts associated with classical learning. Writers began to use English beside Latin and Greek in many scholarly works during this period. English … Continue reading
Nov 30, 2021
Episode 153: Zombie Letters
In early Modern English, writers and printers began to revise the spelling of many English words to reflect their etymological origins. Old letters were revived from the dead to reflect sounds that had disappeared over time in those words. This … Continue reading
Oct 30, 2021
Episode 152: As the Saying Goes
John Heywood was a playwright and poet who made two important contributions to the history of English. He was a key figure in the emergence of modern English drama which led directly to William Shakespeare at the end of the … Continue reading
Sep 29, 2021
Episode 151: Sick to Death
During the reign of Henry VIII, medical books and herbals proved to be some of the most popular publications in England. The people of England wanted medical books that they could read in the own language. The largely unregulated medical … Continue reading
Aug 30, 2021
Episode 150: A Capital Offense
In the 1530s, Henry VIII declared himself to be the ‘Supreme Head’ of the Church of England, and he demanded absolute loyalty from his subjects. Those who crossed him risked the loss of their heads. Meanwhile, the modern punctuation system started … Continue reading
Jul 29, 2021
Episode 149: Breaking Up Is Hard To Do
In the years following Martin Luther’s protest against the Catholic Church, small fractures soon turned into a major rift. The Protestant Reformation led to the break-up of the Western Church. Meanwhile in England, the marriage of Henry VIII and Catherine … Continue reading
Jun 28, 2021
Episode 148: A Marital Union
In the early 1500s, a series of marriages between European royal families re-shaped the face of Europe and brought together separate regions under the leadership of a single ruler.  This led to creation of modern Spain and the formation of … Continue reading
May 26, 2021
Episode 147: A Rude and Rusty Language
The European Renaissance provided a transition to the early modern era by looking back to the culture of classical Greece and Rome. It led to a renewed interest in ancient Greek and Latin and a new world view known as … Continue reading
Apr 28, 2021
Episode 146: A Brand New World
In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. The voyage marked the beginning of the European discovery of the Americas. Columbus encountered natives in the Caribbean who spoke a Native American dialect called Arawakan. As the Europeans encountered the native culture of … Continue reading
Mar 24, 2021
Episode 145: A Sea Change for Europe
The period of European exploration and discovery began in the 1400s as part of an effort to find new trading routes to Africa and Asia. In this episode, we look at how European sailors and merchants began to think of … Continue reading
Feb 18, 2021
Episode 144: A Murder of Crows and Princes
In the second half of the 1400s, there is written evidence of word play and new word formations within English. These new terms included words for the sounds made by animals and collective nouns for various groups of animals and … Continue reading
Jan 20, 2021
Bonus Episode: Chaucer’s Purse and the Great Vowel Shift
In this bonus episode of the regular podcast, we explore the effects of the Great Vowel Shift on the pronunciation of English by reading Geoffrey Chaucer’s last known poem in Middle English, early Modern English and contemporary English.
Dec 17, 2020
Episode 143: The Great Vowel Shift (Part 3)
In this final episode about the sound changes associated with the Great Vowel Shift, we explore the vowel shifts that took place in the back of the mouth. We also explore how these changes impacted the way words are spelled … Continue reading
Nov 24, 2020
Episode 142: The Great Vowel Shift (Part 2)
In this second part of our look at the Great Vowel Shift, we explore the movement of the vowel sounds located in the bottom front part of the mouth. We also examine how these sounds were traditionally spelled and how … Continue reading
Oct 22, 2020
Episode 141: The Great Vowel Shift (Part 1)
The term ‘Great Vowel Shift’ was coined in the early 1900s by the Danish linguist Otto Jespersen to describe a systematic change in the long vowel sounds of English. The changes help to mark the transition from Middle English to … Continue reading
Sep 24, 2020
Episode 140: You Say ‘To-may-to’
Vowel sounds are a key feature of every language, but the actual vowel sounds vary from one language to another. The English language contains about twenty vowel sounds, some of which are pure vowels and some of which are a … Continue reading
Aug 28, 2020
Episode 139: The Business of Printing
William Caxton introduced the mass production of books to England in the 1470s. He was also the first person to print books in the English language via the printing press. Caxton’s publications reveal the priorities and concerns of a businessman, … Continue reading
Jul 21, 2020
Episode 138: Family Matters
In the 1400s, rising literacy rates and access to cheap paper combined to produce the first collections of personal letters in the English language. One of the earliest letter collections was maintained by the Paston family of Norfolk. Their letters … Continue reading
Jun 25, 2020
Episode 137: A Rose By Any Other Name
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
May 23, 2020
Episode 136: The Real Robin Hood
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 reading
Apr 24, 2020
Bonus Episode: Stay at Home Edition
In this bonus ‘stay at home’ episode, we explore several words and phrases that appeared for the first time in the first half of the 15th century, including “turnpike,” “to curry favor,” “budget,” “average,” “peculiar,” “hogwash,” and others.
Apr 06, 2020
Episode 135: A House of Cards
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 reading
Mar 24, 2020
Episode 134: A Lancastrian Standard
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
Feb 20, 2020
Episode 133: Breaking Bread With Companions
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 reading
Jan 21, 2020
Episode 132: Food for Thought
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
Dec 19, 2019
Episode 131: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
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
Nov 25, 2019
Episode 130: Dialect Dialogues
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 reading
Oct 22, 2019
Episode 129: Chaucer’s Vulgar Tongue [EXPLICIT LANGUAGE]
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
Sep 25, 2019
Bonus Episode: The Life of Guy – An Interview with Allan Metcalf
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.”
Sep 10, 2019
Episode 128: The Canterbury Tellers
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 reading
Aug 23, 2019
Episode 127: The Road to Canterbury
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 reading
Jul 24, 2019
Episode 126: A New Turn of Phrase
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 Chaucer’s House of … Continue reading
Jun 26, 2019
Episode 125: The First English Bible
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 … Continue reading
May 28, 2019
Episode 124: Piers Plowman and the Peasant Revolt
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 reading
Apr 24, 2019
Episode 123: A Material Change
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
Mar 27, 2019
Episode 122: The Name of the Game
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
Feb 28, 2019
Episode 121: English Ascent
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 reading
Jan 30, 2019
Episode 120: The End of the World
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
Dec 31, 2018
Episode 119: The Road to War
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
Dec 13, 2018
Bonus Episode: Regarding English (Sound Education Conference Talk)
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
Nov 29, 2018
Episode 118: Trade Names
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 … Continue reading
Nov 19, 2018
Episode 117: What’s In a Name?
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 … Continue reading
Oct 16, 2018
Episode 116: The Celtic Fringe
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
Sep 17, 2018
Episode 115: The Measure of a Person
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 … Continue reading
Aug 21, 2018
Episode 114: The Craft of Numbering
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 … Continue reading
Jul 26, 2018
Episode 113: A Zouthern Accent
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
Jun 27, 2018
Episode 112: Northern Messenger
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
Jun 08, 2018
Episode 111: Laying Down the Law
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
May 10, 2018
Episode 110: Dyed In the Wool
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
Apr 07, 2018
Episode 109: The Romantic Warriors
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 reading
Mar 08, 2018
Episode 108: On the Move
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
Feb 09, 2018
Episode 107: Parlez-Vous Anglais?
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 … Continue reading
Jan 15, 2018
Episode 106: An Illuminating Development
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 reading
Dec 31, 2017
Episode 105: Suffix Summary
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
Dec 25, 2017
Episode 104: Prefix Preferences
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 reading
Dec 19, 2017
Episode 103: Solitary Confinement
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
Dec 02, 2017
Episode 102: A Medieval Glossary
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 … Continue reading
Nov 06, 2017
Episode 101: The Birth of English Song
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
Oct 12, 2017
Episode 100: Decoding English
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 … Continue reading
Sep 25, 2017
Episode 99: The Second French Invasion
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
Sep 09, 2017
Episode 98: The Great Debates
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
Aug 17, 2017
Episode 97: Let’s Put It In Writing
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 reading
Jul 27, 2017
Episode 96: From Alpha to Omega
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
Jul 07, 2017
Episode 95: Old School and New School
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 reading
Jun 15, 2017
Episode 94: From British Legend to English King
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
May 24, 2017
Episode 93: The Two Arthurs
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 … Continue reading
Apr 22, 2017
Episode 92: The Lion Kings
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 … Continue reading
Mar 29, 2017
Episode 91: Traders and Traitors
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, … Continue reading
Mar 08, 2017
Episode 90: Healers, Hospitals and Holy Wars
In this episode, we turn our attention to the Near East to explore the spread of Islam and the rise of Muslim science in the Middle Ages.  This scientific and literary revolution in the Near East contributed to the English … Continue reading
Feb 15, 2017
Episode 89: ‘I Before E’ and All That
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 spelling … Continue reading
Jan 23, 2017
Episode 88: The Long and Short of It
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. … Continue reading
Jan 04, 2017
Episode 87: The First Spelling Reformers
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 several spelling innovations introduced during this … Continue reading
Dec 07, 2016
Episode 86: Family of Rebels
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 reading
Nov 15, 2016
Episode 85: How to Run an Empire
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 administered the government … Continue reading
Oct 24, 2016
Episode 84: Law, Order and Murder
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
Sep 29, 2016
Episode 83: A Trilingual Nation
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
Sep 05, 2016
Episode 82: A Marriage for the Ages
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
Aug 03, 2016
Episode 81: Love Songs and Troubadours
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
Jul 15, 2016
Announcement: 10 American Presidents Podcast
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.
Jul 01, 2016
Episode 80: Knight Life
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. … Continue reading
Jun 23, 2016
Episode 79: Anarchy
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
May 18, 2016
Episode 78: Under Siege
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
Apr 29, 2016
Episode 77: Rival Relatives and the Land of Scots
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 reading
Apr 11, 2016
Episode 76: The Gender Problem
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 few entries … Continue reading
Mar 25, 2016
Episode 75: Mixed Languages and Scrambled Eggs
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 reading
Mar 02, 2016
Episode 74: Head Cities and Home Towns
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, we … Continue reading
Feb 15, 2016
Episode 73: Possession, Power and Checkmate
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 was … Continue reading
Jan 30, 2016
Episode 72: The Dark Ages of English
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 parts … Continue reading
Jan 11, 2016
Episode 71: On The Hunt
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
Dec 05, 2015
Episode 70: Mind Your Manors For Pete’s Sake
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 reading
Nov 15, 2015
Episode 69: From Conquest to Domesday
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
Oct 30, 2015
Episode 68: Rebels With a Cause
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. Despite William’s attempt … Continue reading
Oct 16, 2015
Episode 67: The Year That Changed English
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
Sep 18, 2015
Episode 66: Broken Promises and the Eve of Conquest
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
Aug 20, 2015
Episode 65: Norman Dukes and Dialects
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 Normans gave … Continue reading
Jul 31, 2015
Episode 64: Feudalism and Early Normans
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 reading
Jul 10, 2015
Bonus Episode 7: Stuffed Animals
In this bonus episode we look at the etymology of certain words related to animals. We also examine words related to stuffing.
Jun 25, 2015
Episode 63: Restorations and Remedies
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 … Continue reading
Jun 02, 2015
Episode 62: Flesh and Blood
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
May 11, 2015
Episode 61: Earls and Churls
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
Apr 22, 2015
Episode 60: Danes, Death and Taxes
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
Mar 30, 2015
Episode 59: Let’s Make A Deal
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
Mar 11, 2015
Episode 58: Bibliophiles and Bookworms
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
Feb 18, 2015
Episode 57: The Wessex Literary Revival
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 … Continue reading
Jan 28, 2015
Episode 56: The Weak vs The Strong
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
Jan 15, 2015
Episode 55: To Be or Not To Be
‘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
Dec 30, 2014
Episode 54: Pronoun Pros and Cons
The Modern English pronouns were largely inherited from the Anglo-Saxons.  While many of them have survived intact, others have changed quite a bit over the centuries. Some disappeared, some new ones were created, and some were even borrowed from the … Continue reading
Dec 13, 2014
Episode 53: The End of Endings
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 reading
Nov 24, 2014
Episode 52: Bloody Axes and a Battle Royal
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
Nov 07, 2014
Episode 51: Norse Words and a New English
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 … Continue reading
Oct 24, 2014
Episode 50: A Unified Family of English Speakers
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 … Continue reading
Oct 09, 2014
Episode 49: Vikings Among the English and French
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 English … Continue reading
Sep 17, 2014
Episode 48: The Unity of Alfred’s English
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 those … Continue reading
Sep 03, 2014
Bonus Episode 6: Beowulf Deconstructed
In this bonus episode, Kevin Stroud discusses the new audiobook, “Beowulf Deconstructed.” An excerpt from the audiobook is included.
Aug 28, 2014
Episode 47: The Man Who Saved English
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
Aug 04, 2014
Episode 46: Cynewulf and the Kindred Kings
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
Jul 15, 2014
Episode 45: To Coin a Phrase – and Money
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 reading
Jun 26, 2014
Episode 44: The Romance of Old French
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 reading
Jun 06, 2014
Episode 43: Anglo-Saxon Monsters and Mythology
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 … Continue reading
May 21, 2014
Episode 42: Beowulf and Other Viking Ancestors
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 … Continue reading
May 07, 2014
Bonus Episode 5: Odds and Ends
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
Apr 25, 2014
Episode 41: New Words From Old English
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 reading
Apr 08, 2014
Episode 40: Learning Latin and Latin Learning
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 … Continue reading
Mar 21, 2014
Episode 39: Not Lost in Translation
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
Mar 05, 2014
Episode 38: Nobles, Nuptials and a Cowherd Poet
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 terms … Continue reading
Feb 17, 2014
Episode 37: Seafarers, Poets and Traveling Minstrels
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 reading
Jan 21, 2014
Episode 36: Finalizing the Alphabet
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.  Once again, we … Continue reading
Dec 23, 2013
Episode 35: English Sounds and Roman Letters
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
Dec 12, 2013
Episode 34: Sounds Like Old English
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. TRANSCRIPT: EPISODE 34
Nov 27, 2013
Episode 33: Missionaries and Manuscripts
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
Nov 07, 2013
Bonus Episode 4: Let Me ‘Buoy’ Your Spirits
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.
Oct 29, 2013
Episode 32: The Oldest English
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. TRANSCRIPT: EPISODE 32
Oct 18, 2013
Episode 31: Saxons, Franks and Other West Germans
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 reading
Sep 25, 2013
Episode 30: The Celtic Legacy
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. TRANSCRIPT: EPISODE 30
Sep 06, 2013
Episode 29: The Anglo-Saxon Invasion
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 reading
Aug 12, 2013
Episode 28: Angles, Saxons, Jutes and Frisians
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
Jul 18, 2013
Episode 27: Broken Empire and Fractured Languages
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 system to … Continue reading
Jun 24, 2013
Episode 26: Imperial Crisis and the Goths
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 reading
Jun 08, 2013
Episode 25: Germanic Markings and the Runes
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. TRANSCRIPT: EPISODE 25
May 28, 2013
Episode 24: Germanic Mythology
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. TRANSCRIPT: EPISODE 24
May 05, 2013
Episode 23: Tacitus and Germanic Society
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. TRANSCRIPT: EPISODE … Continue reading
Apr 02, 2013
Episode 22: Early Germanic Grammar
We look at the grammar of the early Germanic tribes. The decreasing use of inflections is explored. Elements of modern English grammar are identified within the original Germanic language. TRANSCRIPT: EPISODE 22
Mar 21, 2013
Episode 21: Early Germanic Words
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. TRANSCRIPT: EPISODE 21
Mar 05, 2013
Bonus Episode 2: History of the Alphabet
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.
Feb 24, 2013
Episode 20: The Early Germanic Tribes
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 conflicts … Continue reading
Feb 05, 2013
Episode 19: The Romanization of Britain
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. TRANSCRIPT: … Continue reading
Jan 23, 2013
Episode 18: Keeping Time With The Romans
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 reading
Jan 02, 2013
Episode 17: Ancient Celts and the Latin Invasion of Gaul
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
Dec 15, 2012
Episode 16: The Rise of Rome – and Latin
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
Nov 30, 2012
Episode 15: Etruscans, Romans and a Modified Alphabet
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. TRANSCRIPT: … Continue reading
Nov 13, 2012
Episode 14: The Greek Word Horde
The Classical Greek period is explored with an emphasis on Modern English words which originated during this period of Greek history. TRANSCRIPT: EPISODE 14
Nov 01, 2012
Episode 13: Greece, Phoenicia and the Alphabet
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. TRANSCRIPT: … Continue reading
Oct 17, 2012
Episode 12: Early Greek, Hittite and the Trojan War (Extended Version)
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 reading
Oct 05, 2012
Bonus Episode 1
Kevin Stroud updates listeners regarding the podcast and the website for the podcast.   Kevin also answers some questions posed by listeners.
Sep 19, 2012
Episode 11: Germanic Ancestors
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 … Continue reading
Sep 09, 2012
Episode 10: Early Indo-European Migrations
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. TRANSCRIPT: EPISODE 10
Sep 05, 2012
Episode 9: Who Were the Indo-Europeans?
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. TRANSCRIPT: EPISODE 9
Aug 24, 2012
Episode 8: Indo-European Grammar (Where have all the inflexions gone?)
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. TRANSCRIPT: EPISODE 8
Aug 16, 2012
Episode 7: More Indo-European Words
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. TRANSCRIPT: EPISODE 7
Aug 09, 2012
Episode 6: Indo-European Words
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. TRANSCRIPT: EPISODE 6
Jul 26, 2012
Episode 5: Centum, Satem and the Letter C
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
Jul 18, 2012
Episode 4: A Grimm Brother Resurrects the Dead (…language)
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 language. TRANSCRIPT: EPISODE 4
Jul 11, 2012
Episode 3: The Indo-European Family Tree
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 the … Continue reading
Jul 02, 2012
Episode 2: The Indo-European Discovery
The story of the discovery of the ancient language which gave rise to most of the languages of Europe, including English. TRANSCRIPT: EPISODE 2
Jun 25, 2012
Episode 1: Introduction
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. TRANSCRIPT
Jun 18, 2012