The History of English Podcast

By Kevin Stroud

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Category: History

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Subscribers: 2363
Reviews: 20

Bruno
 Jun 24, 2020
Found it occasionally while looking for language learning podcasts, subscribed out of curiosity and listen since then. As a non-native speaker, it's a bit hard to track sometimes, but great to practice listening while learning history.

Todd
 Apr 21, 2020
if you are a fan of the English language, this is the podcast for you! it is my favorite podcast hands down. keep them coming

spearhavoc
 Mar 22, 2020
Completely fascinating. There is a lightbulb moment in almost every episode.


 Feb 10, 2020

100 Watt Walrus
 Dec 15, 2019
Completely obsessed with this podcast. It blows my mind every week.

Description

The Spoken History of a Global Language

Episode Date
Episode 141: The Great Vowel Shift (Part 1)
55:43
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’
1:06:28
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
1:11:18
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
1:07:04
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
1:06:27
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
1:03:55
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
28:12
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
Apr 06, 2020
Episode 135: A House of Cards
1:16:37
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
1:09:02
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
1:09:59
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
1:10:25
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
1:16:08
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
55:51
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]
1:15:08
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
22:59
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
59:15
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
1:02:42
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
1:09:10
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
1:09:38
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
Announcement: Intelligent Speech Conference, NYC, June 29
1:18
The Agora Podcasting Network is arranging a history podcasting conference in New York City on June 29, 2019. It will feature history podcasters like Kevin Stroud, David Crowther (History of England Podcast), Mike Duncan (History of Rome Podcast and Revolutions … Continue reading
May 04, 2019
Episode 124: Piers Plowman and the Peasant Revolt
1:09:57
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
1:06:16
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
1:04:18
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
1:00:52
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
59:20
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
1:13:58
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)
29:29
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
1:07:45
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?
1:04:27
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
1:00:47
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
1:03:36
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
1:07:19
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
1:02:41
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
59:37
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
1:02:26
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
1:02:56
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
56:25
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
55:54
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?
49:11
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
57:23
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
48:29
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
57:33
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
57:29
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
59:25
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
1:02:37
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
52:04
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
1:10:04
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
59:34
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
1:02:15
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
57:51
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
1:07:57
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
65:18
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
61:55
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
51:03
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
1:17:24
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
59:45
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 reading
Feb 15, 2017
Episode 89: ‘I Before E’ and All That
51:42
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
53:12
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
55:51
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
49:45
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
59:12
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
60:56
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
52:50
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
52:45
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
57:47
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
1:43
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
64:54
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
49:46
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
53:57
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
50:55
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
48:26
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
56:13
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
61:32
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.  
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.
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.
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 13, 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
Aug 07, 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
Aug 05, 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
Aug 05, 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.
Aug 05, 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.
Aug 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.
Aug 05, 2013
Episode 22: Early Germanic Grammar
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.
Aug 05, 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.
Aug 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.
Aug 05, 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
Aug 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.
Aug 05, 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
Aug 05, 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
Aug 05, 2013
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
Aug 05, 2013
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.
Aug 05, 2013
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.
Aug 05, 2013
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.
Aug 05, 2013
Episode 12: Early Greek, Hittite and the Trojan War
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
Aug 05, 2013
Bonus Episode 1
Kevin Stroud updates listeners regarding the podcast and the website for the podcast.   Kevin also answers some questions posed by listeners.
Aug 05, 2013
Episode 11: Germanic Ancestors
30:17
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
42:47
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.
Sep 05, 2012
Episode 9: Who Were the Indo-Europeans?
40:48
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.
Aug 24, 2012
Episode 8: Indo-European Grammar (Where have all the inflexions gone?)
32:49
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.
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.
Aug 09, 2012
Episode 6: Indo-European Words
38:18
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.
Jul 26, 2012
Episode 5: Centum, Satem and the Letter C
43:20
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)
50:17
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.
Jul 11, 2012
Episode 3: The Indo-European Family Tree
34:46
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
33:01
The story of the discovery of the ancient language which gave rise to most of the languages of Europe, including English.
Jun 25, 2012
Episode 1: Introduction
23:59
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.
Jun 18, 2012