51 thoughts on “Episode 1: Introduction

  1. Pingback: History of English Podcast – Amy's ESL Site

  2. I have just discovered your podcast and I’m looking forward to hearing all of the episodes. Thanks for the comparison passages of old, middle, and modern English. We read Chaucer in translation at school, but the other group read it in the original. So unfair!

  3. Just discovered your podcast due to its mention on Stuff You Missed In History’s episode on the vowel shift. Listened to one episode randomly and I was OH MY GOD I HAVE TO HEAR ALL OF THESE so listening from the beginning now and language-nerding out and boring all my friends and kids no doubt (but seriously how could anyone find the letter C boring now?) Thank you thank you and yes I will give you money!

    • Thanks! I’m glad you discovered the podcast and find it so enjoyable. You’ve got a long way to go to catch up. 🙂 Thanks again, and be sure to keep listening!

  4. I’m coming from the same place as Rhiannon! I’m up to episode three, and my roommate thinks I’m a giant dork. I’m totally ok with that. I’m curious to know what you’re all about? What was the impetus for this podcast? Do you teach in real life somewhere?

    • Nadine, a few episodes in Kevin Stroud gives some info about his background, so stay tuned!

      It’s interesting to hear how folks got here. I was sent here from a Reddit thread about four weeks ago, and since then I’ve binged my way to Episode 48.

    • As John noted, I address my background in the first Bonus Episode. I am not a teacher or a professional linguist/historian. I am actually an attorney, and my academic background is mostly in political science and law. However, the history of English had long been a passion of mine

      • I am literally so facinated by this podcast. I got lost somewhere around episode 52 and started over, it’s still so amazing. I came here to find this answer specifically because I was thinking “I want to have his same career” but now I see I need to first become a lawyer to support my endless need for knowledge of history. It’s so amazing you have created all of this and are a lawyer. I already thought you were the most interesting person in the world.

  5. My wife is starting at the beginning again and her sister is just starting. So I have decided to begin again at episode 1. I have an American “pen pal” who says we are separated by our common language. In Australia we do NOT say “I could care less”. We say “I could NOT care less” — or more likely — “I couldn’t care less”

    • Yes, I’ve always found the American “I could care less” rather odd. If they COULD care less, then they are saying that they actually care. Are they just being lazy, or is there there some distorted logic behind that?

      • I live in northern NSW and often call myself Denis from Down Under. I first heard the term as as child in Brisbane Qld. A flotilla of seven US warships had visited Brisbane on a good will visit before the attack on Pearl Harbour and the subsequent invasion of Brisbane by the US Army in 1942. But the fact that we really do live “Down Under” was reinforced in the gift shop at Disneyland in 1992. I had picked up an earth globe to inspect it. I wanted to re-position it correctly, but I was disoriented so I replaced it on its tripod with Northern NSW uppermost. Some passerby soon put it back with the northern hemisphere uppermost. The experiment was repeated four times, always with the same result The polar axis is inclined by about c 23.5 deg but to what? Strangely enough we see the sky “overhead” but the sun moves through our northern sky.

      • I actually discussed the phrase “I could care less” in Episode 55: To Be or Not To Be. There are some interesting theories about its origin and why it is so common in US speech despite its lack of inherent logic.

    • Yes, it seems that “I could care less” is primarily limited to American English.

      And I hope you enjoy the podcast the second time around.

  6. I’m enjoying the podcast–I just discovered it and have started at the beginning. How delightful to hear you recite excerpts from Chaucer.

    The history of English helps me to envision the history of how peoples moved from the steppes into western Europe and Britain, really how that part of civilization began to grow. It’s really a window into the history of man in the world, and language is a basic reflection of daily life.

    Anyway, thank you for this wonderful opportunity for continued learning.

  7. I am enjoying your podcasts about the English language, though as yet I have only listened to the first few. As a native English speaker who worked for the UN and has lived in various parts of the US ( New York, DC, Maryland and Tennessee) as well as London, Rome and Jerusalem, and visited approximately 90 countries in all parts of the world, I have come took appreciate not only the ubiquity of English, but the many forms it takes.

  8. Thanks for your podcast. What interesting and useful series document for me as an English learner. I am wondering how I can purchase the transcripts from episode 26. Thank you, David!

    • At the present time, I only have transcripts for episodes 1-25. I also make transcripts available for recent episodes (from episode 89) at Patreon.com/historyofenglish. I hope to have more transcripts available very soon.

  9. I have just discovered what a treasure we have in these various comments. If only we knew more about the back ground of the people making them. Is any progress being made on the voice samples you have been collecting Kevin? In Australia we have a tremendous advantage in that we are exposed to English Language films (and others) from a wide variety of countries and cultures. In fact we often turn on subtitles when listening to English being spoken.

    • I continue to collect the voice samples, and I will have an update in an upcoming episode. I intend to use them as we transition into Modern English, and also throughout the Modern English period to trace the development of modern English accents.

  10. I discovered this gem of a podcast a few days ago, and so far I am loving it. I am looking forward to listen through it all!

    Now, you have probably been asked this before, but from a quick search I could not find the answer to which piece of music you used for the intro/outro of the show. I would like to know!

    Thanks for the podcast!

    • Thanks for the feedback! I’m glad you’re enjoying the podcast. The theme music is a stock audio clip by Shawn Pigott called “Medieval Faire.” I acquired it through istockaudio (which has since merged with another company I believe). Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s available as a full audio piece.

  11. Many thanks to you, Kevin Stroud. You do a wonderful podcast–very professional and so interesting. I will listen to all of these. Your podcast is accessible, interesting, and informative.

  12. I’ve been really enjoying the brilliant podcast, and have now bought the alphabet book – thank you so much. Just one tiny point, Bethlehem isn’t “House of Bread”, it’s “House of Meat”.

    • Hi Owain. I’m glad you’re enjoying the podcast. I don’t speak Hebrew or Arabic, but according to my sources, the word “Bethlehem” means ‘house of meat’ in Arabic, and ‘house of bread’ in Hebrew. Does the translation depend on the language?

  13. In college, I minored in German and Anthropology (My major regretfully being Radio-TV production), and have since wondered what my life would be like if I had gone into historical linguistics/linguistic anthro instead. I can’t believe I’m just now finding this podcast. Having a blast following along with what I already know from the history (Great Vowel Shift? Oh yeah!).

    Thank you for making this so accessible. I can’t wait to listen to all of them!

  14. I’ve also just discovered this wonderful podcast, thanks to some professor answering an on-line etymology question, and concluding with “I’m writing a book about this, but meanwhile check out an excellent podcast called “the History of the English language.” I’m hooked.
    A question: (I’m only at episode 5 so you may answer this later) Why do all of these consonants gradually shift? People were able to pronounce them as they were. If it was something anatomical, wouldn’t the shifts be the same everywhere?

    • Hi David. It’s really a great question without a simple answer. Throughout the podcast series, I explore lots of sound shifts that impacted different stages of the language. Sound shifts evolve out of pronunciation differences. No language is pronounced exactly the same by all of its speakers. There are always variations – some subtle and some more obvious. Minor differences can evolve into larger sound changes over time. I am not a professional linguist, so I can’t really explain why specific changes develop within certain dialects, but randomness is certainly a factor. Some changes occur within certain linguistic environments. Others occur when one language encounters speakers of another languages There are lots of factors, and I try to address the causes when they are known and generally agreed upon. Otherwise, I tend to focus more on ‘what’ happened rather than the ‘why.’

  15. English doesn’t ‘borrow’ from other languages.

    English lurks in dark alleys, and mugs other languages going through their pockets for vocabulary and loose bits of grammar.

  16. Just discovered this, via a recommendation from an early episode of the History of England podcast. Very excited to hear the rest! Also an attorney, but with a lifelong interest in history and language. Always happy to learn something new!

      • Dear Kevin,

        Thank you very much. This podcast is so enjoyable. I recently gained the opprotunity to start college at the age of 40. Higher education was always a dream for me and your podcast keeps me motivated to always seek to understand more. Once again my sincerest of gratitude for brilliant work shared.

        • Thanks Irene! I’m glad you’re enjoying the podcast, and congratulations on starting college. It’s never too late to learn new things.

  17. Born and raised in Friesland this podcast is of special interest to me. And while going through some of the episodes for the third time, I may want to comment on some episodes for things that seem hardly to have changed in Frisian tongue from Old English.

    So here is my first one: a fishing rod is in Frisian language called an “angel” which is one of the Germanic words for spear. Ger/Gar being an other one. Actually even in Dutch it is “hengel”. It looks to me that this has a relationship with “spear-danes” in the Beowulf. So could it be that they actually meant the Angles? I would not be surprised….

    • Thanks for the note. FYI, I discuss the relationship been Frisian and Old English in some detail in Episode 28. Be sure to check that out.

  18. In both Norwegians, we have the word “angel”, which is a fishing hook. The verb “angle” means to put the hook on the line.

    • That too is really interesting from the perspective of possible changes in the meaning of things. But there might be more logic to it than thought of. Since “angle” seems to have been a special kind of spear with barbs where those barbs from an angle to the blade of the spearhead. Nasty to get that in your body as you can not easily withdraw it and throw it back as it is literary hooked in your flesh. In dutch and frisian the meaning of fishing hook is “haak” where a hook(corner) is “hoek” with exactly the same pronunciation. All related to the same shape and being cognates.

      So once more, and even for reasons named by Marianne Hansen… Spear-danes might very well be the Angles.

  19. Thanks a lot, Kevin!
    Your podcast sounds even more intriguing than detective tv series!
    I’ve just finished the first episode and already look forward to hearing all the rest of them!

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