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 English. It was an incredibly active year. And if the events had not unfolded in the way they did, it is likely that William’s conquest would have failed, and English would be a completely different language today. As we look at the events of 1066, we also explore the etymology of the names of the seasons and other related words.


Map Prepared by Louis Henwood (Click Map for Larger Image)

Map Prepared by Louis Henwood (Click Map for Larger Image)

25 thoughts on “Episode 67: The Year That Changed English

  1. Pingback: The Battle of Hastings and The Battle Abbey Roll

  2. Pingback: Journal #3 – Site Title

  3. Mr. Stroud,
    I speak Hebrew as my native tongue and linguistics are one of my interests.

    I find this podcast to be The best around. To be honest, sometimes I feel like an ambassador of it.

    As a tour guide working with English speakers it gives me leverage and a great opportunity to engage with my tourists and quiz them sometimes.

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge

    If you ever need a guide…

  4. I have been waiting for this episode:

    William I – 1066 – by Eleanor Farjeon

    William the first was the first of our kings
    Not counting the Ethelreds, Egberts and things.
    He had himself crowned and anointed and blessed
    In ten-sixty – I needn’t tell you the rest.

    Now being a Norman, King William the first
    By the Saxons he conquered was hated and cursed
    And they planned and they plotted far into the night
    Which William could tell by the candles alight.

    So William decided these rebels to quell
    By ringing a curfew – a sort of a bell
    And if any Saxon was found out of bed
    After eight o’clock sharp it was “Off with his head!”

    So at bong number one they all started to run
    Like a warren of rabbits upset by a gun.

    At bong number two they were all in a stew
    flinging cap after tunic and hose after shoe.

    At bong number three they were bare to the knee
    Undoing the doings as quick as could be.

    At bong number four they were stripped to the core
    And pulling on nightshirts the wrong side before.

    At bong number five they were looking alive
    And bizzing and buzzing like bees in a hive.

    At bong number six they gave themselves kicks
    Tripping over the rushes to snuff out the wicks.

    At bong number seven, from Durham to Devon
    They slipped up a prayer to our Father in heaven.

    At bong number eight it was fatal to wait
    So with hearts beating all at a furious rate
    In the heat of the state
    I need hardly relate
    They jumped bong into bed
    Like a bull at a gate.

    (Taken from http://www.eco-gites.eu/blog/post/1066-and-all-that)

    BTW, as have many, I have been proselytizing for this series…

    • Perhaps the above would have made for more of an appropriate post for the next episode – but I had been waiting!

      Be that as it may, after reading the version above, I looked up the version in 1951’s ‘The Boy’s Book of Verse’, edited by Helen Dean Fish. Apart from formatting, capital letters (e.g., “So at BONG NUMBER ONE they all […]”) , and spelling (blest versus blessed), there were two minor differences:

      1) “Not counting Ethelreds, Egberts and things” – no ‘the’ as in above

      “And at BONG NUMBER EIGHT it was fatal to wait,
      So with hearts beating all at a terrible rate,
      In the deuce of a state, I need hardly relate,
      They jumped BONG into bed like a bull at a gate.”
      (‘deuce’ instead of ‘heart’)


  5. Harold and the Terrible, Horrible, Very Bad, No Good Year!

    (And I refuse to believe he EVER swore allegiance to William – I am sure that was post-conquest propaganda!)

    Thank you for the magnificent, fascinating podcast! I have been listening compulsively!!

    • Thanks! I’m glad you’re enjoying the podcast. I hope to have all of the transcripts available by the end of the year (2020).

  6. Hello! So far I’m loving this series, I never realized how fascinating the history of a language could be. I’m trying to catch up to the current date but there is so much content that it’s going to be a while, and I’m excited for the transcripts to be released (if they haven’t been already), since I have a terrible memory and forget a decent chunk of the info that I listen to.

    Now speaking of bad memory, I can’t remember which episode it was mentioned in, it was either this episode or the one previous, but you mentioned that the word “pretty” originally meant clever, and eventually turned to mean physically attractive. What I would like to know, is why and when did the word come to mean (colloquially) “to a significant extent,” for example: “I am getting pretty sleepy.” “This burger is pretty good”

    Thank you for this great podcast! I’m trying to convince others into listening to it, but haven’t had too much luck.

    • Hi Steven. The Oxford English dictionary cites the first use of the word “pretty” in the sense of ‘considerable, sizable or a good many’ to an entry in a document from 1475. Presumably, the evolution of the word was from ‘clever,’ to ‘admirable or pleasing or good,’ to ‘a good or satisfying amount.’ This sense of the word ‘pretty’ can also be found in the term “pretty penny” which also means a considerable profit or sum.

  7. Great podcast. I listen with my 8 year old son and he loves it.

    In this episode you mention a podcast called “Learn Old English.” Is it still available? I did a short search on the podcasts app and couldn’t find it.


    • Hi Sebastian. Unfortunately, I think that podcast has been discontinued. A few other listeners have asked me about it, and I haven’t been able to find it anywhere.

  8. Another interesting episode, though it raises the question: since the Normans were of Norse heritage, why were their ships so poor compared to the Norwegian Vikings’ longboats? Had Scandinavian technology moved on after the Normans relocated to France, or had the Normans somehow just lost their ancestral maritime knowledge when they became established as a land-based power? I would have thought that Rollo’s generation originally rowed up the Seine in longboats, so it’s a bit strange that his descendants a couple of centuries later didn’t have access to such obviously advantageous technology as oars.

    • Yes, the ‘beat’ of music is derived from the verb ‘to beat.’ And both are ultimately cognate with words like button, buttocks and buttress.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.