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 edited for time, so I have recorded the original version of the speech with the parts that were left out. Enjoy!


21 thoughts on “Bonus Episode: Regarding English (Sound Education Conference Talk)

  1. Bravo! I’ve been listening from the beginning, well I was late to the table and had to do some binge listening. This episode perfectly demonstrates your skill at weaving together the threads of history. Thanks for bringing it to us.

  2. Hi Kevin, I listened to your bonus podcast last night and thought it was great. It was a fantastic summary of the history of the English language and a very clever way of illustrating this using one root word. I especially like the final point where you related it to Harvard! I do hope you got lots of applause!

    • Thanks. There were about 20 or so people in the room. I think were four different talks going on at the same time, so it wasn’t like I was speaking to a huge auditorium. I did get a bit of a gasp from the audience when I made that connection to Harvard. As I noted, the original talk was recorded, and when the conference posts the audio, I will either include the original version or the questions/answers that were included at the end.

  3. Just listened and was thrilled to learn that Harvard comes from Hereward. I first heard of him as a young boy about 1943 and he has been a hero of mine ever since. We were in the UK on leave in 1992. Our daughter was studying at Cambridge. We wanted to be close without intruding on her work and rented a hotel annex in Ely for six weeks. I was on top of the world.

    • I didn’t realize the connection between Hereward and Harvard until I was preparing the surname episodes. It came up during that research which happened to be at the same time I was planning for the conference. So it seemed like good connection to explore. I’m glad you liked the episode.

  4. I think the payoff at the end of this episode is one of your best etymological connections yet. The fact that you chose *wer- because it tied in with the location of your speech makes it a strong contender for #1. (And also because I had no idea that “ware” and “ward” were connected to “Harvard.” I was expecting the surname to be “Howard” until you revealed it.) It’s at least up there with guest/host/ghost (which is disputed but I don’t care; it was amazing when I heard it) and road/ride/raid — though the all-time best might always be right/correct/rectangle/regal/raja/Reich/Amerigo/America (etc. etc.).

    I hope there was a very pleased and impressed reaction from the crowd when you said the name “Harvard”!

    • Thanks! You have a very good memory of the etymology topics I have discussed. It’s probably better than my memory of those topics. 😉

  5. Kevin, I really enjoyed your Sound Education Conference talks. We are truly lucky to have you tell such an articulate, accessible, and fascinating story about the English language. Thank you so much for your time and dedication. Out of curiosity, how/where did you learn Old and Middle English pronunciation? It’s really cool to hear those old texts come to life.

    • Thanks for the comments! I don’t have any formal training in the pronunciation. I simply studied the commonly-accepted rules of pronunciation for Old English. I think my pronunciations have improved over time, though they still are far from perfect. Old English is relatively easy because most words were spelled phonetically and most letters represented only one or two sounds. However, Middle English is more complicated because there was more regional variation in the pronunciations.

  6. Where can I find a transcript of this one? It’s an outstanding episode with a great plot twist at the end, and I would like my daughter to read it. I say “read” because her autism makes it difficult to understand spoken language, unless it’s face-to-face.

  7. I just listened to this episode, and I now plan to use it for a lesson with my high school senior English class. Thank you for this really interesting look at tracing a single root through history, and also, as an English teacher, I want to thank you for posting the transcript!

  8. You Sir are the KING of the segue! Can’t believe you got it all the way to Harvard without a break in the in story line.

  9. I stumbled across your podcast a few months ago when searching for a British history podcast that didn’t use “BCE” which I consider annoying and an unnecessary attempt to decouple from Christian history (IMO). I have been faithfully binge-listening to your podcast ever since – forgetting more than I’ll ever remember but when you connected Harvard to the Indo-European word wer” – I was beyond impressed – I didn’t even see it coming. Bravo Zulu on the podcast series and on the bonus episode.

  10. When you do your next release of the podcast, I would put this episode at the beginning. Then as people go through the episodes they will have a better context in which to process each individual episode.
    Also, if a person did not have the time to listen to every episode, they would be much more able to choose which episodes to skip in order to get to a period in which they had more interest.

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