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 the ocean as an international highway rather than a barrier to travel. We also examine the naval accounts of Henry VII’s ships to reveal a variety of words recorded for the first time in English.

11 thoughts on “Episode 145: A Sea Change for Europe

  1. Regarding “scuttlebutt”–wasn’t a butt a keg or barrel? (e.g. “a butt of Malmsey”) So scuttlebutt should refer to a barrel with a hole in it, and by association, the talk that went on around it.

    • Thanks! Be sure to check out the next episode when it is released because it will continue the story of Columbus to the New World. The details of those voyages are largely unknown to most people today, so it will be interesting to explore what actually happened.

  2. Great episode! This feels like a milestone point in the podcast, although we still have quite a while to go before English starts really going global. The sheer amount of Maritime jargon in English is quite interesting, especially all the cases where that jargon has seeped into standard English speech. I suppose it speaks to the burgeoning maritime tradition on the British Isles that will eventually lead to global naval supremacy.

    On another somewhat nautical note, I found out a while ago that the French cardinal directions, and subsequently most Romance languages via French, were likely borrowed from medieval English, as evidenced by “Est” following the Anglo-Frisian front vowel form and not the standard Germanic form with a back vowel like “Ost”. And then I discovered more recently that the German word for Boat “Boot” was most likely borrowed from English as well, hence why it doesn’t have an “ei” like you’d expect for a cognate from Proto-Germanic, like with Stone vs Stein. I find it quite fascinating to see the influence of English on other languages, especially after all the influence of other languages on English we’ve seen by now.

    I wonder if in your research you’ve come across any other major instances of English loans into other European languages from before English’s rise to a global language. It might make a for an interesting Bonus episode at some point if you need a bit of filler, since its kind of interesting to see English’s influence on other languages from when it was a much less important language in Europe and on the Global stage.

    • Thanks for the feedback. I do occasionally come across English words that have been borrowed into other languages. I don’t tend to mention them in the podcast since my focus in the development of English, but you are correct that it would be a great topic for a bonus episode. Since I’m running out of ideas for bonus episodes, I may take you up on the idea. Thanks again.

  3. Where were you when I had to take History of English as an undergrad in the mid-80s? 🙂

    This is *way* better than Baugh & Cable.

    • Glad you’re enjoying it. And to answer your question, I was in high school in the mid-80s, so I wouldn’t have been much help. 🙂

  4. Hi Kevin,
    I’m still listening to this episode but your explanation of the link between Jeans and Genoa has a parallel here in New Zealand. We call anything to do with bedroom or bathroom fabric goods ‘Manchester’. This almost certainly being a hang over from when Manchester in England was the centre of the linen trade throughout the British Empire.

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