Episode 147: A Rude and Rusty Language

The European Renaissance provided a transition to the early modern era by looking back to the culture of classical Greece and Rome. It led to a renewed interest in ancient Greek and Latin and a new world view known as humanism. But scholars in England doubted the ability of English to handle the new learning associated with this cultural movement. They felt that English was ‘rude’ and ‘rusty,’ and could only convey the new ideas and concepts by borrowing words from Greek and Latin. In this episode, we examine how the Renaissance fundamentally changed the English language by expanding its vocabulary and by giving it a new register of scholarly and technical synonyms. 

3 thoughts on “Episode 147: A Rude and Rusty Language

  1. So maybe I’m splitting hairs here? But in Elyot’s “Book of the Governor”, he seems to use the word “Democratia” only once, and describes it as a “greke” word. Is it totally justified to say that this is the first use of “Democracy” in an English document? (The OED puts this citation in brackets, which would seem to imply that it is on my side, a bit?)

    • It’s a fair point. When does a loanword truly become a loanword? If it is used in an English document does that make it a recordable use in English? I don’t really have the answer. I’m going to give Elyot credit for the first English use of “democracy” since his book was composed in English, but it seems like a bit of a gray area.

  2. I’m disappointed the word “expede” didn’t stick around. I like the sound of it more than “expedite”.

    Also no way in a million years would I have thought of a relationship between “antique” and “antics”, that’s fascinating.

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