Episode 154: English Equality

By the mid-1500s, scholars were becoming more confident in the ability of English to express sophisticated ideas and concepts associated with classical learning. Writers began to use English beside Latin and Greek in many scholarly works during this period. English also replaced Latin in the regular services of the Church of England. Some people embraced these changes, but others vehemently opposed them. In this episode, we explore the changing perception of English during the reign of Edward VI, and the major events of his reign that shaped the English language.


24 thoughts on “Episode 154: English Equality

  1. Hi Kevin,
    The (can’t) “hold a candle to” phrase is well used by me (lower middle class English home counties mid 40s) but what I also use very frequently is “hold a candle for” and was a little surprised it wasn’t mentioned. This means a crush, longing, unrequited love for or adoration of. Is this less well known with English speakers outside my peer group?

    I note further it is almost always used with a softener “hold a bit of a candle for” – that seems to be the only modification of the simple phrase – you can’t hold a small candle for someone, or a big candle – always a ‘bit of a’ candle.

    Amazing work as always!

    • Good point. I am familiar with the phrase “hold a candle for” someone in that sense, but I don’t think it is nearly as common as the version I discussed in the podcast. I also didn’t encounter it in my research. Interestingly, the OED doesn’t include the phrase in the sense you mentioned either. My guess is that the sense of ‘having affection for someone’ is a more recent development in the language.

      • I’ve never heard the phrase “hold a candle for” in that sense, but it does make me think of the expression “to carry a torch” for (used in the US) – more than just a “bit” of a candle! It would be interesting to learn how that variation came about.

  2. Hi Kevin,
    I can‘t access the podcast in the usual way.
    I tried downloading the RSS app but that didn‘t seem to help, Has something changed? I always count the days to your next podcast and this is so frustrating!
    You do great work, Thanks for this fantastic podcast.

    • What app or program do you use to listen to the podcast? There is a small delay on some apps like Spotify, but the episode usually shows up eventually.

      • I usually listen on podbean and this episode hasn’t shown up there – first time that’s happened so perhaps there is something different with this one?

        Glad it’s out though so I’m sure I can find another way to listen to it.

        • Thanks for the note. I don’t really have any control over the delivery of the episodes by the various podcast providers. Like most other podcasts, I simply post the new episode to the feed, and the various podcast providers access that feed in order to deliver the episode to their customers. For some reason, a particular episode will fail to show up in the episode list of some podcast providers. In the old days when it was iTunes and maybe a couple of others, I could deal with it directly with the provider, but these days there are so many providers that I can’t keep up with all of them. I guess the free market will determine which ones are the most reliable over time.

            • New episode posts today! Thanks for the concern. Follow me on twitter (@englishhistpod). It’s the only social media I have, and I usually provide updates there when a new episode is released or if an episode is delayed for any reason.

  3. Another very absorbing episode.
    An interesting sidelight on the differences between American and British English: I notice that you pronounce the word “herb” without an h whereas in British English we pronounce it with the h. i know the word comes from the French “herbe” where the h is not pronounced so my question is did the Americans drop the h or did the British add it? I know you’ve talked in the past about letters being added so it would be interesting to know how the word was pronounced at the time the Pilgrim Fathers emigrated.
    Episode 154 and I’m still enjoying it as much (if not more) than I was at Episode 1! Long may it continue!

    • Hi Simon. The short answer is that the British added it. I’m going to deal with that topic in a future episode, but the pronunciation of the initial H in French/Latin loanwords was variable in late Middle English and early Modern English. In general, the H was silent because it was silent in French. But speakers around London tended to drop the initial H in most words – even native English words. So “house” became ‘ouse’ and “hello” became ‘allo.’ In the late 1700s and early 1800, those silent H’s at the beginning of words became stigmatized and were seen as bad English in Britain, so there was an attempt to ‘correct’ those pronunciations by pronouncing the initial H’s. So “house” and “hello” got their H sounds back, but in some cases, French loanwords like “herb” picked up an H sound as well. This process never occurred in North America because there was no need to ‘correct’ those London pronunciations in North America. As a result, the H remained silent in “herb” in American English. That’s a short answer to a complicated process, but I do intend to address it in a future episode of the podcast.

  4. Hi Kevin,

    I thought I’d say how much your podcast has helped me over the last couple of years.

    I don’t want say too much but my wife announced a couple of years ago she wanted a divorce, leaving me high and dry, having quit my job to join her in a new city. I got a new job but my boss was terrible and nasty and I eventually lost it. And then came COVID and I was all by myself.

    Your soft, kind sounding voice on your informative podcast helped me a great deal over those tough years.

    I have fortunately got an amazing job now and things are going well.

    Thanks so much,


    • Hi Tom. Thanks for the comments. It means a lot to hear about the positive impact of the podcast. Even though I originally intended the podcast to be an educational endeavor, I often receive feedback from listeners who find it relaxing and stress-reducing. I’m not sure why, but it is good to know that it provides comfort (and even sleep) to so many listeners. I’m glad to hear that everything is going well, and be sure to keep listening!

  5. Hi Kevin,

    I too find your voice very soothing and often drop off to sleep while listening. This means I have to listen to some episodes several times to get to the end. As an insomniac I have found your episodes sleep inducing but NEVER boring. Am about to go back to episode 1 for the 3rd time and work through the entire series again. I have found the series most helpful as I teach English conversation to migrants.

    • Hi Lorraine, I feel the same soothing impact of Kevin’s voice. Your teach English, I learn it and it’s very strange, I understand almost everything that Kevin says, his prononciation is so clear.

  6. I have just tonight finished listening to all 154 episodes! It’s a bittersweet moment because I learned so much along the way and so enjoyed the journey, but there aren’t any more (at least not at the moment!) in the queue. I feel like I read a great book too fast; I suppose the next thing to do is to listen again. Keep up the great work!

    • Hi Melinda,
      The answer is simple. Go back and start again. There is so much that you’ve forgotten and it will be reinforced by a second hearing. I’m already up to episode 37 on my second lap.
      Kind regards,

    • Melinda,

      In case you are looking for other history podcasts, here is a list of those I’ve listened to the last few years, listed more or less in the order that I discovered them:

      History of English by Kevin Stroud
      Literature and History by Doug Metzger
      History in the Bible by Garry Stevens
      History of Rome by Mike Duncan
      Revolutions by Mike Duncan
      History of Byzantium by Robin Pierson
      History of England by David Crowther
      The Ancient World by Scott Chesworth
      History of Philosophy by Peter Adamson
      History of Egypt by Dominic Perry
      History of Persia by Trevor Culley
      Russian Rulers by Mark Schauss
      The Layman’s Historian (History of Carthage) by William Hubbard
      History of Southeast Asia by Charles K
      Age of Napoleon by E.M. Rummage
      Fall of Civilizations by Paul Cooper
      French History by Gary Girod
      History of the Germans by Dirk Hoffman-Becking
      Industrial Revolutions by Dave Broker
      Pax Britannica by Sam Hume
      The Siècle (France 1814-1914) by David Montgomery
      History of Latin America by Max Serjeant
      History of Africa by Andy Andy
      A History of Italy by Mike Corradi

  7. Like Lorraine, your podcast has been my bedtime listening for a few years now. I’m on my second time through the whole series (interrupting the sequence to catch new episodes) and it’s great that your voice, and the actual information you offer, gives me something to focus on to keep me out of my own thoughts when I wake during the night. I hope you’re doing well, but am a bit concerned that there wasn’t a new episode in December. Will there be one soon?

    • New episode posts today! Thanks for the concern. Follow me on twitter (@englishhistpod). It’s the only social media I have, and I usually provide updates there when a new episode is released or if an episode is delayed for any reason.

  8. While listening to this episode, I came to a set of traffic lights on red. I stopped and the road on my left was Botanical Road (in Manchester) just as you said the word. Freaky!

  9. I just got around to this essay–wonderful as usual. I just wanted to say that to listen, I go to https://historyofenglishpodcast.com/episodes/, which is, I assume Kevin’s site and lists all the episodes. When I click on one it loads and there is a place to play it. I don’t need any special podcast site.

    Incidentally, if added H’s are discussed, perhaps Kevin could comment on the usage “An historian” in which the H is pronounced in the American style. This violates what I had previously thought to be the one inviolable rule of English grammar: that the a/an distinction is purely phonetic. Thus “unionized” might be preceded by a or an depending on who is saying it (a chemist would likely be saying “an unionized…”).

  10. Funnily enough, we use most of those geometric terms in Dutch: “gelijkbenige driehoek” (“alike legged three angle”), scherpe hoek (“sharp angle”), zeshoek (hexagon), etc.

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