Episode 164: Somewhere in the Middle

Throughout her long reign, Queen Elizabeth I was faced with many difficult decisions, and she often chose a middle path when she could. In this episode, we explore the middle paths taken during her reign, and the consequences of those decisions. In the New World, Elizabeth decided to let Walter Raleigh establish an English colony along the Mid-Atlantic coast of North America – between Florida and Newfoundland. That middle path soon came to be known as ‘Virginia’ in her honor. It was the first English-speaking settlement in the New World, and it laid the foundation for the spread of the English language across the continent.


8 thoughts on “Episode 164: Somewhere in the Middle

  1. One small point. The comment that the word โ€˜cornโ€™ is used to refer to maize is not true in British English, where corn is a generic term for any cereal crop and is more likely to refer to wheat or barley (as in a corn field or a corn merchant). Maize is used to describe the growing crop and sweetcorn for the kernels, or corn on the cob for the whole cob.

  2. One interesting thing that I noticed is that the two examples of an affirmative sentence without “do” were the ones with “need” and “dare.” The thing is, those probably were modal verbs at the time.

    Modals are a small group of verbs such as “can,” “must,” etc. And one of their properties is that they don’t require an auxiliary “do.” We don’t say “Do you can swim?” or “You don’t must go there.” Well, we say “Do you need to go?” and “I don’t dare to ask.” This is because nowadays both verbs can be both modal and non-modal. Usually we can find them in their modal form in set phrases, e.g. “Dare I say this,” “You needn’t do it,” or “If it need be.” (In the last case, there’s no “do” to replace, but note that modals also don’t take an -s ending. The complex of reduced grammar features is called defectiveness, and English modal verbs are called defective.) And I believe that some people still can say something like “I daren’t tell it to him” in certain circumstances.

    I’m not sure, but IIRC “need” and “dare” were exclusively modal up to Modern English and only then started losing their modality. If this is correct and if I look only at the examples from this podcast, I’d think that, at least at some point at time, affirmative “do” could be a prevalent norm for all lexical verbs but not for auxiliary and modal verbs. Hence the question: are there more examples of “do-less” affirmatives in, say, Queen Elizabeth’s writings?

    Sorry, it was a rather lengthy question ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Hi,Kevin,in your past episode,you mentioned there was a story or reason for why the word HERB has two different versions of pronounciation / hษœหb / and / ษœหrb /ใ€‚I read all the transcript and found no answer.Would you please tell me why?Appreciate your answer.

    • Hi Jiang. I addressed the two different pronunciations of “herb” near the end of Episode 159. (I think it has come up in some other episodes as well.) The word was borrowed from French with a silent ‘h’ at the beginning. American English has preserved that original pronunciation, but the ‘h’ sound was reinserted at the beginning of many words in Britain in the 1800s. That happened because there was a general tendency to drop the initial ‘h’ sound in certain British accents that were stigmatized and considered to be ‘bad English’ (see Eliza Doolittle in ‘My Fair Lady’). To avoid that association with ‘bad’ speech, many people over-corrected their pronunciation of words like “herb,” and they started to pronounce the initial ‘h’ assuming it was one of those words that was being pronounced incorrectly. Linguists would say that the pronunciation of the ‘h’ sound in “herb” was a ‘hyper-correction.’

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.