The History of English in Ten Minutes

Great Britain’s Open University has recently posted a series of one-minute, tongue-in-cheek animated videos on the history of the English language on YouTube. 

Produced by LTS Media and the university’s Open Media Unit, the project drew on the script-writing talent of John Hunter, known for his participation in BBC TV’s popular weekly panel show on current events and Radio 4’s The News Quiz, Philip Sergeant, who served as its academic consultant, and the multi-talented Clive Anderson, whose golden voice provides the narrative. The series was inspired by the Open University’s year-long on-line course U214 Worlds of English.

Although it’s impossible to cram a millennium of linguistic evolution into ten one-minute spots, The History of English takes a light-hearted and irreverent romp through the saga of English, from the Viking invasion through the Internet revolution.  Neatly blocked out by key periods and influences, we learn which English words and phrased were coined by Shakespeare, which we owe to Latin, the Norman Conquest, the King James Bible, and dozens of other sources. The Vikings, it turns out, contributed the verbs “give” and “take.”

If you’ve ever lost sleep wondering where the expression “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” came from, this is an opportunity to put the matter to rest once and for all. However, as a commenter on the YouTube site who goes by the user name Jaime52 politely points out, the series could benefit from an additional chapter 11 tipping the hat to the Spanish language for its contribution of such commonly used words as rodeo,bronco, canyon, cargo, cannibal, chihuahua, chili,chocolate, cocaine, condor, coyote, tacos, and guacamole.

The entire series is also available through Apple itunes: