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Posts Tagged ‘English history

“The English language has a deceptive air of simplicity; so have some little frocks; but neither are the kind of thing you can run up in half an hour with a machine”*…

 

Dr. Philip Durkin is Deputy Chief Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary. author of Borrowed Words: A History of Loanwords in English— and creator of the nifty interactive infographic pictured above:

I examine how words borrowed from different languages have influenced English throughout its history. The above feature summarizes some of the main data from the book, focusing on the 14 sources that have given the most words to English, as reflected by the new and revised entries in the Oxford English Dictionary.

Using the date buttons at the top of the graphic, you can compare the impact that different languages have made on English over time. In the “per period” view, you can see the proportions of words coming into English from each source in 50-year slices from 1150 up to the present day. Compare, for instance, how the input from German has grown and then declined again from 1800 to the present day. (The earliest period, pre-1150, is much longer than 50 years, because more precise dating of words from this early stage in the history of English is very problematic.)

If you switch to the “cumulative” view, then you can see how the total number of loanwords from each language has built up over time. Here the shifts from one 50-year period to another are rather less dramatic, but the long-term shifts are still very striking. You can see, for instance, how German, Spanish, and Italian all slowly come to greater prominence. You can see this very clearly if you select any start date and then press the “play” button. (If you would like to see the numbers behind the graphic, a selection of graphs and charts from Borrowed Words is available here.)…

Get a feel for the truly global scope of English’s borrowing, and at the same time, an appreciation of just how “dependent” we are on Latin and French– play with the interactive graphic at “The Many Origins of the English Language.”

* Dorothy L. Sayers

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As we marvel at the mash-up, we might recall that it was on this date in 1413 that Henry V became King of England.  Immortalized by Shakespeare as the slacker prince who redeems himself in battle (the Henry IV plays) and as the inspirational commander at Agincourt (Henry V), Henry does in fact seem to have been an effective monarch, pursuing a unifying domestic policy that led to relative calm during his reign. His foreign policy was dominated by a steady military campaign against France that continued to his death.

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Written by LW

March 21, 2014 at 1:01 am

“In the beginning was the Word”*…

Pope Francis has been widely lauded in the media for his focus on serving as an example of Christian humility and engaging the marginalized and poor. His decision to live in the the Vatican guesthouse rather than in the Apostolic Palace, his handling of extreme opulence within the Catholic Church, and his priority for frequent, visible acts of charity all point to the direction Pope Francis wishes to guide the Church… Since the beginning of his papacy both the pope’s actions and his words have suggested a shift in focus as compared to his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI…

In order to glean more clues about Pope Francis’ philosophy and how he will communicate it, I analyzed word frequencies in the first 104 official speeches given by Pope Francis, from March 2013 to November 2013. For comparison, I did the same analysis for the first 102 official speeches of Pope Benedict XVI, given between April 2005 and November 2005. For both popes I used only speeches that had English translations. To visualize the results I created word clouds below, where the sizes of words are proportional to their usage (the differences in color are meaningless and intended to help the reader focus on specific words). Finally, I removed the top five words used by both popes, to better discern differences in word usage. These top five words were: God, Jesus, Lord, Christ, and Church…

Read more of Chris Walker‘s analysis on his site, Vizynary.

*John 1:1

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As we ponder pontiffs, we might spare a thought for a saint; it was on this day in 1431 that investigations began for the trial of Joan of Arc.  Joan had entered history in spectacular fashion during the spring of 1429: following what she maintained was the command of God, Joan led the French Dauphin’s armies in a series of stunning military victories over the English, effectively reversing the course of the Hundred Years’ War.  But she was captured in 1430 by the Burgundians, a faction (led by the Duke of Burgundy) allied with the English.  The French King, Charles VII, declined to ransom her from the Burgundians who then “sold” her to the English. In December of that year, she was transferred to Rouen, the military headquarters and administrative capital in France of King Henry VI of England, and placed on trial for heresy before a Church court headed by a Bishop loyal to the English.

Joan was convicted and executed in May of 1431.  She was exonerated in 1456 when the verdict was reversed on appeal by the Inquisitor-General. She became a French national heroine, and in 1920 was canonized a saint of the Roman Catholic Church.

Joan of Arc interrogated by The Cardinal of Winchester in her prison 1431. Painting by Paul Delaroche (1797-1856).

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Madame Eulalie’s Rare Plums…

 

“The column itself was an extraordinary affair. . . . You would quote something from the morning paper and then you’d make some little comment on it.” (Wodehouse, quoted in David Jasen’s A Portrait of a Master, 1974.)

The column was “By The Way,” a front-page lineup of pert and pithy paragraphs and verse revolving around Edwardian politics and quirky news items from the police courts, London, the British Isles, America, and the world over. It had been a feature (with a distinguished pedigree) of the Globe and Traveller evening newspaper since 1881. British humorist E. V. Lucas wrote that the column “consisted of a dozen or so paragraphs, each with a joke or sting in it, bearing on the morning news.” Richard Usborne wrote it was “a column—a dozen or so short snippets and a set of verses.” The column was pieced together by a couple of fellows every morning in “The By The Way Room” according to a balanced formula of politics, funny news commentary, and verse.

Wodehouse contributed to “By The Way” intermittently from August 16, 1901 up to August 1903, when he joined the paper as full-time assistant, working six days a week; a year later he was put in charge of the column, a position he held until he left the paper, as best can be determined around 1910. His meticulously-kept cash journal Money Received for Literary Work records his payments for columns from 1901 up to the last entry in February 1908. By his own accounting, he worked on over 1,300 “By The Way” columns…

The P. G. Wodehouse Globe Reclamation Project is a not-for-profit volunteer group, formed earlier this year, devoted to unearthing these thousands of humorous paragraphs…

We promised the Wodehouse Estate, which quickly approved the Project, that we would compile and preserve all of the recovered columns for the future benefit of researchers, biographers, and fans. We were hopeful and expectant that that we would find, out of those 1,300 days Wodehouse either verifiably contributed to or worked on the column, a treasure trove of noteworthy, funny, pure Wodehousean material and verse.

Check it out on the Globe’s page, and then browse their host, Madame Eulalie’s Rare Plums, a trove of early Wodehouse…

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As we careful to forgo liquids as we read, we might recall that it was on this date in 1712 that the 555th and final issue of The Spectator was published.  The work of Richard Steele, a politician and writer, and Joseph Addison, a poet and playwright, friends from their schooldays at Charterhouse, The Spectator followed their earlier periodical, The Tatler.  With a central character “Mr. Spectator” embodying its point of view, The Spectator ran to about 2,500 words daily (except Sunday), offering a mix of news and essays intended “to enliven morality with wit, and to temper wit with morality.” Steele and Addison contributed heavily to their periodical, but also ran essays from the likes of Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift.

The Spectator was ostensibly politically neutral; but it was a subtle force for Whig values.  Its second most valent continuing character,  Sir Roger de Coverley, an English squire of Queen Anne’s reign and the (supposed) descendant of the inventor of the English country dance, was a lovable– but laughable– exponent of Tory maxims.  No less august an authority than Jürgen Habermas has called The Spectator instrumental in the “structural transformation of the public sphere” which England saw in the 18th century– a transformation that came about because of, and in the interests of, the emergent middle class.

(The contemporary versions of both The Spectator and The Tatler are unrelated to the originals.)

The first issue of The Spectator, March 1st, 1711

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Written by LW

December 6, 2013 at 1:01 am

“The map? I will first make it”*…

 

Greg Pass has built a formidable resume– past CTO of Twitter, current Founding Entrepreneurial Officer of the new Cornell Technology Campus being built in New York City– but it is his hobby, his blog Unurthed, that has earned him a place in your correspondent’s Pantheon…

Unurthed is a survey of diagrams, cosmograms, emblems, etchings, sketches, illustrations, yantras, paintings, engravings, photographs, figures, cutouts, seals, depictions, pictures, images, with an eye for that which cannot be diagrammed, cosmogrammed, emblemed, etched, sketched, illustrated, plucked, painted, engraved, photographed, figured out, cut out, sealed, depicted, pictured, imagined.

All of the material is scanned from my personal collection or, in a few cases, drawn by me.

And what material it is!  Consider, for example, “Cramer’s Emblems“:

Six of forty emblems from Daniel Cramer’s 1617 The Rosicrucian Emblems of Daniel Cramer, each presenting a contemplative exercise working upon the heart process of a Rosicrucian meditator. Prefaces Cramer:

“And so, Reader, you have the work of death and life,
The embossings of the Holy page, and a short epigram.
These will be able to show and teach your mind
What your state was once and what it may become today” (p16).

Emblem 34: NEITHER ON THIS SIDE, NOR ON THE OTHER

“‘…we will not turn to the right hand nor to the left.’ (Numbers 20:17)

“Not in this place, not in that;
The heart will go more safely in the middle.
He who rushes from the mean, runs to destruction” (p63).

A plethora of perspicacious pictures to ponder at Unurthed.

* Patrick White, Voss

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As we learn to love to limn, we might recall that it was on this date– the birthdays of the eloquent Dalai Lama (1935) and the not-so-eloquent George W. Bush (1946)– in 1535 that lawyer, social philosopher, author, statesman, Renaissance humanist, and councillor to Henry VIII of England, Sir Thomas More, author of Utopia, was beheaded by Henry for refusing to accept the king as Supreme Head of the newly-established Church of England.  More was acting in accordance with his opposition to Martin Luther,  William Tyndale, and the Protestant Reformation…  for which he was canonized in 1935 by Pope Pius XI.  (He is remembered by the Church of England as a “Reformation martyr.”)

Hans Holbein the Younger’s portrait of More

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Written by LW

July 6, 2012 at 1:01 am

Where on the world…

 

From the not-altogether-vested-interest-free folks at Replogle, “How Old Is Your Globe?” : scan down the chronological list of country name changes (full list at link)…  “when you find a FORMER place name on your globe instead of the NEW name, you have determined the age of your globe…”

[TotH to Kottke.org]

 

As we reorient ourselves, we might recall that it was on this date in 1550 that William Cecil, later one of Queen Elizabeth’s closest advisors (a role for which he was rewarded with elevation to 1st Baron Burghley), was sworn in as King Edward VI’s Secretary of State– and then appointed himself Minister of Foreign Affairs.

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