The Story of English
Alan D. DeSantis
In The Beginning . . .
Indo-European Language
• 1) The Start of the Indo-European Language
• 2) The Spread of Indo-European Language
– By 3500 BC, these IE speakers began to travel.
– We get the start of many of the world’s
– These people spread:
4 Stone Seals
The Spread of Indo-European Languages
A look at the spread and dominance of the Indo-European Languages
The Great Language Tree
Ancient Greek
English, German,
Dutch, Swedish
Italian, Spanish,
Russian, Polish,
Scottish, Welch,
Modern Greek
Hindi, Bengali
New Jersey-ian
The First English (kind of)
• 3) The Celtics
• A. The first of these groups to go
to England were the Celts
• B. Only about a dozen words are
still in use
• C. After a few early invasions, the
Celts pushed West
Not much remains
The Italians (thank God!!!)
• 4) The Invading Romans
• A. The Romans invaded UK and the Celts
• B. Roman invasion in Britain left only 5 words.
• C. The Romans soon left (why stay in England when
you have Italy!)
• D. The Real Shocker:
– Everywhere the Roman Empire went, they left the
“Latin” language
Hail Caesar
The Invasion of England by the Germanic Tribes
The Germans are Coming!
• 5) The Anglos, Saxons, and Jutes
• A. Around 450 AD, The Angles (gave us
“A[E]nglish”), Saxons (dominant group), and the
Jutes came from Holland, Germany, and
• B. After years of being isolate, their 3 languages
started to blend together and develop into a
brand new language--Old English!!
The Germans are Coming!
• C. What is left from old Anglo/Saxon (Old English) :
– Most of Anglo/Saxon died out
– Yet, those surviving words are the most fundamental
• Man, wife, child, brother, sister, live, fight, love, drink, sleep, eat, house,
through, look, walk, shoot, ground, meat, today, Tuesday, Wednesday,
Thursday, Friday, to, for, but, and, at, in, on.
• Four of the tribe’s gods: Tue, Wardon, Thor, Frick
– Saturday, Sunday, and Monday come from the planets
The Christians
• 6) The Christians with their
• A. In 597 AD, Christianity brought
its huge Latin vocabulary to
England (thanks to Augustine).
• B. We also get . . . our dominant
Here Comes Trouble!
The Viking Invasion
Here Comes Trouble, again!
• 7) Vikings (750-1050 AD)
• A. The Vikings invaded the Northern part of
• B. The Vikings were very aggressive
• C. English almost died out without a trace
• D. To this day, the treaty line divides Northern
and Southern English Dialects
• E. Over 1500 Viking words still survive:
• Anger, bag, bait, birth, club, die, dirt, egg, husband,
knife, law, skate, skill, skin, sky, they, their, ugly, want,
weak, window
Let’s rape
& pillage
The French Occupation of England
They gave us more than just French Fries
• 8) The French Normans
• A. The Famous 1066 invasion of William the Conqueror
• B. They Became the New Elite Leaders of England
• C. Their addition to English:
– The French speaking Normans gave English 10,000 words (3/4 of which are still in use)
– Just about all our words related to government (except King and Queen), the law, the arts,
medicine, high fashion, and the military are French
• Bacon, beef, butcher, button, court, crime, curfew, defeat, eagle, fashion, felony,
fraud, gallon, grammar, injury, joy, judge, jury, justice, lever, liberty, marriage, noun,
nurse, parliament, pork, prison, question, rape, river, salary, shop, spy, squirrel,
syllable, tax, virgin
• D. The Blending of the Two Worlds (and languages)
To this day, French sounds like the
language of the rich and ruling class:
à la carte
à propos
bon appétit
bon voyage
déjà vu
esprit de corps
Fiancé (he) fiancée (she)
hors d'oeuvre
nouveau riche
papier mâché
Cooking terms: blanch (from
blanchir => to bleach), sauté (fried
over high heat), fondue (melted),
purée (crushed), flambée (burned)
The 1066 Battle of Hastings
William the Conqueror (French)
Defeated the Saxons (Germans)
Some Other Influences
that Changed English
(and you)
Other Contributions to English
• Shakespeare
– Used 34,000 words—8% were never used before
• Average educated 16,000 / King James Bible 8,000
– Coined 2,000 words: barefaced, critical, leapfrog,
monumental, castigate, majestic, obscene, frugal,
radiance, dwindle, countless, submerged, excellent,
fretful, gust, hint, hurry, lonely, summit, pendant,
obscene, and some 1, 685 others
– Coined many Phrases: One fell swoop, In my minds
eye, To be in a pickle, Vanish into thin air, Budge an
inch, Play fast and loose, Flesh and Blood, To be or not
to be, Foul play, Cruel to be kind
I am the man
Other Worldly Contributions to
• Algonquin
• Arabic
• Caribou, Massachusetts,
Missouri, moccasins,
Oregon, pecan, raccoon,
tomahawk, Wisconsin,
• Albatross, alcohol,
algebra, almanac, assassin,
average, caramel, coffee,
cork, cotton, garbage,
giraffe, jar, magazine,
mattress, mirror, monkey,
safari, sheriff, soda, sofa,
syrup, tariff, zenith, zero
• Iroquois
• Kentucky, Ohio, Canada
Other Worldly Contributions to
• Dutch
• Parisian French
• Bluff, boom, booze, boss,
brandy, Brooklyn, bully,
caboose, coleslaw, cookie,
deck, decoy, dock, dot,
drill, drug, grab, Harlem,
hustle, jeer, landscape,
lottery, pickle, plug,
plump, poll, Poppycock,
quack, Santa Claus, cab,
stove, tub, waffle, wagon,
yacht, Yankee
• A la cart, ballet, biscuit,
cache, camouflage, crayon,
dentist, espionage, laissez
faire, lieutenant, maroon,
mayonnaise, nasal,
parachute, picnic, pioneer,
renaissance, rendezvous,
restaurant, sabotage, soup,
souvenir, sport, tampon,
tangerine, traffic, umpire,
Other Worldly Contributions to
• Modern German
• Spanish
• Blitz, brake, clock,
clown, dollar,
hamburger, heroin,
kindergarten, lager,
luck, muffin, nickel,
noodle, pretzel, quartz,
rocket, vitamin, waltz
• Argentina, bonanza, canyon,
Colorado, embargo, Florida,
guitar, lunch, patio, ranch,
rodeo, stampede, tornado, tuna,
• Sanskrit
• Brilliant, candy, hemp, nirvana,
opal, orange, pepper, sugar,
swastika, yoga
Other Worldly Contributions to
• Italian
• Kongo (West Africa)
• A cappella, alarm, America,
bank, bankrupt, bravo,
broccoli, buffoon, canon,
cartoon, casino, desk, ditto,
escort, ghetto, graffiti,
macaroni, Mafia, manager,
opera, pasta, piano, pizza,
risk, semolina, solo, soprano,
studio, spaghetti, umbrella,
violin, volcano
• Bongo, boogie,
chimpanzee, funky,
gorilla, mojo, zebra,
• Portuguese
• Bossa Nova, breeze, caste,
cobra, Creole, embarrass,
fetish, flamingo, massage
Other Worldly Contributions to
• Hebrew
• Provençal (S. France)
• Amen, cider,
cinnamon, elephant,
gopher, hallelujah,
Israel, Jew, jockey,
jug, messiah, Nimrod,
rabbi, Sabbath,
sapphire, Satan,
• Ballad, boutique, cabin,
cavalier, cocoon, crusade,
fig, Harlequin, limousine,
lingo, mascot, nutmeg,
perfume, pilgrim, salad,
Other Worldly Contributions to
English (the 2 biggies)
• Latin
• Greek
• Agitator, album, animal,
• Academy, acrobat, alphabet,
August, autumn, calendar,
aristocrat, athlete, barbarian,
circus, data, doctor, December,
bishop, buffalo, cathedral, catholic,
educator, February, France,
cemetery, chorus, Christ,
Germany, Greece, inch, joke,
democracy, dinosaur, diploma,
July, June, Jupiter, liberator,
drama, economy, genesis,
London, March, Mars, May,
gymnasium, helicopter, history,
Mercury, mile, November,
horizon, idea, mathematics,
October, parent, pastor,
method, museum, mystery, ocean,
picture, penis, refrigerate,
Olympic, panic, prophet, psalm,
religion, republic, satellite,
psycho-, pyramid, rhythm,
September, Spain, stadium,
symphony, tele-, theater, theatre,
study, stupid, suburb, table,
tavern, vagina
– Many of these also appear in the
Romance Languages
Other Worldly Contributions to
Afrikaans: Slim
Avestan (extinct from Iran): Magic and Paradise
Bilti (Pakistan): Polo
Benton (West France): Billiards
Carib (Caribbean): Barbecue
Czech: Robot
Flemish (North Belgium): Gas
Hindi: Shampoo
Latvian: Sleazy
Maya: Cigar
Nahuatl (Mexico): Chocolate & Tomato
Tongan (South Pacific): Taboo
Some Closing thoughts
• 1) English is a mongrel language made up of a little
of everything from everywhere
• 2) English is a NEW language.
• 3) The English Vocabulary Huge (or big, large, ample, great,
prodigious, immense, elephantine, elephantine, towering, gargantuan, gigantic, massive,
monolithic, voluminous, tremendous, Herculean)
– That is in larger part due to all the invasions & borrowing
– We have a synonyms for everything
• 4) From its humble roots, English has become the
world’s #1 “killer” language.
And this is only countries that speak English as their 1st language.
Many more speak English as their 2nd.
Now. . . To America!!!

The First Thousand Years of English Alan D. DeSantis