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The History of English In Ten Minutes
Chapter One Anglo-Saxon
Or "Whatever happened to the Jutes?"
The English language begins with the phrase "Up Yours Caesar!"
as the Romans leave Britain
and a lot of Germanic tribes start flooding in,
tribes such as the Angles and the Saxons
who together gave us the term Anglo-Saxon,
and the Jutes -- who didn't.
The Romans left some very straight roads behind,
but not much of their Latin language.
The Anglo-Saxon vocab was much more useful
as it was mainly words for simple everyday things
like 'house', 'woman', 'loaf' and 'werewolf'.
Four of our days of the week
were named in honour of Anglo-Saxon gods
but they didn't bother with Saturday, Sunday and Monday
as they had all gone off for a long weekend.
While they were away,
Christian missionaries stole in
bringing with them leaflets
about jumble sales and more Latin.
Christianity was a hit with the locals
and made them much happier
to take on funky new words from latin
like 'martyr', 'bishop' and 'font'.
Along came the Vikings,
with their action-man words
like 'drag', 'ransack', 'thrust' and 'die',
They may have raped and pillaged
but there were also into 'give' and 'take'
two of around 2000 words that they gave English,
as well as the phrase 'watch out for that man with the enormous axe.'
Chapter Two The Norman Conquest
Or "Excuse my English"
True to his name, William the Conqueror invades England,
bringing new concepts from across the channel
like the French language,
the Domesday book
and the duty free Galois's multipack.
French was de rigeur for all official business,
with words like 'judge', 'jury', 'evidence' and 'justice'
coming in and giving John Grisham's career a kick-start.
Latin was still used ad nauseam in Church,
but the common man spoke English
able to communicate only by speaking
more slowly and loudly until the others understood him.
Words like 'cow', 'sheep' and 'swine'
come from the English-speaking farmers,
while the a la carte versions
- 'beef', 'mutton' and 'pork' -
come from the French-speaking toffs
-- beginning a long running trend for restaurants having completely indecipherable menus.
All in all the English absorbed about ten thousand new words form the Normans
though they still couldn't grasp the notion of cheek kissing.
The bonhomie all ended
when the English nation took their new warlike lingo of 'armies', 'navies' and 'soldiers' and began the Hundred Years War against France.
It actually lasted 116 years
but by that point no one could count any higher in French
and English took over as the language of power
Chapter 3 Shakespeare
As the dictionary tells us about 2000 new words and phrases were invented by William Shakespeare
He gave us handy words like 'eyeball', 'puppydog' and 'anchovy'
and more showoffy words like 'dauntless', 'besmirch' and 'lacklustre'
He came up with the word 'alligator' soon after he ran off of things to rime with crocodile
And a nation of tea drinkers finally took him to their hearts when he invented the 'hobnob'
Shakespeare knew the power of catch phrases as well as biscuits
Without him we'd never heard our flesh and blood out of house and home
we'd have to say good riddance to the green eyed monster
And breaking the ice would be as dead as a doornail.
If you tried to get your money's worth you'd be given short shrift
and anyone who laid it on with a trowel could be hoist with his own petard
of course, it's possible other people used these words first
but the dictionary writers liked looking them up in Shakespeare,
because there was more crossdressing and people poking each other's eyes out.
Shakespeare's poetry showed the world that English was a rich, vibrant language
with limitless expressive and emotional power
and he still had time to open all those tea rooms in Stratford.
Chapter four The King James Bible
Or "Let there be light reading"
In 1611 "the powers that be" "turned the world upside down" with a "labour of love"
a new translation of the bible.
A team of scribes with the "wisdom of Solomon" "went the extra mile"
to make King James's translation
"all things to all men",
whether from their 'heart's desire'
'to fight the good fight'
or just for the 'filthy lucre'.
This sexy new Bible went "from strength to strength"
getting to 'the root of the matter'
in a language even "the salt of the earth" could understand.
"The writing wasn't on the wall",
it was in handy little books
and with "fire and brimstone" preachers
reading from it in every church,
its words and phrases 'took root' 'to the ends of the earth'
well at least the ends of Britain.
The King James Bible is the book that taught us that
"a leopard can't change its spots",
that "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush",
that 'a wolf in sheep's clothing'
is harder to spot than you would imagine
and how annoying it is to have 'a fly in your ointment'.
In fact, just as "Jonathan begat Meribbaal;
and Meribbaal begat Micah",
the King James Bible begat a whole glossary of metaphor and morality
that still shapes the way English is spoken today.
Amen.
Chapter V The English of Science
or how to speak with gravity
Before the 17th century, scientists weren't really recognized
possibly because labcoats had yet to catch on.
But suddenly Britain was full of physicists: there was R. Hooke
R. Boyle and even some people not called Robert, like Isaac Newton.
The royal society was formed out of the invisible college
after they put it down somewhere and couldn't find it again.
At first they worked in Latin. After sitting through
Newton's story about the 'pomum' falling to the 'Terra'
from the 'arbor' for the umpteenth time, the bright sparks realized
they all spoke English and they could transform our understanding
of the Universe much quicker by talking in their own language.
But Science was discovering things faster than they could name them:
words like 'acid', 'gravity', 'electricity' and 'pendulum' had to
be invented just to stop their meetings turning into an endless game of charades.
Like teenage boys, the scientists suddenly became aware of the human body
conying new words like 'cardiac', 'tonsil', 'ovary and 'sternum'
and the invention of 'penis' and 'vagina' made sex education classes
a bit easier to follow, though 'Clitoris' was still a source of confusion
Chapeter VI English and Empire
Or "The sun never sets on the English Language"
With English making its name as the language of science, the Bible and Shakespeare,
Britain decided to take it on tour.
Asking only for land, wealth,
natural resources, total obedience to the crown
and a few local words in return.
They went to the Caribbean looking for gold and a chance to really unwind
discovering the "barbeque", the "canoe"
and a pretty good recipe for rum punch.
They also brought back the word 'cannibal'
to make their trip sound more exciting.
In India there was something for everyone.
'Yoga' -- to help you stay in shape, while pretending to be spiritual.
If that didn't work
there was the "cummerbund" to hide a paunch
and, if you couldn't even make it up the stairs without turning "crimson"
they had the "bungalow".
Meanwhile in Africa they picked up words like 'voodoo' and 'zombie'
kicking off the teen horror film
From Australia,
English took the words 'nugget', 'boomerang' and 'walkabout'
and in fact the whole concept of chain pubs.
All in all between toppling Napoleon and the first World War,
the British Empire gobbled up around 10 millions square miles,
400 million people and nearly a hundred thousand gin and tonics,
leaving new varieties of English to develop all over the globe.
Chapter VII The age of the dictionary
or the definition of a hopeless task.
With English expanding in all directions, along came a new
breed of men called lexicographies
who wanted to put an end to this anarchy, a word they defined
as what happens when people spell words slightly differently from each other.
One of the greatest was dr. Johnson whose dictionary
of the English Language took him nine years to write.
He was 18" tall and contained 42773 entries meaning that even
if you couldn't read, it was still pretty useful if you wanted to reach an high shelf.
For the first time when people were calling you a
'pickleherring', a 'jobbernowl' or a 'fopdoodle', you could
understand exactly what they meant and you'd have the
consolation of knowing they all used the standard spelling
Try as he might to stop them, words kept being invented
and in 1857 a new book was started
that would become the Oxford English Dictionary.
It took another 70 years to be finished
after the first editor resigned to be an Archbishop,
the second died of TB
and the third was so boring that half his volunteers quit
and one of the ended up in an Asylum.
It eventually appeared in 1928 and has continued to be revised ever since
proving the whole idea that you can stop people making up words is complete snuffbumble
Chapter VIII American English
Or "Not English but Somewhere in the ballpark"
From the moment Brits landed in America they needed names for all the plants and animals
so they borrowed words like 'raccoon', 'squash' and 'moose' from the Native Americans,
as well as most of their territory.
Waves of immigrants fed America's hunger for words.
The Dutch came sharing 'coleslaw' and 'cookies'
probably as a result of their relaxed attitude to drugs.
Later, the Germans arrived selling 'pretzels' from 'delicatessens'
and the Italians arrived with their 'pizza', their 'pasta' and their 'mafia', just like mamma used to make.
America spread a new language of capitalism
getting everyone worried about the 'breakeven' and 'the bottom line',
and whether they were 'blue chip' or 'white collar'.
The commuter needed a whole new system of 'freeways', 'subways' and 'parking lots'
and quickly, before words like 'merger' and 'downsizing' could be invented.
American English drifted back across the pond
as Brits 'got the hang of' their 'cool movies', and their 'groovy' 'jazz'.
There were even some old forgotten English words that lived on in America.
So they carried on using 'fall', 'faucets', 'diapers' and 'candy',
while the Brits moved on to 'autumn', 'taps', 'nappies' and NHS dental care.
Chapter IX Internet English
Or "Language reverts to type"
In 1972 the first email was sent.
Soon the Internet arrived, a free global space to share information, ideas
and amusing pictures of cats.
Before then English changed through people speaking it
but the net brought typing back into fashion
and hundreds of cases of repetitive strain injuries.
Nobody had ever had to 'download' anything before, let alone use a 'toolbar'
And the only time someone set up a 'firewall',
it ended with a massive insurance claim and a huge pile of charred wallpaper.
Conversations were getting shorter than the average attention span
why bother writing a sentence when an abbreviation would do
and leave you more time to 'blog', 'poke' and 'reboot' when your 'hard drive' crashed?
'In my humble opinion' became IMHO, 'by the way' became BTW
and 'if we're honest that life-threatening accident was pretty hilarious!' simply became 'fail'.
Some changes even passed into spoken English.
For your information people frequently asked questions like
"how can 'LOL' mean 'laugh out loud' and 'lots of love'?
But if you're going to complain about that then UG2BK.
Chapter X Global English
Or "Whose language is it anyway?"
In the 1500 years since the Roman's left Britain,
English has shown an unique ability to absorb, evolve, invade
and, if we're honest, steal.
After foreign settlers got it started, it grew into a fully-fledged language all of its own,
before leaving home and travelling the world, first via the high seas,
then via the high speed broadband connection, pilfering words from over 350 languages
and establishing itself as a global institution.
All this despite a written alphabet that bears no correlation to how it sounds
and a system of spelling that even Dan Brown couldn't decipher.
Right now around 1.5 billion people speak English.
Of these about a quarter are native speakers, a quarter speak it as their second language,
and half are able to ask for directions to a swimming pool.
There's Hinglish which is Hindi-English,
Chinglish which is Chinese-English
and Singlish which is Singaporean English
and not that bit when they speak in musicals.
So in conclusion,
the language has got so little to do with England these days
it may well be time to stop calling it 'English'.
But if someone does think up a new name for it, it should probably be in Chinese.
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十分鐘讀懂英文史 (The History of English in 10 Minutes)

27135 分類 收藏
VoiceTube 發佈於 2013 年 3 月 18 日
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