The Adventure of English (2003) ITV

Episode 6: Speaking Proper

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Video Description

The Age of Reason began, and English scholars of mathematics and science like Isaac Newton started publishing their books in English instead of Latin. Jonathan Swift would attempt to save the English language from perpetual change, followed by Samuel Johnson who would write the A Dictionary of the English Language, made up of 43000 words and definitions, written in seven years and published in 1755.

Though the upper and lower classes found no reason to change or improve their grammar, the middle class used it to their advantage in joining polite society. William Cobbett, a son of the lower middle class and writer of Rural Rides, advising those who wish to rise above their station that writing and speaking properly was essential.

As English began to replace Gaelic in Scotland it took on its own character, using "bonnie" from the French "bon" and "kolf" from the Dutch for "club", the probable origin for "golf". Several other words came from Gaelic, including "ceilidh", "glen", "loch... (read more)

Documentary Description

The Adventure of English is a British television series (ITV) on the history of the English language presented by Melvyn Bragg as well as a companion book, also written by Bragg. The series ran in 2003.

The series and the book are cast as an adventure story, or the biography of English as if it were a living being, covering the history of the language from its modest beginnings around 500 AD as a minor Germanic dialect to its rise as a truly established global language.

In the television series, Bragg explains the origins and spelling of many words based on the times in which they were introduced into the growing language that would eventually become modern English.

Melvyn Bragg travels through Britain to tell the story of how an insignificant German dialect, which only arrived in the country in the fifth century, evolved into a language which is now spoken and understood by more people than any other around the world. We trace English from its humble roots to its flowering in th... (read more)

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