The History of English in Ten Minutes

Where did the phrase ‘a wolf in sheep’s clothing’ come from? And when did scientists finally get round to naming sexual body parts? Voiced by Clive Anderson, this entertaining video from Open University will take you through 1600 years of ‘The History of English’  in 10 minutes (actually 11 minutes 21 seconds, but whose counting) uncovering the sources of English words and phrases from Shakespeare and the King James Bible to America and the Internet. Bursting with fascinating facts, the series looks at how English grew from a small tongue into a major global language before reflecting on the future of English in the 21st century.

Sections include:

Anglo-Saxon: A look at what words the Anglo-Saxons and Vikings bought to the English language.


The Norman Conquest: In 1066, William the Conqueror invaded Britain and bought with him fancy French words to add to the English language. Read more The Norman Conquest

Shakespeare: This video tells us that Shakespeare invented over 2000 new words and phrases like eyeball, anchovy and puppy.


The King James Bible: Illustrating that in 1611, the new King James Bible was created and gave us many famous phrases.

The English of Science: In the 17th Century, new science words were being created like acid, ovary and tonsil.

English and Empire: Exploring how the British Empire spread across the world bringing back many new words and phrases.

The Age of the Dictionary: A look at how lexicographers started creating the Dictionary of the English Language to ensure that everyone spelt words correctly and knew their correct definition.


American English: Learn about American-English and how some American words were actually English to start with.

Internet English: Exploring the expansion of internet language, with abbreviations like lol and btw.

Global English: The future of English and the many hybrids that have been created. Should we still call it English?

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