The Daily Need

Where did ‘cummerbund’ come from?

If you’ve got 10 minutes to kill and a burning desire to learn where the phrase, “a fly in the ointment” comes from, you might want to check out “The History of English in 10 Minutes.”

Produced by The Open University, a British organization dedicated to “modern distance learning,” “The History of English in 10 Minutes” is a series of minute-long animated movies that are fun, fast-paced and very British. After taking a little time out of my day to watch them, I can now tell you the origins of words and phrases such as “give and take” (Viking invaders), “alligator” (Shakespeare), “cummerbund” (India) and “IMHO” (Internet users who, in my humble opinon, were too lazy to type, “in my humble opinion”). From the Norman conquest to the King James Bible to modern-day globalization, “The History of English in 10 Minutes” packs thousands of years into bite-sized doses of history that reveal how wonderfully mixed-up and complex our language is and why it’s currently spoken (in one form or another) by more than a billion people on the planet.

 
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Comments

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=884545042 Anonymous

    10 min? That one is 1:16. Wrong flick link there me thinks.

  • alix *

    Yeah, i’m getting that this is one part of a series, but you don’t link to the series.

  • Wired

    go to youtube, search “the open university history of english” and it’ll bring up all 10 videos (chapters). quite informative series in less than 15 minutes total running time.

  • onleyone

    as easy as it was to pick out this one, i wouldn’t doubt dozens of these word origins could be disputed…http://www.word-origins.com/definition/alligator.htmlfirst use in english (“lagarto”): 1568. birth year of will shakespeare: 1564.

  • Joecarroll

    The Persian word “camerbanday” (Anglecized) means belt.

  • Anonymous

    This series is somewhat entertaining, but also riddled with inaccuracies – not to mention some cultural insensitivity (some of the comments made were distinctly Anglocentric or classist). Some of the words mentioned are derived from Greek as opposed to having been “invented” and original in English. Many explanations about words’ etymologies are very reductionist and end up leaving out the more correct histories of the words’ origins as a result. It’s great that the videos are honest and self-aware about English imperialism… But then they do things like stereotype American Indians by portraying North Eastern Indians in Plains Indians garb (which is a totally outdated, offensive, and unacceptable way to represent American Indian people.) “The History of English in 10 Minutes” is really a strange mix of good and bad information/misinformation.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1488861770 Katrin Venema

    I don’t think you get the humor, it’s very self-depreciating and meant to give you a rough idea of the development of the English language. I have a Master’s degree in applied linguistics and found these episodes very entertaining and mostly accurate.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1488861770 Katrin Venema

    I don’t think you get the humor, it’s very self-depreciating and meant to give you a rough idea of the development of the English language. I have a Master’s degree in applied linguistics and found these episodes very entertaining and mostly accurate.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1488861770 Katrin Venema

    I don’t think you get the humor, it’s very self-depreciating and meant to give you a rough idea of the development of the English language. I have a Master’s degree in applied linguistics and found these episodes very entertaining and mostly accurate.