This website is no longer actively maintained
Some material and features may be unavailable

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.

  • thumb
    Casey Medals for NTK
    Need to Know was honored by the Casey Medals for Meritorious Journalism. Watch both recognized pieces online.
  • thumb
    Health law: How it might work
    Now that we can all stop guessing how the U.S. Supreme court will rule on the Affordable Care Act, we can now all start speculating about how it will actually work, right? Our report about Massachusetts' health care mandate, which aired earlier this month, provides some valuable insights about the future of health care in this country.
  • thumb
    Spotlight on California
    Rawan Jabaji gives us a preview of two upcoming stories about redistricting and San Francisco's first Asian American mayor.