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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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