jueves, 25 de agosto de 2011

History of English III & IV: Shakespeare & The King James Bible

The third chapter of The History of English in 10 Minutes is devoted to the importance of Shakespeare in the English language.

I think that today's episode is a little bit more difficult than usual, as there is a heavy vocabulary component  that even some advanced students will find it difficult.

For that reason, there's no task in today's episode. Simply enjoy it and read the transcript below as you watch along.

Remember that if there are any words you don't understand, it is enough for you to double-click on the corresponding word in the transcript to find out its meaning.

As for the idiomatic expressions, you can use the MacMillan Dictionary box on the left sidebar of this blog or use an online idiom dictionary like IdiomDictionary.

As the dictionary tells us, about two thousand new words and phrases were invented by William Shakespeare. He gave us handy words like ‘eyeball’, ‘puppydog’, and ‘anchovy’ and more show-offy words like ‘dauntless’, ‘besmirch’ and ‘lacklustre’. He came up with the word ‘alligator’ soon after he ran out of things to rhyme with ‘crocodile’ and a nation of English tea drinkers finally took him to their hearts when he invented the ‘hob-nob’.

Shakespeare knew the power of catchphrases as well as biscuits. Without him we’d never eat our ‘flesh and blood’ ‘out of house and home’. We’d have to say ‘good riddance’ to the ‘green eyed monster’ and ‘breaking the ice’ would would be as ‘dead as a doornail’. If you tried to ‘get your money’s worth’ you’d be ‘given short shrift’ and anyone  who ‘laid it on with a trowel’ could be ‘hoist with his own petard’. Of course, it is possible other people used these words first, but the dictionary writers liked looking them up in Shakespeare because there was more cross-dressing and people poking each other’s eyes out.

Shakespeare’s poetry showed the world that English was a rich, vibrant language with limitless expressive and emotional power and he still had time to open all of those tea rooms in Stratford.

The fourth chapter of The History of English in 10 Minutes is entitled The King James Bible or let there be light reading. There are also a lot of proverbs and idiomatic expressions in the script, so you can enjoy the video while you read the transcript and look up the expressions and vocabulary you don't know later own.

In 16011 the ‘powers that be’ turned the world upside down with a labour of love, a new translation of the Bible. A team of scribes to the ‘wisdom of Solomon’ went the extra mile to make the King James translation ‘all things to all men’. Whether from their ‘heart’s desire’ to ‘fight the good fight’ or just for the ‘filthy lucre’.
This sexy, new Bible ‘went from strength to strength’, ‘getting to the root of the matter’ in a language even the ‘salt of the earth’ could understand. ‘The writing wasn’t on the wall’, it was in handy little books with ‘fire and brimstone’ preachers reading it in every church. Its words and phrases ‘took root’ ‘to the ends of the earth’, or at least to the end of Britain.

The King James Bible is the book that taught us that a ‘leopard can’t change its spots’, that ‘a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush’, that ‘a wolf in sheep’s clothing’ is harder to spot than you would imagine, and how annoying it is ‘to have a fly in your ointment’.

In fact, just as Jonathan begat Merit-Ball and Merit Baal begat Micah, the King James Bible begat a whole glossary of metaphor and morality that still shapes the way English is spoken today. Amen.