The Late Movies: The History of the English Language in Ten Minutes

Chris Higgins

Do you have ten minutes to devote to a funny, cheeky, nerdy look at the history of the English language? Of course you do. Read this description:

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 romp through 'The History of English' squeezes 1600 years of history into 10 one-minute bites, 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.

Then watch all of these. (Each is quite short.) It's not the deepest look at the topic you'll ever see, but hey, it's ten minutes. At least you'll learn where various words and phrases came from.


"The English language starts with the phrase, 'Up yours, Caesar!'"

The Norman Conquest

Here come the French.


"A plaque [sic] on both his houses."

The King James Bible

"Let there be light reading."

The English of Science

"Suddenly Britain was full of physicists!" (Warning: slightly racy topics are discussed towards the end.)

English and Empire

"Britain decided to take [English] on tour."

The Age of the Dictionary

"The definition of a hopeless task." Poor lexicographers. See also: Perfectly Cromulent Words.

American English

"Not English, but somewhere in the ballpark."

Internet English

Oh boy.

Global English

"Right, about 1.5 billion people speak English."