The Secret Life of Words: English Words and Their Origins : The Great Courses: Writing

  • by The Great Courses
  • Narrated by Professor Anne Curzan
  • Series: The Great Courses: Writing
  • 18 hrs and 21 mins
  • Lecture

Publisher's Summary

From new words such as "bling" and "email" to the role of text messaging and other electronic communications, English is changing all around us. Discover the secrets behind the words in our everyday lexicon with this delightful, informative survey of English, from its Germanic origins to the rise of globalization and cyber-communications.
Professor Curzan approaches words like an archaeologist, digging below the surface to uncover the story of words, from the humble "she" to such SAT words as "conflagration" and "pedimanous."
In these 36 fascinating lectures, you'll


discover the history of the dictionary and how words make it into a reference book like the Oxford English Dictionary;
survey the borrowed words that make up the English lexicon;
find out how words are born and how they die;
expand your vocabulary by studying Greek and Latin "word webs"; and
revel in new terms, such as "musquirt," "adorkable," and "struggle bus."
English is an omnivorous language and has borrowed heavily from the many languages it has come into contact with, from Celtic and Old Norse in the Middle Ages to the dozens of world languages in the truly global 20th and 21st centuries. You'll be surprised to learn that the impulse to conserve "pure English" is nothing new. In fact, if English purists during the Renaissance had their way, we would now be using Old English compounds such as "flesh-strings" for "muscles" and "bone-lock" for "joint."
You may not come away using terms like "whatevs" or "multislacking" in casual conversation, but you'll love studying the linguistic system that gives us such irreverent - and fun - slang, from "boy toy" to "cankles."
PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Loved it!

Great information and a fascinating lecture. I'm left a lot more aware of the language we use, of the metaphors that among other things shape the way we think of love and arguments, and the rich history of constant change as we seek new ways of expressing ourselves.
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- Kaya

For the wordy among us...

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

For those of us who lean on the wordy side, this course is a fantastic insight into where some of the words we use daily have originated and how our language evolves. Professor Curzan is an engaging speaker and shares some interesting information - the things we simply don't consider about the language we use every day!


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- Beth

Book Details

  • Release Date: 08-07-2013
  • Publisher: The Great Courses