John Hamilton McWhorter V. — of Philadelphia, PA — got his BA in French from Rutgers, his MA in American Studies from NYU and his PhD in Linguistics from Stanford.

Currently he is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University.

He’s in this post because he appears to be the go to intro to Middle English – which aligns with a project we are currently working on. I’m going to look for more of his stuff. He’s very engaging, don’t you think?

The post itself, and the Chaucer Project, was inspired, in part, by some Drama Queen Hysterics recently pumped into the global infosphere as a result of diasporic Europeans facing some inconveniences in contemporary South Africa – something about renegotiating expiring leases. I didn’t look closely to see what the feinting was about – since it seemed a bit too easy to guess – but the Vikings in question were storming off to Australia, instead of heading back to Europe.

Perhaps because Europe is already full (that’s why they left in the first place (not because it gets really cold and dark and boring in the winter time, like it used to)) and there are far fewer indigenous Australians than there are indigenous Africans (or indigenous Americans, for that matter).

And then, of course, it’s probably also worth noting that certain Solution Management Activities are not quite as easy to pull off in public as they used to be.

That being said, it’s probably worth mentioning, for the odd stranger in passing – that more than a few of us here at the V are of direct Viking Descent. A little perspective seems like it’s at least usually a good thing.


Moments later . . . for starters, he delivered a wonderful TED on texting in 2013. I’ve just added it to root archive. TED is getting better at making those transcripts accessible. I wonder how the 31 languages it claims to have been translated into are. Does somebody want to look at the French and see if it’s ported automatically to Youtube’s PoP?


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4 thoughts on “Beginning Chaucer

  • March 16, 2018 at 11:20 am

    A quick summary on Migration Patterns influencing the history of the English language in the first and second millennium, now that we’re in the third millennium.

    500 AD – The Anglo-Saxons move to the British Isles from Europe, now that the Romans have left, and the language of Beowulf, AKA King Alfred’s English, or Old English, is born.

    1066 AD – The Norman Conquest conquers England for most of France and Norman French becomes the language you need to know if you’re going to do something besides plow fields and nurse rich people’s babies. Middle English, aka Chaucer’s English, happened because people plowing fields and nursing rich people’s babies were denied formal educations, as a rule.

    If you were low income, you probably ate stuff like fish or chicken, if you were lucky – so we still say fish & chicks. But if you were high income you ate bigger, a lot more expensive stuff, so we still speak French when we talk about La Vache Sur La Table (Boeuf).

    1500 AD – The Hundred Year’s War has been over for almost half a century, France officially releases its claims on England and England officially releases its claims on France and then, mysteriously, people completely change the way they pronounce English, now that no one is trying to speak French anymore.

  • March 17, 2018 at 11:00 am

    The Anglo Saxons came from what is now Denmark

    Angles, Saxons & Jutes

    Mit das bigger picture

    Europe's Barbarian Migrations

  • March 17, 2018 at 11:21 am

    Aha! So the French originally came from Germany and Vandalism is named after ancient people’s from Poland.


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