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February 24, 2013

Some Words Of Downton Abbey

Words in the English language come from just about everywhere. They emerge, disappear and sometimes re-emerge.
Sometimes we get a historical glimpse of how words fit or...

...don’t fit in a certain era or culture.

In the English speaking world (and probably well-beyond) for the past couple of years, Downton Abbey has been hugely popular. It is well-written, beautifully presented and the sets are magnificent. But, as you might imagine, I focus on the words people use.

There are many words unique and central to that era and culture, but some seem – and a few even are – anachronistic. Anachronistic is related to the word chronology of course, and it refers to words used during a particular time.

It’s fun – at least for those of us who love and pay attention to language – to notice these words or terms that don’t fit. But some of these words just might surprise you; they really did use some of those words back then. But a term like ‘steep learning curve’? Somehow I just don’t think so.

Here’s a website that focuses on many of the words that seem a bit out of place on Downton Abbey’s third season - http://blog.wordnik.com/downton-soup-the-words-of-downton-abbey-season-3.

This is a great way to test your knowledge both of vocabulary and the history of culture. With enough practice, you should be able to tell which words belong and which ones don’t.

Some words have basic roots, some have cultural or technology related associations and some just don’t sound like they belong.

Watching historical costume dramas like Downton Abbey is an extremely effective way to add depth – and enjoyment – to your knowledge of English.

As a little footnote here, be sure, early in season three, to notice the difference in vocabulary, pronunciation and attitude between the proper British Crawleys and the very American (and ‘modern’) mother of Cora.

But as I mentioned above, words come from everywhere. Here is a short list of English words that you would never expect to have come from Chinese roots - http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/02/06/the-surprising-chinese-origins-of-common-english-phrases/.

Words come from anywhere, and, as you might expect, the American Version of English is even more absorbent and eclectic - and responsive enough to initiate - and popularize new words and alternative meanings to established words.

Be sure to send us any words or phrases that puzzle you, and be sure to let us know what it is about English and language learning that you find confounding, infuriating or endlessly intriguing.

Listen, read and speak. Make your new language your own.

My best to you as you make your way through this intriguing, constantly shifting linguistic landscape.


Posted by mmorf at February 24, 2013 12:28 AM


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