Do you know how much we owe to William Tyndale?
He knew he could be killed for what he was doing, but he did it anyway.
Here’s what Lauri J. White writes in King Alfred’s English: A History of the Language We Speak and Why We Should Be Glad We Do:
Tyndale leaned heavily toward using Anglo-Saxon derived words. Now, what difference does that make, you may ask? Well, the words we’ve adopted from the Latin and French tend to be more sophisticated, cultured and polysyllabic (having more than one syllable). This is a generalization and there are exceptions, of course, but overall the most simple, basic words in our vocabulary tend to be Anglo-Saxon. Of the 100 most often used words in English, all are Anglo-Saxon. All are one syllable, too. If you write a paragraph and use only one-syllable words, you’ll dramatically increase the percentage of pure Anglo-Saxon you are using. In fact, it can also increase the power and punch of your writing.
[Using Anglo-Saxon words] can give a story or essay a kind of stripped-down straightforwardness that it might not have otherwise.
So, what does it matter which words we use?
Here’s an example of what White means. We can be thankful that Tyndale did not translate the Bible using words derived from the Latin, like this:
Let there be illumination.
And God perceived that the illumination was beneficial.
Instead, Tyndale used English words derived from simple Anglo-Saxon words:
Then God said: Let there be light and there was light.
And God saw the light that it was good.
In the fall of 1536, Tyndale was branded a heretic by the Roman Catholic Church and burned at the stake. He leaves a powerful legacy behind him.
Now it’s your turn: Write a paragraph and use only one-syllable words.
Here are a few topics for your paragraph. Feel free to use another topic, if you wish.
- What you hope to do this summer
Your most recent happy event
A pet peeve
The chore you can’t stand
What you wish you were doing right now
Looking for more intriguing high school prompts? Follow this link >>
Would you like some fun middle school prompts? Follow this link >>
Copyright © 2016 by Sharon Watson
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