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An Electrifying Beowulf

Beowulf: A New Translation by Maria Dahvana Headley is a thrilling rendition of the centuries-old poem. (Bookshop|Amazon) Headley translates the poem using modern vocabulary and even internet slang, with results that are, as one reviewer put it...

I’ll Be Sheep-Dipped

What a difference pronunciation makes! The United States has a Department of Defense, and an individual might take classes in self-defense. So why do football and basketball coaches say they’re proud of their . . . “DEE-fence?”...

Modern and Historic Kennings

Kennings are compound words that have metaphorical meanings, such as whale-road meaning “sea.” They’re often found in Anglo-Saxon poetry, such as The Seafarer and Beowulf, but there are modern ones as well, such as rugrats for...

Too Much Sugar for a Dime

Is the term “Oriental” offensive? Where do we get the phrase “not one iota”? Why do we tell someone to “take a gander”? And who coined the word supercalifragilisticexpialidocious?

One Language, Many Voices Exhibit

“Evolving English: One Language, Many Voices” is a new exhibit at the British Library in London featuring the earliest printed versions of Beowulf, the Wycliffe and King James Bible, and the oldest known example of written English. This...

Middle English Lessons

If you’re still wondering about how far back in time you could go and still understand the English spoken then, check out written and audio excerpts from the poem Beowulf. Also, this NPR report in which host Robert Siegel gets a lesson in...

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