The Might of Old English

Description=The Yousuf Karsh photograph of Winston Churchill, taken in December 1941. Description=LondonTerroristsAttacks2005 Description=Used in the Undefeated Supplement 10.07.2005

The Yousuf Karsh photograph of Winston Churchill, taken in December 1941.

Yesterday’s post featured a mighty word with Old English roots. Old English is a mighty language. One person to use it to its fullest was Winston Churchill.

One of Churchill’s most famous speeches ended with a string of phrases comprised almost entirely from words with Old English roots.

We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.

The only word in this powerful paragraph that isn’t Old English is the last word, “surrender,” which is of French origin.

I’ve heard arguments that the use of Old English wasn’t all that important to Churchill, as demonstrated by his use of non-Old-English words in the rest of his speeches, but I think that there is a certain might in Old English (and I’m not alone in this view). Look at the speech again. The words are mostly short and don’t leave room for misinterpretation.

Given that Old English is closely related to many of the languages that Churchill wanted to address, it made sense that he would use words that would be understandable across country borders.

Another of Churchill’s famous speeches? Blood, Toil, Tears, and Sweat. All Old English Words.

Also, mighty is Old English too.

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