Letter To Editor | English Trivia 

DURING the 16th and 17th centuries, both Queen Elizabeth and William Shakespeare were instrumental in influencing the English language’s path of progress.  Significantly, the Bible was one of the major translated and printed books to circulate during their time, which brought the church’s language to the commoner. During their period, Latin was still considered a language of the educated and the crème de la creme, and therefore, numerous texts needed to be translated from Latin into English to reach out to a mass audience. In fact, some words came straight from Latin, such as, focus, lens, nausea, and genius, while words like horrid, frugal, arbit, atmosphere were altered. Interestingly, suffixes ‘ize’ and ‘ism’ were also added to the English language during their period.

If one person who changed and took the English language to dizzying heights, it was unquestionably Shakespeare.  His works contributed significantly to the standardization of the grammar, spelling and vocabulary of this beautiful language. Through his immense ability to create original words, Shakespeare is said to have invented some 2,000 words. Few examples: eyeballs, homicide, brittle, lonely, gloomy, and majestic.  Further, Shakespeare coined some phrases that are still in use today.  They are: ‘out of thin air’, ‘as luck would have it’, and ‘fool’s paradise.’ Prior to and during Shakespeare’s time, the grammar and rules of English were not standardized. But once Shakespeare’s plays became popular, they helped contribute to the standardization of the English language, with many Shakespearean words and phrases becoming embedded in the language, particularly through projects, such as Samuel Johnson’s A Dictionary of the English Language which quoted Shakespeare more than any other writer.

As for the growth of English in India, the British East India Company introduced the English language in our country in the 17th century. As a result of British colonialism, English was considered the governing language, and is still in vogue due to India’s heterogeneous languages.  And today, India has approximately 125 million English speakers!

Ranganathan Sivakumar 

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