Charles Clanton Rogers

Reflections based on poetry, music, visual art, book reviews, history of science, first-person history, philosophical essays and International Blogging

English/ other languages

From: The Economist, English/  languages (2)

William_Tyndale   English for the World and the Twenty-first Century

As reported in The Economist (2), in order to find links between languages, the researchers created a “global language network” (GLN) three different ways (see graphic). One was Wikipedia editors: a bilingual Wikipedian who edits articles in both Arabic and English counts as strengthening the bond between Arabic and English. The second was Twitter: users who had tweeted at least six full sentences in a second language were treated as strengthening the bond between those two languages. The third was a more formal, old-fashioned metric: book translation. UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural organization, keeps a database of translated books, and each of the 2.2m translations was counted as a bond strengthening the two languages.

The results show that English is central to them all. (2)

It is easy for us to take for granted that we can pick up a book for entertainment, current political topics, exploring history, or self-help books on any problem. Many millions of airline passengers arrive at the airport with a book or can pickup their choice of hundreds or thousands of affordable books and in our language.  This enormous privilege has been possible for only the past  five hundred years. Prior  to this, books were rare, copied by hand, and the common man was illiterate.  The story of this wonderful privilege starts In 1521,

in Gloucestershire, England, a young Oxford-educated tutor  began to preach in the common place called Saint Austen’s Green. “He was to write a book which became the most influential book there has ever been in the history of language, English or any other” (3)

The man was William Tyndale. The book he wrote was the first translation of The Bible for the English common man. Printed and distributed in 1526, the Tyndale Bible brought literacy to the  commoners of England and then globally.  (3)

The Tyndale Bible (Coverdale, ed.) was the Bible of Shakespeare and of the Elizabethan period; not superseded until  revised as The King James Version in 1611.

Tyndale;s words and phrases influenced between sixty and eighty percent of the King James Bible of 1611 and in that second life his words and phrases circled the globe. (3)

We use Tyndale’s words today: “scapegoat,”“let there be light,” “the powers that be,” “my brother’s keeper,” “filthy lucre,” “fight the good fight,” “sick unto death,” “flowing with milk and honey,” “the apple of his eye,” “a man after his own heart,” “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak,” “signs of the times,” “ye of little faith,” “eat, drink and be merry,” “broken-hearted,”“clear-eyed.” And hundreds more: “fisherman,”“landlady,”“sea-shore,”“stumbling-block,”“taskmaster,”“two-edged,”“viper,”“zealous” and even “Jehovah” and “Passover” come into English through Tyndale. “Beautiful,” a word which had meant only human beauty, was greatly widened by Tyndale, as were many others.(3) Other words that find their genesis in Tyndale’s linguistic skills include: fig leaves, birthright, ingathering, sin offering, morning watch, handbreadth, spoiler, swaddling clothes, slaughter, and ministering. In addition, there are numerous words that find their first usage in Tyndale’s New Testament (1526– 34), including: apostleship, brotherly, busybody, castaway, chasten, dividing, fisherman, godly, holy place, intercession, Jehovah, justifier, live, log, mercy seat, Passover, scapegoat, taskmaster, unbeliever, viper, and zealous. Biographer David Teems quotes Stephen Greenblatt as saying, “Without Tyndale’s New Testament … it is difficult to imagine William Shakespeare the playwright.”(4)  Even Shakespeare must concede that he is an heir to this grand translator of the Scriptures. Repeatedly, Shakespeare uses words and phrases that he has obviously adopted from Tyndale’s New Testament. For example, in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare writes: (4)

“The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen, man’s hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to report, what my dream was.”

Tyndale’s translation of 1 Corinthians 2: 9 in the 1526 edition of his New Testament reads,:

“The eye hath not seen, and the ear hath not heard, neither hath entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.”(5)

When Shakespeare was learning to read and write at the community school at Stratford on Avon, Latin was the essential language, but he learned his English from Tyndale’s Bible. (3), (6)  Shakespeare’s probable schooling dates 1569-1579.  He wrote from 1590-1611. The  KJV was not initiated until 1607 and not published until  1611) (5)

Relevant Timeline 1327 Reign of Edward III;   1348: The Great Plague massive deaths; perhaps one-half of English Priests died, requiring/ lay-priests to take responsibility for services;    1382 John Wycliffe’s hand-penned Bible (burned 1428);  1526 Tyndale Bible printed;   1564 Shakespeare born;  1558 Elizabeth I Queen of England ;   1588 Defeat of Spanish Armada ‘ 1603 James I, King of England (James VI Scotland);    1607 Jamestown settlement;   1611 King James Version of Bible;  1616: Shakespeare died.

“The common usage of Tyndale throughout the Shakespearean canon is unmistakable. Again and again, Tyndale proves himself to be the father of the Modern English language.(5) The work of Tyndale was spreading like wildfire throughout England and abroad. At last, the English people had access to the Word of God in their native tongue. Countless people from the sixteenth century to the modern day have benefited from the unceasing efforts of this great scholar. Even after his martyrdom, the work of William Tyndale would change the trajectory of modern civilization.(5)

Ten per cent of quotations published in the English language are from Shakespeare.”  (5)

The works of Shakespeare were first published in 1623 and have never been out of print. Languages translations number more than one hundred representing every country in North America, South America, and Europe and nearly every country in Asia, Africa Australasia. (Johns Hopkins University Press/ The Folger Shakespeare Library.(7) (8)

There are four hundred million speakers who have English as their first language and eight hundred million additionally using it as their second language. An additional group use English as the preferred adoptive means of communication.  Many, perhaps a billion, from different languages require English to speak to each other rather than in either one of their own languages, e.g. Malay or Russian.  English is the first language among equals at the United Nations, at NATO, the World Bank, the IMF. It is the only language of OPEC and EFTA.   English is the mandate language for Air Traffic Control around the World serving a million flights and over ninety million air passengers each year. “The sun never sets on the English language”.    It is the language of virtually all publications of authority in Science and Medicine. It is the first language of diplomacy.   The internet revolution was invented by and dominates English speakers.

At the beginning of the discovery of the New World, there was no reason to suspect that the vernacular of speech of  mostly illiterate  peasants of a relatively small island nation would become the dominant voice of the Twenty-first Century. The unlikely defeat of the Spanish Armada (1588) made it possible for The English navy and merchant ships  to take the English to The New World and around the World.  The language was that of William Shakespeare and The King James Bible. For that we are largely in the debt of William Tyndale(.1494-1536)

(1) This revised material was previously published under the title: How the English Language Came in First. on April 7, 2015.
(2). (RLG, “When bigger isn’t better” In The Economist, Dec. 31, 2014)
(3)  Bragg, Melvin, The Adventure of English: The Biography of a Language, (Kindle Edition) 2011
(4) David Teems, The Man Who Gave God an English Voice, Nelson, Thomas, Inc. 2012
(5) Lawson, Steven, The Daring Mission of William Tyndale, Reformation Trust Publishing. Kindle Edition. 2015
(6) Bryson, Bill, Shakespeare: The World as Stage, Audiobooks, Harper Collins Publishers 2007
(7)  Johns Hopkins University Press (http://www/
(8) The Folger Shakespeare Library (
Charles Clanton Rogers May  28, 2015

May 28, 2015

7 thoughts on “Why You Are Reading This In English

  1. says:

    The Bible seems to me the most tedious and boring book ever written, but that’s just me. I prefer Dostoevsky, Nabokov or James Agee. 😉



    1. clanton1934 says:

      Dear Katy, I should have chosen a better title. This is supposed to be a story of how the vernacular of a small population of peasants on a small, not very powerful island in the North Atlantic, became the global dominant language of The Twenty-first Century, in only five hundred years, It was not meant to encourage reading of the Bible.


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