Comments 26

Review – King Alfred’s English

Did you know that the 100 most commonly spoken words in the English language are Anglo-Saxon? Did you know the first ruler in history to make reading and writing one of the qualifications of a nobleman was the English King Alfred? Did you know that the man who had the greatest influence on our modern language was not William Shakespeare, but William Tyndale?  Laurie White explains all this and more in her interesting and exciting King Alfred’s English, A History of the Language We Speak and Why We Should Be Glad We Do.

Be sure to read to the end of this review to find out how you can learn the answers to these facts for yourself!

Beginning with the Roman invasion of Britannia through the obscure yet exciting

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Middle Ages, Laurie White tells the stories of who lived – and spoke – in the land we now call England, and how they did it.  She breaks down the major events during this time into “language invasions,” giving the reader a visual and aural understanding of the real changes taking place over generations and centuries.  Her stories and facts are so interesting, they changed how we view our language and history.

Though Laurie White recommends King Alfred’s English for grades 7 through 12 and adult, I read it aloud to my children ages 3 through 12.  They all enjoyed it thoroughly.  Laurie’s accounts of barbarian invasions and kingly conquests perfectly supplemented our Middle Ages history studies this year, and the simple outline of her writing gave us a clear understanding of what happened from the Fall of Rome to Shakespeare.  We learned what the rule “language always simplifies over time” teaches us about man’s first language. We are no longer confused by the Xmas debate.  We enjoyed comparing our word pronunciation and pouring over her ancient text samples.  And my youngest son’s hero is now William Tyndale.

The mother of three homeschool graduates, Laurie White has been long passionate about teaching the history of English to her own children and others.  She spent 5 years researching for King Alfred’s English before publishing it in 2009. As a result, her book reads like a detailed, yet fascinating story of the wonderful language it covers.  With interesting pictures, simple timelines, and comparative language charts, it clearly illustrates the evolution of our modern speech.  Adults and students alike will enjoy reading this book.


King Alfred’s English, A History of the Language We Speak and Why We Should Be Glad We Do is available from Amazon, CBD, and many retail bookstores for $16.95.  Quantity discounts are available through the publisher, The Shorter Word Press.


Laurie White is generously giving away three copies of her book, King Alfred’s English, to WhateverState readers! That means there will be three happy winners this Saturday! Here are your three chances to enter each day, Wednesday through Friday:

1) Each day, you may leave a comment, telling your favorite story, fact, or quote about the English language.

2) Each day, you may also past about the giveaway on your facebook page, and leave a comment here that you did!

3) Twitter the link to this page each day.

Saturday, December 11, be on the lookout for the three winners to be announced!


Giveaway is Now Closed

Our randomly-chosen winners are….

#4: Jamie

#10: Dovey

#21: Maryann Marshall

Congratulations to each of you! Author Laurie White will be contacting you soon about your book.

And everyone else … don’t forget to buy your own copy of King Alfred’s English: A History of the Language We Speak and Why We Should Be Glad We Do"" from Amazon, CBD, and other fine stores.

This review and giveaway were conducted in compliance with FCC regulations and my own giveaway policies. I received no compensation for my time or opinion, only one free copy of the book to read and review.  Links to are no longer affiliate links.


  1. Rebecca G. says

    I posted about this giveaway on Facebook and Twitter.

    Also, I remember in sixth grade learning about the etymology (history of words). It really opened up a new world to me. Finding out root words, suffixes and prefixes also helps one understand what a word really means.


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  3. The toughest but most fascinating class I ever took was Advanced Grammar & Linguistics as a grad student. We had to learn how languages work and then try to create proto-languages! Learned how “kirk” evolved into “church,” among many other things.


    • It’s so funny, Jenny, I remember that exact same lesson on “kirk” and “church”! When I took that class in college (we won’t say how many years ago), I just couldn’t believe that they didn’t teach more of that in the lower grades because it made learning English grammar and vocabulary amazingly more interesting.


  4. Dovey says

    Hmmmm, a comment about the English language? I’m not sure, but I do know that the book would be a welcome addition to our homeschool. James has been studying the history of England for 2 years now and absolutely loves it! One of his favorite books is The Kings and Queens of England. I’m getting it for him for Christmas so that we can return our library copy! This would be a welcome read!


  5. I love seeing the different settings people put Shakespeare’s plays into. I know that’s a horrible sentence, but I just woke up! : )


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  7. Okay, I know it probably isn’t actually Churchill, and there is a plethora of different stories about it which vary significantly, but I love the story of Winston Churchill’s response to an editor who corrected one of his sentences. His alleged reply, “This is the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put.”


    • Hahaha. I’ve never heard that one! Such a great illustration of the ungainly contortions you sometimes face to avoid ending with a preposition. My dad used to challenge us to see how many prepositions we could string together at the end of a sentence. He said a little boy was sent upstairs to bed by his mama and when she came up to read to him, the boy said, “What did you bring all those books I don’t want to be read to out of up for?” We could never top that 5 preposition ending!


  8. Jamie W. says

    How to pick a favorite?! I can’t, but I love the ways English can be mangled–spoonerisms, nonsense poems/songs, literal translations of our figurative language into other languages (We lived in Japan for 3 years…even traffic signs were highly entertaining!)…We are studying the Middle Ages this year in school, and I love it. I learn just as much as my kids do–more, since I have to do so much background reading to be prepared.


  9. Katie says

    I’m really enjoying teaching my daughter about grammar and word origin. My husband was a Latin major, so he chimes in every now and then too. I find it so interesting where words come from! At first I thought this would be the perfect gift for my mother, an English history buff, but then I knew I’d just keep it for myself! 🙂


  10. Barbara C says

    I had a class on the history of the English Language in college–loved it. I used to come home and tell my roomates thinks like how “dilapidated” changed its meaning over time. They humored me. 🙂


  11. At LEAST 2 of my 5 homeschoolers will love this book (actually I am only homeschooling one, the other 4 are ‘graduates’).

    We love word play in our family and many family dinners become ‘pun fests’.

    My 12 year old is studying “Word Power Made Easy” and it fascinated about how words are put together. I asked him what was his favorite part so far, and he responded: “They are all good.”

    One of my English teachers made a big deal about not starting a sentence with a conjunction, but I often see that device used for emphasis.


    • Maryann,
      You’re right that we’re seeing lots of sentences by well regarded authors that begin with conjunctions today. That used to be a definite no-no. It’s due partly to the ever increasing informality of our society. If you want to read why some grammarians still say it is best not to break this old rule, you can read a quick explanation here:
      I think this is a pretty balanced view, but I have to admit that I’m pretty lax myself with this standard. A lot depends on what you are writing, of course.


  12. Dovey says

    I love hearing my children use “big” words in their vocabulary. Just this morning, my 4yo used the word “similarly”. My 8yo is always using words that make other people drop their jaws. It’s fun! 🙂


  13. Barbara C says

    Let’s see, something else to say about the English language…
    I love the bit in Ivanhoe where the two servants talk about the fact that the name for an animal when it’s alive is Saxon, but the name for an animal when it’s cooked comes from French–pig/pork, chicken/poultry, cow/beef, etc.


    • Barbara,
      I didn’t know that was in Ivanhoe! How cool! I cover that in my book King Alfred’s English. The reason those words are like that is that for over 300 years in England, English, i.e. Anglo-Saxon, was being spoken by the commoners (the farmer in the barnyard) and French was being spoken by the gentry (the lady and lord who were being served at the table). So the “cow” (Anglo Saxon) in the barnyard became “beef” (Old French) at the table. That’s one of those things that helps explain why English has so many synonyms for the same thing. And now I want to go find a copy of Ivanhoe!


  14. It’s late on Friday and I don’t know if there will be additional posts, but I just had to add that this has been fun for me! I appreciate everyone spreading the word about the give-away, too. I’m thankful that writing this book is bringing me back in touch with the lively community of homeschooling moms that you all represent so well. Thank you, Lea Ann, for this opportunity–and merry X-Mas, everyone!


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