King Alfred’s English Review

As part of the SchoolHouse Review Crew over the summer, I had the opportunity to read King Alfred’s English: A History of the Language We Speak and Why We Should Be Glad We Do by Laurie White. Little did I know that this would become my new favorite history book.

With humor and keen historical and biblical insight, Laurie White combines my two favorite subjects – English and history – with a large dose of linguistics. One would think that such a college level combination would cook up a torture as dry as dust, but White has a way with words that makes you feel like you are actually being entertained rather than merely educated!

I started out with the Kindle edition, but after falling in love with White’s witty style, I eagerly ordered a concrete, bonafide paperback book for my very own. Personally, I will always favor printed books over virtual copies. Despite e-reader convenience, the technology would never survive an accidental baptism in a relaxing bubble bath – the ultimate place to read for pleasure! ;-)

The Kindle edition is very affordable, but you can also find good prices for the paperback at Amazon and Christian Book Distributors.

Let me give you a taste. Here are a few of my favorite parts (from the paperback book):

There was a Celtic queen of this era named Boudicca. When her husband was killed by Roman soldiers, she led her people in several amazingly successful battles against the Roman army, but was then finally defeated. Our word bodacious, meaning outlandishly bold, comes from her name. Bodacious sounds like a good adjective for Celtic women in general. (page 6)

[English] is by far the language with the largest number of words, which makes it great for creative writing…and terrible for taking the SAT. (page 26)

Basically, it boiled down to some small things like how the monks shaved their heads (I’m not kidding)… (page 37)

When English arrived in England, it was a lean, trim, meaty stock of Anglo-Saxon words. Then over the centuries it feasted on Latin and Norse, gorged on French, and chased down the whole meal with a fizzy swig of Greek and a fresh twist of Latin during the Renaissance. (page 138)

The part about a Mr. Crapper (and that fact that historians and linguists actually argue over this stuff) in the last chapter alone is worth price of the book. Who knew linguistics could be such a lively and saucy topic!

Throughout the book, White clearly illustrates how English is a living language that simplifies over time even though the vocabulary grows. What’s more, when you read the book, you will find out how this phenomenon of simplification actually provides “evidence for supernatural design” (page 21). It’s fascinating and glorious!

King Alfred’s English is designed for 7th through 12th grade study. I was delighted to find that Laurie White has written a fantastic FREE study guide with activities, worksheets, tests, and other recommended resources which center this 15-chapter text at the core of a solid semester study of history/English. You can find these materials at her website The Shorter Word.

The book has 15 chapters which can be easily scheduled for a once-a-week 15 week semester study. White’s lesson plans are organized and filled with a host of activities and resources to make each week’s meeting a worthwhile endeavor.

From the Student’s Study Guide page:

Worksheet samples:

Chapter 2 Review

Chapter 8 review

The Teacher’s Page:

I truly enjoyed reading King Alfred’s English, and I look forward to reading through the book again with my 8th grade and 11th grade daughters this year as part of their English/history studies.

Now don’t just take my word for it. Click the banner below and see what the rest of the SchoolHouse Crew thinks of King Alfred’s English too!


Disclaimer: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received this product at no cost to me in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are mine alone.

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