The most interesting 100 words in English, laid out and described in historical order of their introduction into the language. I’ve put them together, keeping almost the same chronological order, to make a prose poem. David Crystal starts his list (around which he’s built a new book) with the Anglo-Saxons, but I’ve gone a bit further back. I’ve added noggin (as in “a noggin of gin”), which is a rare survival from the even earlier pre-Roman language of these islands. Brock, by the way, is the very ancient folk-name for the badger and one of the oldest words we have.


Brock roed to the lea and loafed out there, merry with mead. What a noggin of English riddles he had dreamed up in his bone-house under the oak. One about a bridegroom, his swain and an arse… Then Dame Pork the dun pig passed by with all her chattels, being taken away to jail. The wicked cunty cuckoo lifted her skirts and laid an egg on the Dame’s head. Far off in the men’s town, a taffetta music of royal money ran through the gaggle of new streets. Everything was now a doable matrix of information. But in the back streets lay rotting potatoes, debt, and bloody shibboleths. Fopdoodles made billions in sugar and tea, and boasted of it in the Gazette. Of course, the ink-horn scribbling of bodgers undermined them. The confusable public, disinterested and polite, ignored them all and instead dilly-dallied with modish Americanisms, the classification of the Species, and hurrahed the great treks of the pioneer dudes who shouted “Hello Progress!” three times before lunch. Or brunch, or whatever they called it in America. Brock dozed and time rolled on, and the speech-craft of men developed new Ologies. Ologies were OK, but only if you knew who to shmooze with them. Then some eccentric cooked up DNA and electrons in a garage, and all of a sudden there were robots and UFOs. It all seemed mere doobry and blurb to Brock. But the suits made grand mega money out of the new tech with elevator pitches, and PC users and webzines cherry-picked the LOL-ing winners. Ordinary muggles ignored them all, and played ambient jazz and suduko and admired their friends’ chillax. Brock got a feeling of information-overload in all that electrosmog, and unfriended his entire Twittersphere.