Welcome to the Wordlady blog!

This blog is about the fascinating, fun, and challenging things about the English language. I hope to entertain you and to help you with problems or just questions you might have with spelling and usage. I go beyond just stating what is right and what is wrong, and provide some history or some tips to help you remember. Is something puzzling you? Feel free to email me at wordlady.barber@gmail.com.
You can also order my best-selling books, Six Words You Never Knew Had Something to do With Pigs and Only in Canada You Say. Fun and informative!

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Friday, March 6, 2015

Rollicking Story of the English Language Course


I am looking at offering my hugely popular (attended by 650 people in Kitchener Waterloo!!) History of English course this spring in downtown Toronto, but I need to determine what would be the optimum dates and times. These are the options:

8 Tuesday afternoons 1:30-3:30, May 5- June 23
8 Wednesday mornings 10-12 May 6 - June 24
8 Wednesday afternoons 1-3

Cost would be $200 incl. HST for the 8 weeks.
Students who have taken the course previously but missed a couple of weeks could catch up at a cost of $30 per class, subject to space availability. 

Please let me know (email: wordlady.barber@gmail.com) if you are interested, and which day(s) and time(s) would suit you. Also, since many of you have already taken the course, could you please forward this to your friends, share on facebook, etc. and tell them just how amazingly fabulous a course it is!



Why is English spelling so chaotic? Why do we have so many synonyms? What might your name tell you about the history of the language? What is the history behind your favourite language pet peeve? This course is a highly informative and entertaining survey of the influences that have shaped English vocabulary over the years. We will tie linguistic developments with the social and political events with which they coincided. Forget your dull high school English classes as Katherine Barber takes you on a surprisingly hilarious trip through a crazy language.

Week 1 - Celts and Anglo-Saxons
Why we have "feet" instead of "foots" and why we use the apostrophe for the possessive. German origins of our essential vocabulary and grammar. 


 Week 2 - Vikings
Why we wear skirts and shirts. Why the verb "to be" is so ridiculous. Blame the Vikings. 


Week 3 - The Norman Invasion
Why we have "pigs" in the open and "pork" on the plate. The Norman Conquest, Medieval England and the origins of chaotic English spelling. 


Week 4 - Renaissance English
Spelling and pronunciation don't jibe. Why is there a "b" in "debt" and an "h" in "ghost"? Why do some folks say "y'all"?

Week 5 - The 18th Century
Re-examining our pet peeves. British spelling and American spelling are different. Why?

Week 6 - The 19th Century to the Present
Why some people pronounce "herb" with an "h" and others without. Why Lufthansa supplies its first class passengers with "body bags".

Week 7 - Canadian and American English
Have Americans corrupted the language? How we Canadians can be very confusing to other English speakers.

Week 8 - Writing Dictionaries
Not as dull as you might think: How do new words enter the language? What do lexicographers do?

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About Me

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Canada's Word Lady, Katherine Barber is an expert on the English language and a frequent guest on radio and television. She was Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Her witty and informative talks on the stories behind our words are very popular. Contact her at wordlady.barber@gmail.com to book her for speaking engagements; she can tailor her talks to almost any subject. She is also available as an expert witness for lawsuits.