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.
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Thursday, September 26, 2013

History of the English Language: New course available!

Due to popular demand, and to satisfy the large numbers of people who couldn't get into my sold-out History of the English Language courses this fall, I will be offering the course again starting in January.
Katherine Barber, Canada's Word Lady
Founding Editor-in-Chief, Canadian Oxford Dictionary

The Rollicking History of the English Language
Thursdays: 9 January – 27 March, 2014, 1:00-3:00 pm
No class February 20, 13 March, 20 March

Women's Art Association of Canada
23 Prince Arthur Avenue, Toronto
3 minutes walk from St George Subway Station (Bedford St. exit)
Limited free parking available – paid parking nearby
Open to the general public

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 entertaining and informative survey of the influences that have shaped English vocabulary over the years.
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. 

Vikings: Why we wear skirts and shirts. Why the verb "to be" is so ridiculous. 

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.

Renaissance English: Why is there a "b" in "debt" and an "h" in "ghost"? Why do some folks say "y'all"?

The 18th Century: Re-examining our pet peeves. British and American spelling is different.  Why?

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" and why the French love "relooking".

American English: Have they corrupted the language?

Canadian English: How we can be very confusing to other English speakers. 

$25/lecture including refreshments during the break
Pay only for the lectures you attend.
payable at the door by cash or cheque

For more information or to register, call 416-693-4496 or email wordlady.barber@gmail.com


  1. If I lived in Toronto, I would be there. So interesting!

  2. Please make your courses available as online webinars for those of us who do not live in Toronto but would like to attend the courses.

  3. I'd love this... sadly I work during the day... any chance of an evening course?

    1. at some point I will try to offer an evening course, but it is hard to find available venues. I am offering a "condensed" evening version at U of T in March: http://katherinebarber.blogspot.ca/2013/11/condensed-history-of-english-language.html


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.