A few days ago Vox published a short video that explains the origins of “OK” and how it came to be something that we say, read, and click everyday. By watching the video you can learn where OK originated and the roles of a presidential campaign, the telegraph, and railroads in spreading the use of “OK” until it became commonplace to say it. The video also teaches viewers why some businesses use “K” to replace “C” in product names.
Vox’s video about “OK” reminded me Words of the World. Words of the World is a collection of videos featuring historians and linguists explaining the origins of and history of the use of words in the English language. The videos attempt to put the words into a somewhat modern context. For example this video about the word “guerrilla” makes reference to Che Guevara. The video I’ve embedded below explains the word “coup.”
Applications for Education
Words of the World could be an instructive model for your own lesson combining history and language arts. Have your students pick a word or two that they think is common and research it. Then have them create their own short videos in which they explain the history of those words. You might even have them research the dialect of the areas in which they live. For example, where I live we have a Range Pond. Most people would pronounce that as range, like “home on the range” yet everyone around here pronounces it as rang as in “the bell rang.” I’m not sure why that is the case, but I would love to find out.
H/T to Open Culture for the Vox video.