Imagine being able to exercise your brain and your butt at the same time. That’s exactly what I’m going to be doing over the next few months!
I like a lot of things about living in a small prairie town but sometimes I wish we lived closer to a bigger centre. One thing I’d really like to be able to do in my retirement is take a few college courses just for fun but distance makes that impractical.
Then my sister told me that she was enjoying university lectures on DVD while walking on her treadmill! For more than 20 years, The Great Courses have been producing college level courses taught by the best professors that major American universities like Harvard and Stanford have to offer. Their lectures are available on CD and DVD as well as either audio or video download.
The Great Courses offers something for everyone; everything from science and mathematics to business and economics, from gourmet cooking to world history. I could have borrowed DVDs from my sister but our interests are very different. Her lectures on statistics and probability would have put me to sleep and I would have ended up a broken heap on the basement floor behind the treadmill! Knowing that, she suggested something entirely different for me, a course entitled The Secret Life of Words: English Words and Their Origins. I was intrigued!
There’s absolutely no question about it; I’m a word nerd! I even got excited reading the introduction to the course guidebook.
We’ll travel back in time to the invasions by Vikings and the Normans to explore words from sky to story, which are so familiar they hardly seem borrowed at all. Then, we’ll immerse ourselves in the classical revival of the Renaissance, which gave English related sets of Latinate words, including omnivorous, carnivorous, piscivorous, and voracious.
I know, if you’re not a word lover like me, you’re probably falling asleep already. I hope you’re not on a treadmill! I, on the other hand, could hardly wait for my DVDs to arrive in the mail. I watched the first lecture this evening and wasn’t disappointed. My professor is Anne Curzan PhD, Professor of English at the University of Michigan. She’s an excellent speaker; clear, easy to follow and obviously in love with her subject matter. I could hardly believe it when the 30 minute lecture was over. I’d walked almost two miles and hardly noticed!
I’ll continue to use my walking videos from time to time. In fact, I’ve been walking on the Isle of Capri lately but I can hardly wait to spend more time in the “classroom”. In this evening’s lecture, Professor Curzan introduced four main themes that will be covered by the course.
- English is a mixed linguistic bag with many borrowed words giving it a rich, multi-layered vocabulary.
- Words are powerful.
- English is a living, ever-changing language.
- Studying English asks us to rethink some very common notions about language.
Oops! There I go putting some of you to sleep again! I hope you’ll bear with me though if I share a few tidbits from the course over the next few months. I probably won’t be able to help myself!