In this, the second in our trilogy of blogs about what puts the “Great” into Great Britain, we take a look at the history of sports in our society, and the impact that our English language has had throughout the world.
Sport For All
The United Kingdom is widely recognised as the birthplace of modern sport.From the drawing up of rules to the development of sporting philosophies, Britons have played a major role in shaping sport as the world knows it today.
If you take a look at some of the sports that have been devised and developed within our isles, it does make quite impressive reading… association football, rugby (union and league), cricket, golf, tennis, badminton, squash, rounders, hockey, boxing, snooker, billiards and curling. Great Britain has also played a key role in the development of sports such as sailing and Formula One.
Anyone for Tennis?
One example of a sport that we have given the world is Tennis. The modern game of tennis originated in the UK in the 1870s,and after its creation, tennis spread throughout the upper-class English-speaking population, before eventually spreading around the world.
The oldest tennis tournament in the world the Wimbledon championships, first occurred in 1877, and still today the event takes place over two weeks in late June and early July.
It was also us Brits who gave the world it’s most popular sport today , Association Football or Soccer.
The game of football is generally considered to date back to the mob football games played in the Middle Ages between rival villages without rules and with unlimited players on each side.
Football as we know it dates back to 1863, when the chief clubs and schools playing their own versions of the game met to form b The Football Associationb .
Prior to this many variations of the game, and its’ rules, were played on the pitches and playgrounds of Englandb s public schools, but Etonb s way of playing would differ to Harrowb s, Winchesterb s, to Charterhouseb s and so on.
On the evening of 26 October 1863, at Londonb s Freemasonb s Tavern, representatives from 12 clubs and schools from the London area met to bang out a code for the game. This was the beginning of the modern game we know, and love today.
The English Language
The history of the English language has traditionally been divided into three main periods: Old English (450-1100 AD), Middle English (1100-circa 1500 AD) and Modern English (since 1500). Over the centuries, the English language has been influenced by a number of other languages, culminating in our mother tongue of today.
At its height in 1922, the British Empire was the largest in history, covering a quarter of the Earthb s land area, with a population of over 450 million people.
The primary aim of education in the colonies became the acquisition of the English language, and the future academic and financial success of those living in colonized countries came to depend mainly on their English language ability.
Free Speech and World Dominance
The English language is now argued to belong to everyone who speaks it. Native speakers are said to have forfeited their right to exclusive ownership of English in a global context. Indeed, native speakers of English are outnumbered more than 2-to-1 by non-native speakers of the language!
Bizarre really to think that the English language now belongs to b everyone or to no-oneb , according to a quote in 1987 by Ronald Wardhaugh. This would also appear to imply that English will maintain its position as the global dominant language throughout the 21st Century and beyond.
Have a Butchers at this Me Old China!
The Cockney (Londoners born within the sound of Bow Bells in East London) gift to world culture is the phenomenon of Cockney Rhyming Slang – a code of speaking wherein a common word can be replaced by the whole or abbreviated form of a well-known phrase which rhymes with that word.
Cockney Rhyming Slang has been evolving in the East End of London since the sixteenth century. It is thought to have originated from the seamen and soldiers who used the London docks, from the Gypsies who arrived in the 1500’s, from the Irish residents and the Jewish faction and from all the other ethnic minorities which have made up the population of the city, a right royal mix!
By the way, for those of you unfamiliar with Cockney Rhyming slang, a translation of our heading … “Have a look (Butchers hook) at this my old mate (China plate) !!
In our final part of “What Makes Britain Great”, we will be looking at the arts and entertainment and our politics.