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DVD Review: The Adventure Of English

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Naturally, I can only assume that most of you reading this are well familiar with the English language. However, it has come to my attention that many of you reading this may be using a language applet in order to properly translate into your own primary language — and, just for you, the next sentence shall be a selection of complete gibberish in order to confuse and disorient you: Frankly, rhubarb is quickly, chicken the now otter pop rabidity and guise, too. You’re welcome.

Now, if you think some people might have had a hard time with that, imagine what it was like for an entire country of individuals — from peasants to kings alike — to adapt and adopt a language that would eventually become the most widespread language in the world. But enough about Klingon — let’s talk about English.

We speak it. Breathe it. Live it. Some of us even try to teach it to others — preferably without massacring it. And yet, most of us know next to nothing about our own language. When did it come into being? How did it begin? The Adventure Of English is a fascinating eight-part documentary series from the U.K. that answers those questions — and loads you up with even more information in the process.

Hosted by author Melvyn Bragg, The Adventure Of English begins with the early roots of our language and takes us to our modern technology-fueled age. Bragg, with the assistance of several renowned authorities, shows us how our language has come such a long way in a short 1500 years, trotting all over the world in the process. There have been wars, plagues, and major changes in the culture that have threatened to wipe it out completely. But, in the end, English (which is almost depicted as a people at times as opposed to a language) has always managed to prevail.

Originally aired in the U.K. in late 2002, The Adventure Of English has landed on DVD courtesy of Acorn Media’s documentary line, Athena. Each episode is shown in its original 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen ratio. Of all the Standard Definition DVDs I’ve seen this year (and there have been a lot, trust me), I have to say that Acorn Media/Athena’s transfer of The Adventure Of English is the most beautiful by far. Honestly, I didn’t think a regular DVD could look this beautiful — it looks so good that it could easily pass as High Def. The Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack is nowhere near as perfect as the video presentation, but it comes through fine nevertheless. English SDH subtitles are included.

The DVD set includes biographical information on individuals who have contributed heavily to the development of the English language. It is the only "extra" featured on the discs. But the greatest bonus in this four-disc set is a 20-page booklet highlighting the major moments in history fof the English language (and its small enough that the kids can take it to school and show up their teachers — ha, ha).

OK, so it might not be your ideal pick for family entertainment. Let’s face it: a 408-minute series about the history of a language is bound to put your average macho sports enthusiast to sleep in a matter of minutes. And sure, Melvyn Bragg’s odd manner of gesturing and tendency to look like he‘s going to start giggling at any moment may heighten the “cheese factor” for some viewers. But, at the end of the day, The Adventure Of English remains a very in-depth, well-made, and much-needed documentary that should become a staple in English-speaking history classes around the world. This series comes very highly recommended.

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About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has watched so many weird movies since the tender age of 3 that a conventional life is out of the question. He currently lives in Chico, CA with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.