The diversity of culture is a reminder that the history of English is a story of culture during the past 1,500 years. The English language people use today went through three stages. Namely, old English ,middle wnglish and modern English. if people look back to the history of English, it’s certain to say that many elements have helped to shape the language, but one element that so crucial that we should pay special attention to is the influence of Christianity.
II.on English General Vocabulary
In the west, Christianity has always been an important part of ideology, and infiltrated into all aspects of English vocabulary.
The word breakfast originally came from the Christian habbit of “breaking the fast”; the worldwide word restaurant came from Bible, to be exact, rest came from bible. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” In 1766, Chef Boulanger opened a shop to provide people with food .A large sign hang in front of the door that reads the sentence. Thus, the word restaurant became popular. Some words people take for granted also came form bible. when people part , they say goodbye, its original meaning is “god be with you”. The original meaning of holiday means “holy day” ; Christmas came from old English “cristes moesse” or “the mass or festival of Christ”, and “ Christ” means “Jesus”. Most of The British and Americans are chritians, they regularly go to church, they believe in god, devil, heaven and hell. Some religious terms inevitably remain on English language, such as “go to church” “damn it” “power of the keys” and so on.
2.2 Taboo Words
Taboos’ existence has promoted the development of language and enriched the vocabulary. Surely, different background, different taboos. Due to their unique cultural background, the British and American taboos show distinctive traces of bible culture. The New Testament recorded that Judas, the betrayer, was the 13th in the Last Supper. Therefore, in the West, 13 is a taboo number. In all hotels, there shall be no 13th floors or No.13 rooms. Similarly, because of Good Friday, Friday became an unauspicious day. Thus, on the friday before Easter, symbolic activities related to jesus crucifixion are absolutely avoided. Such as having one’s hair cut , nailing horseshoes, and carpentry with nailing.. In addition, according to the Bible, man kind are born guity because adam and eve ate the forbidden fruit. Therefore, sexual intercourse is considered guilty. So strict Puritans don’t use sexual words in public. Sexual words became taboos, thus sexual euphemism came into being : make love, art of pleasure. to approach., act of love and so on.
Most British names came directly from the characters in Bible stories, such as David, Alexander, Helen, and Christian itself means the follower of chritianity. Nowadays, in the west, even many atheists use Christian names. Andre, Mark, Mattew, Timothy, Steve, John, Paul, Peter, which came from the new testament, are widely used among males. The well-known names Micheal, Daniel Adam, Joseph, Jacob, Benjam in which came from the old testament are also very popular. Some Christian names in the new testament are also widely used among females, such as Mary, Lydia. Even Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel are famous characters in the old testament. In English-speaking countries, people gave their children names of the bible characters. This is a portrayal of the profound effects of christianity upon western culture. This custom has existed for nearly 2000 years. English names are not just a series of simple language symbols, but also a series of cultural phenomenon with abundant intention.
III.On Idioms and Mottoes
In the context of Christian culture, English language is rather religious in a large extent.The legend of “man is created by God” expresses westerners’ mindset that God is universal and sacred. Bible stories about God, Jesus ,Adam and...
References: Good News Bible [M] United Bible Societies 1981
Miller.John.W. The Origins of The Bible [M ] New York: Paulist Press, 1994
Freeborn. D, From Old English To Standard English [M] 北京：外语教学与研究出版社
朱维之. 基督教与文学[M]. 上海：上海书店，1992
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