Following an early ambition, for the past twenty years I have been researching, writing about and teaching the history of the English language. Leading workshops for schools and colleges at the British Library led to involvement in the teaching programme for the ‘Evolving English’ exhibition (2010), and the publication by the British Library of Evolving English Explored. Thanks to a happy connection with the military historian Peter Doyle, I also published three books on English words with Shire Books: Discovering Words, Discovering Words in the Kitchen, and Team Talk, on the history of words in sport. Collaboration with Peter Doyle led to Trench Talk, a miscellany of words that emerged during the First World War, which led to the international research project Languages and the First World War, jointly managed with Christophe Declercq, researcher on Belgian refugees during the conflict, and later Hilary Briffa, of King’s College London. This project has led to three volumes of essays which I co-edited, published by Palgrave Macmillan and Bloomsbury. My own publications in this field have been Words and the First World War (Bloomsbury 2017) and Tommy French (2020). There have also been essays published in volumes published in Russia and Hungary, and an extensive blog which is widely followed worldwide
I now lead adult education classes in the history of English via Bishopsgate institute, online and onsite; the courses are An Introduction to the History of English; The London Voice; The Language of Food; Household Words; Etymology, Where Words Come From; The Language of the First World War.
I also write occasional articles on the history of words for magazines, and am called on to contribute to discussions on the origins of words and phrases on BBC radio.
And there is a blog for occasional articles on the history of words and phrases.
Among these specially recommended are: