Behind every word is a story…
Etymology is the study of the history of words. When we hear a word we don’t immediately realize that it has a story. Every word in the English language come from somewhere, often from another language and another place. These stories sometimes seem the work of fiction. It’s interesting to consider that the stories behind the words themselves, the journey they take to become part of the English language, are more fascinating than the prose they create on the page.
26 Words seeks to unlock the remarkable stories behind 26 common, and at times, not-so-common English words. It will do so in 8-12 minute narratives, each woven together by delightful and often comical historical recreations of how the word traveled from culture to culture and shore to shore to finally find its way into our American mouths. The pieces will be a mixture of live-action and hand-made animation weaving together a magical tapestry of lexiconographic delight. The series will begin with an episode featuring the letter A, and each subsequent episode will thus feature the remaining 25 letters to comprise a total of 26 episodes per season.
Take, for example, the word chess. This word seems simple enough and yet its simplicity belies a fascinating, globe-trotting history. The game itself was likely born in India in the 6th century AD. However, the word actually comes from Persia and is a word that still exists today, shah. The word, in Persia, meant king. And, as will be interesting in just a few sentences hence, a dead king was called a shah mat. From Persia, the word leapt to Arabic as shah and then across the Med to the Roman Empire and common Latin as, oddly enough, scaccus. The Gauls (or French) then took a liking to it as eschec and finally in the 13th century it found its way into British English and ultimately American English as chess. Why? Because the game of chess is about defending the king, and shah means king. Oh, and shah mat? That became checkmate.
While the series is geared towards a middle school demographic, like all good young-adult entertainment, these stories will be produced to delight audiences of all ages including and beyond the pre-teen set.
Each episode will feature a single word and together, one word beginning with each letter of the alphabet will make up the full season of the series.
It is important that viewers experience moments of discovery and delight; that they have experiences that allow them to feel smart and attentive.
The series will be hosted by a comedic actor and the sketch comedy within each episode will be brought to life by a troupe of comedy actors that will remain the same from episode to episode.
Ultimately, the goal of the series is not only to provide an entertaining history of a given word’s grand entrance into our lexicon, but to engage our audience with the wonder of language in an effort to peek curiosity and deepen an understanding and appreciation for our culture which is, after all, defined by the confluence of language and history.