I have fond memories of the semester I spent studying Gothic in grad school, but the texts were a little dry. That’s not a problem with Ben’s series of videos “Gothic for Goths,” which uses for its dialogue someone trying to find a lost chupacabra. The first video (10 min.) is an introduction to the alphabet, with explanations of the names of the letters and where they came from; the second (just a couple of minutes, created because YouTube cut his first off at ten minutes) is a continuation, discussing the diphthongs; and the third, “Gaitsugja Meins” [‘My chupacabras’] (5 min.), is a dialogue with explanations of grammar. It’s a lot of fun, and I hope he does more of them. (Thanks, Jonathan!)

Update (June 2023). The site is gone; fortunately, the Internet Archive preserved a capture of the main page, which I have substituted for the “Ben” link above, and there are links for the six lessons he eventually put up, but the videos are apparently unretrievable.


  1. Wow, I’m so glad you’re enjoying it! I sketched out Lesson 3 this morning, and I’ll try to work on it over the weekend.

  2. Johan Anglemark says

    Wonderful. The world needs more Gothic.

  3. That was great! I have just effected my first ever Youtube subscription. Here’s dearly hoping for more. (Though, the reader ((Jamin?)) might want to consider investing in a USB microphone or something.)

  4. Cool! Good old Indo-European. Is the Gothic verb for ‘to eat’ cognate with Latin esse, 3/s/p/a/i est?
    Also is Gothic jah ‘and’ cognate with or related to Finnish and Estonian ja?

  5. David Marjanović says

    Is the Gothic verb for ‘to eat’ cognate with Latin esse, 3/s/p/a/i est?

    No, it’s cognate with Latin edere, which also means “to eat”, 3/s/p/a/i est! 🙂

  6. On the alphabet video, I hear that oþal, the name (mnemonic?) of the letter “þ”, means “ancestral property”. Does this fit into the recent discussion, in another thread, of odal and edal as kinds of property?

  7. USB mic – agreed! I have a new laptop now, though, so with any luck, the sound on this one will be better. If not, I’m off to NewEgg to buy something respectable.
    Bill – No idea where jah comes from. I always thought maybe it was a contraction of ja + enclitic uh (“yeah, and…”), kinda like “yes” is a contraction of ja + swe (“yeah, so…”). But I have nothing whatsoever to found that on.

  8. No idea where jah comes from.
    Holthausen’s Gotisches etymologisches Wörterbuch says “urnord. ~, ae. ge, as. ge, ja, ahd. ja, neben as. iac, iec, ahd. ioh, zu ja, jau.” Make what you will of that.

  9. a new laptop now
    I’ve been meaning to get a new laptop ever since the Toshiba I got at Circuit city blew up at Christmas. Every time I look at laptops I am drawn to the netbooks and end up drooling over them. I’m used to the core 2 duo technology though and am afraid I would be disappointed by the speed, not to mention the need to buy an external CD player.

  10. David Marjanović says

    Does this fit into the recent discussion, in another thread, of odal and edal as kinds of property?


  11. I did notice a couple of problems: in the first video, the claim “pronounced like the ‘o’ in ‘goth'” doesn’t consider the international audience, and in the second, the word “diphthong” is incorrectly defined. Other than that, nice videos.

  12. the claim “pronounced like the ‘o’ in ‘goth'” doesn’t consider the international audience
    I’m pretty sure the videos were not made with the international audience in mind, probably just Ben’s friends. Most people, when they toss something up on the internet, aren’t thinking about how it will be received in London, Cape Town, or Ulan Bator.

  13. (I mean, people who aren’t living in London, Cape Town, or Ulan Bator in the first place. See how easy it is to slip up?)

  14. Re: ja, yeah. When in Morocco ‘way back, I heard the locals saying ‘yeh’, ‘ye-e-eh’, and ‘yehhh’. And Spanish speakers often say ‘ya, ya, ya!’ just like Norwegians on the ships I worked on.
    I know the Visigoths put in their 2 cents (no damn cent sign on my keyboard!) in Spanish, but how do Berber and/or Arabic fit in?

  15. The Gothic lessons are wonderful, just a little too fast for my slow mind. I once posessed a grammar (Wright?) but didn’t get into it because of too many distractions and too little self-discipline (the bane of my existence).
    By the way, I do like the black background on Jamin’s site. Why do most people (and Google) choose black on white? Would it be the influence of books?

  16. Love the vids so far and these are going right into my youtube subs. I think my niece would love it. She’s all about the goth.

  17. David Marjanović says

    Why do most people (and Google) choose black on white?

    There are people out there who loathe white-on-black with an incredible vengeance. I don’t care much (as long as my screen is dark enough).

  18. marie-lucie says

    Black on white/white on black:
    If it does not matter to you, it means that you have very good eyesight. My eyes have been showing the effects of age and I now find white or pale letters on a black or strong-coloured background hard to distinguish. Black (or a strong colour) on white is simply much more legible: dark lines look thinner than white lines, which tend to look fuzzy.

  19. the claim “pronounced like the ‘o’ in ‘goth'” doesn’t consider the international audience
    No, it considers the audience of the typical american goth. Though the fact that I actually pronounce it is part of the reason for making these videos in the first place. Maybe it would be better to say “pronounced like the ‘o’ in the way I just said ‘goth'”…

  20. BW/WB – Interestingly enough, there was a theory going around that websites should switch to white-on-black and that it would save hundreds of megawatts of power by not lighting up as many pixels. There was even a Google spin-off site that was white-on-black. However, saving power is only true with old CRT monitors; backlit LCD’s actually use more power to display black than white. Not that that had anything to do with my color choice, but I thought it was interesting.

  21. marie-lucie says

    p.s. However, I liked the white on dark blue of the old Pegasus email system that my workplace was using for a while. But the letters were fairly big. The colour scheme would not have worked for me now for small letters as in the comments box I am writing in just now .

  22. White on black or dark grey background is sometimes assumed to be for photoblogging. The reason for that is an optical effect where colors appear to be more vibrant when placed against a black background. At one time it was a big advance in color television to have the dots or pixels in the raster against a black screenlike background to make the colors brighter. To see an example of how the visual effect works, scroll down to the explanation of “Borders and framing color”.

  23. There was even a Google spin-off site that was white-on-black.
    That is an alternate of their homepage, called ‘Blackle’. It was shown to me at our local computer store when I asked if they had dark screens to hang over the front of my monitor (which I had at my last job). But no, they don’t know about dark screens here on Haida Gwaii. That’s why I’m sticking to my sunglasses.

  24. marie-lucie says

    Nijma, it is true that colours stand out more on a black background, but at the same time that can make the edges of the colour look fuzzy. I especially dislike red writing on black, not because I don’t like the colour combination per se but because I find the red letters very hard to read against the black.

  25. Lesson Two is up and it is excellent.
    If you keep either chupacabras or goats, it has essential vocabulary you will not want to miss.

  26. Oh, wait, it’s Lesson Three we’re waiting for, isn’t it.

  27. My screens are, whenever I have any say, black printer’s ink on white paper, like God and Gutenberg intended.

  28. Alas, the Gothic videos are gone with the wind.

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