Mike Kinde at Ideas Illustrated created a text visualization that reveals the etymology of English using Douglas Harper’s Online Etymology Dictionary words in several passages of text, including Dickens and Twain.
Using Douglas Harper’s online dictionary of etymology, I paired up words from various passages I found online with entries in the dictionary. For each word, I pulled out the first listed language of origin and then reconstructed the text with some additional HTML infrastructure. The HTML would allow me to associate each word (or word fragment) with a color, title, and hyperlink to a definition.
Take the following passage from Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer which has a good mix of Americanisms in the English:
Tom gave up the brush with reluctance in his face, but alacrity in his heart. And while the late steamer Big Missouri worked and sweated in the sun, the retired artist sat on a barrel in the shade close by, dangled his legs, munched his apple, and planned the slaughter of more innocents. There was no lack of material; boys happened along every little while; they came to jeer, but remained to whitewash. By the time Ben was fagged out, Tom had traded the next chance to Billy Fisher for a kite, in good repair; and when he played out, Johnny Miller bought in for a dead rat and a string to swing it with — and so on, and so on, hour after hour. And when the middle of the afternoon came, from being a poor poverty-stricken boy in the morning, Tom was literally rolling in wealth. He had beside the things before mentioned, twelve marbles, part of a jews-harp, a piece of blue bottle-glass to look through, a spool cannon, a key that wouldn’t unlock anything, a fragment of chalk, a glass stopper of a decanter, a tin soldier, a couple of tadpoles, six fire-crackers, a kitten with only one eye, a brass door-knob, a dog-collar — but no dog — the handle of a knife, four pieces of orange-peel, and a dilapidated old window sash .
This breaks down to 73% of Old English origin, 12% Old French, 3% Middle English, 2% Latin, etc.
Go over to Kinde’s blog to check out some additional passages.