Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Subject Of This Post Is The

No honestly! It's the subject of this post ~ the, that is.

It really isn't my intention to offend all of those quaint little Ye Olde Shoppes that dot the land, but you talk kinda funny. In case you don't know it, your name is telling me: You Olde Shoppe as if it is calling me, the customer, an old shop. Perhaps it should be retitled as 'Me Olde Shoppe' if it is intended for the shop to be the olde one.

The point of this post is to note the ancestry of the letter 'y' when used as a substitute for the Anglo-Saxon symbol called a thorn: Þ  The symbol started as a Norse rune, that corresponded with the English word: giant. In Old Norse, the symbol 'Þ' (lower case 'þ'), named þurs, was pronounced as we today, in English, would pronounce thurs. As the symbol and the 'th' pronunciation moved from the Old Norse to Old English, the name of the symbol changed to þorn, which in today's English, would be pronounced as 'thorn'. Between the 8th and 15th Centuries, the thorn became the symbol of choice to express the sound of 'th' throughout the Scandinavian and Northern Europe countries. By the mid-1400s when William Caxton created his English alphabet, most of the letters and symbols that he borrowed from the German and Italian alphabets translated directly into his English alphabet. That is, most but not all. The thorn was one that did not translate directly, and so Caxton, in his English alphabet, substituted the letter 'y' for the 'þ' symbol.

The use of the letter 'y' in place of the 'þ' symbol, coupled with the letter 'e', to write the word that we today would pronounce as the was used in printed as well as in handwritten documents into the 1700s. Likewise the word that was usually spelled 'yt'. The reader became used to seeing the 'y' used in place of the 'th' combination, and so could read through a document without problem.

The spelling of the word 'you' as 'ye', such as in the phrase: Hear ye, hear ye!, became popular as a result of its usage in the Bibles printed through the 17th and 18th Centuries. Contemporary readers knew, as they read a document, the difference between ye/you and ye/the by understanding the context of what they were reading. And so, modern readers should know the difference in regard to the context; a store with the name 'Ye Olde Shoppe' would not make sense to be pronounced as You Olde Shoppe, so it could only be pronounced as The Olde Shoppe.

Now, the only thing to figure out is why the shop-owner thinks there needs to an 'e' at the end of the words 'Old' and 'Shop'. Apparently, the shop-owners want their customers to visit You Oldeeeey Shoppeeeey.