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Monday, October 09, 2006

Scholarly Typographic Inquiry for Scholars of Serious Business.

Say what you will about i's for j's and two v's for w's. By far the most humorous element of early modern typography is the long s. This is true for at least four reasons. First, it's fun to read English out loud when every initial s is an f. Just is.



And fourth:

I know, the last one is illegible, but it's also the one that proves my point [transcription: "in troth I'le be thy young Lambskin; thou shalt find me as innocent as a fucking Dove"]. In any case, I thought this needed to be brought to the attention of scholars. Like us.

  • At 10/10/2006 05:10:00 AM, Blogger bdh wrote…

    Secretary hand is also good for this sort of thing, since every letter is barely distinguishable from the next. I'll have a look to find some examples. All I can remember is "fartie."


  • At 10/10/2006 11:18:00 AM, Blogger Hieronimo wrote…

    I once had a student who wanted to write a paper on Donne's "The Flea," specifically this aspect:

    I successfully warded him off this topic, however.


  • At 10/11/2006 12:59:00 PM, Blogger Simplicius wrote…

    Is there any evidence anywhere that early modern readers derived a chuckle from all those "sucking" doves and fleas? Any epigrams on this typographic ambiguity, for example?

    I heard this too as an undergraduate, specifically in a discussion of "The Flea," but I've subsequently come across nary a witty comment on the long s vs. the f, or the spelling of "sucking" vs. "f*cking," in the Renaissance (not that I've been looking all that hard). Is this perhaps another myth, much like Keith Thomas's theory of "black-letter literacy," for which I've also never seen a shred of evidence. I'm not saying such evidence doesn't exist, but I've never seen it (and Thomas doesn't provide any).


  • At 10/11/2006 04:01:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    Modern readers, however, do derive a chuckle from such nonsense. My thanks for pleasuring the day.


  • At 10/11/2006 08:24:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    I would like to believe that contemporary readers got a chuckle, but I suspect early modern readers were very used to seeing those conventions. I have read enough seventeenth-century printed material to make me not even notice (or go cross-eyed) with the letter changes.

    My favorite one was probably a typo -- Praise be to Cod [!]


  • At 10/12/2006 04:19:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    Yep. I agree with Anonymous: reading enough texts with long ss and short ss diffrentiated makes will mean that you won't even slow down for a bit when reading about "ſucking" fleas, less even probably than when it would have been misspelled as "sucking" fleas.


  • At 10/12/2006 06:52:00 PM, Blogger Pamphilia wrote…

    What about Nash's "Notorious Windsucker"? Anyone? Anyone?

    PS Yay for the Materiality of the Text! My advanced undergrads are writing their first papers on it. It *does* work to teach it to undergrads. Take that, raceclassgender and new criticism. This is closer reading than you've ever imagined.


  • At 10/13/2006 06:08:00 AM, Blogger bdh wrote…

    What about the Apricocks?


  • At 10/13/2006 10:47:00 AM, Blogger Hieronimo wrote…

    What about Nash's "Notorious Windsucker"?

    I think that's definitely an f in that word, not a long s. At least, it is in Epicoene:

    OED lists "windfucker = A name for the kestrel" and cites Nashe, and "as a term of opprobrium" citing Jonson, Chapman, and Beaumont and Fletcher. Interestingly, though, under wind-sucker, OED has "see windfucker" and then an 1880 citation from Swinburne: "Study Shaks. 54 The veriest wind-sucker among commentators." Seems like wind-sucker is a back-formation from windfucker, deriving either from mistaking the f for long s or from taking it as long s for bowdlerizing purposes.


  • At 10/13/2006 03:38:00 PM, Blogger Pamphilia wrote…

    Yes, that's what I meant Hieronimo! That occasionally, the f can be taken for an s!

    What a great word, though. I'll have to figure out how to use it in everyday speech.


  • At 10/13/2006 03:42:00 PM, Blogger Hieronimo wrote…

    muse: ah, sorry, the old e-tone problem... I didn't know about the later use of "wind-sucker" though (Swinburne), which I find interesting; I wonder if anyone else used it in the 19th c.


  • At 10/16/2006 12:02:00 AM, Blogger James wrote…

    "Where the bee fucks, there fuck I" is a personal savorite.


  • At 10/16/2006 10:30:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    Wow, it's like an early modern Fouth Park episode.


  • At 10/22/2006 11:38:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    This moft fhocking post is now fhowcased in Carnivalefque XX.


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