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I've been told that the following phrase is valid English, although Google Translate marks each of the words as wrong.

Therf werre eyght bokes.

What does this phrase mean in common English?

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2  
In common English, not much. :^) –  Mr.Wizard Mar 13 '12 at 8:25
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Where's it from? It could be a way of writing 'There were eight books' from the time when English spelling showed considerable variation. Even so, 'therf' is unusual. –  Barrie England Mar 13 '12 at 8:33
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The phrase is not valid. It's just that each individual word is valid. –  Urbycoz Mar 13 '12 at 10:52
    
Why's the downvote? –  Krom Stern Mar 13 '12 at 11:05
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The downvote might be because "This question does not show any research effort"; a simple Google search would provide most of what is on here. (But not all; it's not my downvote, though I think it's close to the line.) –  TimLymington Mar 13 '12 at 11:41
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1 Answer

up vote 12 down vote accepted

"Therf werre eyght bokes" isn't a grammatically correct sentence.

It's used as an example on a number of websites and books to show that having a really large spell-checker dictionary isn't necessarily a good thing because if your spell-checker contained every word in the Oxford English Dictionary then "Therf werre eyght bokes" would be shown as correct.

The sentence looks similar to "There were eight books", but the original is a deliberate example of an incorrect or nonsense sentence.

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3  
Therf (or tharf) is Northumberland dialect for unleavened: boke (as well as a Chaucerian spelling) is Lancashire dialect for 'to push or poke'. –  TimLymington Mar 13 '12 at 12:04
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And apparently eyght is a form of eyot (island), and werre is an alternative spelling for: were, war, waur, ware, wary, warre (a knot in timber), weary, weir, or vere (springtime). Also, indirectly, of worst (as a verb), and aware. Probably just as well it's no longer in use. –  TimLymington Mar 13 '12 at 14:36
    
@TimLymington: These are interesting additions I was looking for. Thank you. –  Krom Stern Mar 13 '12 at 14:46
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protected by RegDwigнt Mar 13 '12 at 19:19

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