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What animal is depicted in this image labelled “weefil”?

Old woodcut labelled “Weeſil”

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Can you share the image source? – user13107 Oct 14 '12 at 17:34
@RegDwighт: I dunno. Certainly, tchrist's much-evolved answer could now almost equally apply to that question, but I think that's because he has buried the actual 'weasel' part of the answer in lots of other information about typefaces. – Marthaª Oct 15 '12 at 13:48
That's not a weefil—it's a ftoat. – Sven Yargs Apr 30 '15 at 20:57

f  vs  ſ

That’s merely a “long s, not an f.

wikipedia long s example

Therefore, it is not a weefil but rather a weeſil — meaning of course, a weasel.

We can rule out weevil because it has the look not of a bug but of a musteline critter.

Here are some examples in various faces — namely, in roman, italic, script, uncial, and blackletter faces — of just how confusing this can sometimes be to the uninitiated:

font examples

Although the “long s” is perhaps especially known for its use in blackletter (also known as Fraktur) faces, and blackletter forms are often associated with Germany, in fact the long s originated in Roman times, long before Gutenberg invented movable type. It was regularly used in handwriting for many, many centuries, and survived into our modern roman and italic faces as shown above.

The letter that remains part of German but is no longer used in English is the “sharp s”, which originated as a ligature connecting a “long s” with a “round s”: ſ + s = β, in a manner of speaking. Some of the specimina shown above make this especially obvious if you look closely at the difference on the end of sinfulness and selfishness as shown in the second versus the third column.

See also the question During what period of history did English use “ß”, the “sharp s” ligature?

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en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musteline would be a better line. Nice answer :) – naught101 Oct 14 '12 at 23:34
all of that because it has roots in the long S of German origin? – Chris Oct 15 '12 at 3:37
@Chris No, the long s is actually not of German origin, but Roman, and was used in many languages both in handwriting and later in print. Furthermore, its use was not limited to blackletter faces (or hands) alone. See here, here, and if you’d like, perhaps also here. – tchrist Oct 15 '12 at 13:06

That's not an F, it's an S. You can tell because the bar doesn't cross the stem. Once you figure that out, it's pretty easy to deduce that weesil is an old spelling of weasel. Plus, the picture is obviously of something weasel-oid.

Here's a pretty good overview of the history of the long S in printing, including the rules (or rather, lack thereof) for using long vs. short S: “The Long S in Colonial Sense.

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I approve of 'weasel-oid' – Kik Apr 30 '15 at 20:11

Others have already rightfully pointed out that this is a weasel. As a member of the Mustelidae family, it is related to the sea otter.

In Maine, these were known as lobsters, which were subsequently driven to extinction by crustaceans now commonly known as lobsters. The last of these old lobsters died in 1980.

a furry old lobster

Pictured: A "furry old lobster"

Full Disclaimer: The second paragraph of this answer is complete fiction. Any factual resemblance is purely coincidental. Both the old "furry old lobster" and modern-day "lobster" are alive and well.

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"Hodgman's story is, of course, entirely fictional" – MετάEd Oct 14 '12 at 14:46
Of course it's fictional, there's still plenty of old lobsters in Maine today. – user2400 Oct 14 '12 at 19:43
I think you maybe ought to emphasize that calling them "furry lobsters" is a joke, and that they aren't really extinct. – Kit Z. Fox Oct 14 '12 at 19:55
@KitFox Fictional claims do not belong in the answer at all. – MετάEd Oct 15 '12 at 3:08

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