59

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

Old woodcut labelled “Weeſil”

117

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?

  • 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
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    @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
38

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.

  • 3
    I approve of 'weasel-oid' – Kik Apr 30 '15 at 20:11
4

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.

  • 6
    "Hodgman's story is, of course, entirely fictional" – MetaEd Oct 14 '12 at 14:46
  • 2
    Of course it's fictional, there's still plenty of old lobsters in Maine today. – user2400 Oct 14 '12 at 19:43
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    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
  • 10
    @KitFox Fictional claims do not belong in the answer at all. – MetaEd Oct 15 '12 at 3:08

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