157

Background When in ca. 100 CE Plutarch wrote a treatise entitled Why are the days named after the planets reckoned in a different order from the actual order?, it can be deduced that in Rome the seven-day week had supplanted the eight-day week based on market days, it was commonly understood the seven days were named for the classical planets in a ...


112

The Tironian et and the modern ampersand had different origins, with the Tironian et having been invented as one of ~13,000 symbols/shorthand by Cicero's scribe, Tiro. It persisted until it succumbed to a linguistic witch hunt during the middle ages, when suspicion was cast upon it for appearing to be a rune or secret cipher. (This detail has been rightly ...


51

Even though it looks like a seven, it's actually a shorthand character called a "Tironian et" From http://www.ualberta.ca/~sreimer/ms-course/course/abbrevtn.htm Tironian nota for "et" (this frequently looks like a small number "7" or, later, a "z" or a "z" inside a circle; cf. the ampersand: &): Tiro was a member of Cicero's household who ...


37

Reckon comes from the Old English recenian, meaning “to pay, arrange, dispose, reckon”.


31

Literacy, pens, paper, the printing press. A written culture has different restrictions than an oral culture dependant on ease of repetition from memory. According to the University of Wisconsin Digital Collections Center: Beowulf is the oldest narrative poem in the English language, embodying historical traditions that go back to actual events and ...


29

Who says we don't? Have you listened to rap or hip-hop lately? Anglo-Saxon poetry like Beowulf was heavily beat-based and while it didn't involve rhyme it used alliteration that gave similar aural cues. The lines were recited four stressed beats to a line with a caesura dividing it into two-beat groups, and rhythm was important. I have long considered Anglo-...


29

Yes, Old English had contractions: Old English contractions include nis from ne is (“is not”), naes from ne waes (“was not”), nolde from ne wolde (“would not”), naefde from ne haefde (“did not have”), and nat from ne wat (“does not know”). Is “who’s” short for “who is” or “who has”? For example, take a look at Ælfric's translation of Genesis 2:5: ...


22

In the notes of the Wikipedia article about minims, there's a link to the work of Heidi Harley, an author who supports the idea you transcribed, that is, that some spellings came from the scribes writing words differently to avoid confusion in minim clusters. Among other interesting things, the work says, in pages 292-93, that The letters u, i, v, w, m, ...


22

What Happened? Lich in Old and Middle English referred to bodies in general. In the OED's two definitions for lich, that body could be alive ("lich, n.," def. 1) or dead ("lich, n.," def. 2). That's important to understand because corpse could also refer to a living or dead body ("corpse, n.," def. 1 and 2). Between Middle ...


21

Here's a nice example (not historical, but based on the historical Gothic style) depicting how similar letters like m, n, u and i can get in this style: Here's the page it's from: http://www.calligraphy-skills.com/gothic-letters.html


20

Did more past participles use to end with -n? Yes. In Old English, strong verbs took the "-en" suffix in order to form the past participle: The past participle was formed using a dental suffix for class 1 and 3 weak verbs ("-ed", "-t", or "-d", depending on the verb), and "-od" for class 2 weak verbs. Strong verbs took the suffix "-en" and the ...


18

To take the best-known passage alone, rather than the whole speech, and skip over duplicates, we can quickly show that this is the case: we Old English we shall Old English sceal fight Old English feohtan on Old English on a variant of Old English an the Old English þe, from earlier Old English se beaches Old English bæce/bece landing Modern English ...


18

It actually used to be some form of "Walish" that has since been contracted: Welsh Old English Wielisc, Wylisc (West Saxon), Welisc, Wælisc (Anglian and Kentish); but it actually meant "foreign" or, more properly, "not Anglo-Saxon"; the Welsh called their country something else, and do to this day. In the Welsh language it's not Wales but Cymru. ...


17

Although the 7 was the ampersand on IBM's standard keyboard layout, that is hardly universal. The first nine printable characters in ASCII are ! " # $ % & ' ( ), which should give a good clue as to what the top row of a teletype keyboard looked like. On many early teletypes and terminals (and also, BTW, on the Apple ][), the shift key toggled bit 4 of ...


17

the upper and lower case versions of this glyph A thorn with an extra stroke through its descender was sometimes used as a scribal abbreviation for various words we now start with th-. One such meaning was for the word through, a truly dramatic savings in manual labor that allowed the scribe to save 86% of the length by writing a single ꝧ instead of all ...


17

It is indeed old, and can be found in Beowulf: Wa bið þæm þe sceal þurh sliðne nið sawle bescufan in fyres fæþm, frofre ne wenan, wihte gewendan; wel bið þæm þe mot æfter deaðdæge drihten secean ond to fæder fæþmum freoðo wilnian. Woe be to him who through severe affliction thrust his soul into the fire’s embrace, hope not for relief, or to change at all; ...


17

Or is not the "or" of Modern English, but Or = ere = before. OED: ere, adv.1, prep., conj., and adj. B. prep. 1. a. Before (in time). Forms: β. Middle English–1600s (1800s archaic) or, Middle English ore. d. with the addition of ever. β. 1608 W. Shakespeare King Lear vii. 445 This heart shall breake, in a 100. thousand flowes Or ere ile weepe. ...


16

In answer to your question "was there no effort to replace" the names of the days of the week, yes there was. George Fox (1624 - 1691), a Dissenter who preached in England, Europe and America, had a conscience about the origin of the names as you point out. He refers in his Journal to 'the first day' instead of Sunday and so on and also refers to months by ...


16

The word Ȝecyndbēc is defined by the Dictionary of Old English (under the spelling gecyndboc) as: Genesis, literally understood as the book of creation or begetting It is made of two words: bec/boc (book) and Ȝecynd/gecynd, the latter of which has no modern equivalent but is a combination itself of the prefix ge-/ȝe- (also has no modern English ...


16

delete "destroy, eradicate," 1530s, from Latin deletus, past participle of delere "destroy, blot out, efface," from delevi, originally perfective tense of delinere "to daub, erase by smudging" (as of the wax on a writing table), from de "from, away" (see de-) + linere "to smear, wipe," from PIE root *(s)lei- "slime, slimy, sticky" (see slime (n.)). In ...


16

Edwin Ashworth's answer is basically right, but I'm going to shed some light on its linguistics. Every language has a unique set of rules that govern the permissible sequences of sounds (which sounds are allowed to make a consonant cluster i.e. licit and illicit sequences of sounds). A sequence that is possible in one language may not be allowed in another, ...


15

It's a rather difficult question. Both pronunciations are correct today—I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a dictionary that would disagree with that. So, the individual you encountered was wrong about "ī-thər" (I assume you mean the pronunciation that's like "EYE-ther") being wrong. But this question is about the history, and the word has been spelled (...


15

Once upon a time, there were six regular classes of "strong" Germanic verb that formed their four principal parts by a — mostly predictable — vowel change in the stem. This at least partially survives today: drink, drank, drunk; forbid, forbade, forbidden In contrast, "weak" verbs had to be propped up by a final dental stop: snow, ...


14

The plural ending -(r)en Let’s get rid of the plural suffix first, since it is actually quite unrelated to the main question here—it is merely a red herring. The plural ending -en is the outcome of the Old English (OE) ending -an, which was the regular ending in the weak noun declensions. As you can see, this ending has an a: as such, it did not cause i-...


13

Yes, in Old English, we find contractions. Nis is the contraction of ne is (meaning “is not”) and naefde from ne haefde (meaning “did not have”). Naes was from ne waes (meaning “was not”) and nolde came from the contraction of both ne and wolde (meaning “would not”). Old English was full of contractions, and these contractions have remained in place ...


12

Note that Scottish has the contracted form “Scotch” (also “Scots”, where the use of /s/ is I think a Scottish feature). I would guess that the consonant cluster in the middle of “English” inhibited the development of any monosyllabic contracted forms—“Englsh” is not exactly a validly formed syllable in English. Alongside Welsh we have French and Dutch (...


12

The word used to be familiar to many English people from the Bible passage known as the Benedictus which is used in Morning Prayer in the Book of Common Prayer. It is from Luke 1 verses 68-79. Verse 78 reads Through the tender mercy of our God, whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us. In modern Bible translations the word is given as dawn. The ...


Only top voted, non community-wiki answers of a minimum length are eligible