Want to meet two extinct letters of the alphabet? Learn what “thorn” and “wynn” sounded like

The English alphabet, as you likely know, is made up of 26 letters.

But it wasn’t always that way.

Before we get to which letters were late additions, let’s explain a bit about Old English. English was first written in the Anglo-Saxon futhorc runic alphabet, also known as Anglo-Saxon. The Angles and Saxons came from Germany and settled in Britain in the fifth century. The region they inhabited became known as “Angle-land,” or “England.”

Eventually, Christian missionaries introduced the Latin alphabet, which ultimately replaced Anglo-Saxon. But for some time, the alphabet included the letters of the Latin alphabet, some symbols (like the ampersand), and some letters of Old English.

As Modern English evolved, the Old English letters were dropped or replaced.

(Our trusty alphabet isn’t the only part of language that has changed — October used to be the eighth month, and September the seventh. What happened? Find out here.)

Here’s an example: In Old English, a letter called “thorn” represented the “th” sound (as in “that”) in Modern English. In the Latin alphabet, the “y” was the symbol that most closely resembled the character that represented thorn. So, thorn was dropped and “y” took its place. (But is “y” a vowel or a consonant? We explore the dilemma here.)

That is why the word “ye,” as in “Ye Olde Booke Shoppe,” is an archaic spelling of “the.”

The Old English letter “wynn” was replaced by “uu,” which eventually developed into the modern w. (It really is a double u.)

The letters “u” and “j” didn’t join what we know as the alphabet until the sixteenth century.

Now consider ancient history influences days of the week. Who is the attractive goddess that Friday is named for? Here’s that odd and entertaining story.

RESTAURANT REQUESTS; Chicken salad recipe from Kozlak’s Royal Oak.(TASTE) see here chicken salad sandwich recipe

Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN) January 11, 2001 | Osby, Diane Q. I would like the almond chicken salad sandwich recipe from Kozlak’s Royal Oak Restaurant.

- Peggy Louis, Cannon Falls A. Here is the chicken salad recipe sent from Kozlak’s Royal Oak Restaurant, 4785 Hodgson Rd., Shoreview.

Kozlak’s Royal Oak Restaurant Almond Chicken Salad X Makes 6 cups.

- 2 (10-oz.) cans chicken – 6 green onions, chopped – 4 ribs celery, chopped – 1 c. sliced almonds, toasted – 1 (7-oz.) jar red pepper, rinsed, drained and diced – 1 1/2 c. mayonnaise – Salt and white pepper to taste In a bowl, combine chicken, onions, celery, almonds and red pepper. Add mayonnaise, salt and white pepper to taste. Chill. Serve with your choice of bread. web site chicken salad sandwich recipe

Nutrition information per 1/4 cup serving:

Calories 165 Carbohydrates 2 g Protein 6 g Fat 15 g including sat. fat 2 g Cholesterol 23 mg Sodium 221 mg Calcium 22 mg Dietary fiber 1 g Diabetic exchanges per serving: 1 med-fat meat exch., and 2 fat exch.

X Recipe has been tested.

Osby, Diane


  1. Heather -  December 8, 2016 - 8:52 am

    Phenomenal. The ph has a f. But it was taken out to make the word longer and loooooooooooooooooooooooooooonnnnnnngggggeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrr!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Too long I think. :) :) ;)

  2. Professor Pedant -  December 5, 2016 - 4:01 pm

    Years ago, I challenged students to decipher and pronounce “ghoti” while trying to have a little fun when teaching the vagaries and variations in English spelling and pronunciation. None puzzled it through, but many were delighted when they realized it could be “fish”. The ‘gh’ makes the ‘f’ sound, think rough and tough, the short ‘i’ comes from the ‘o’ in women, and the ‘sh’ is like the ‘ti’ sound in imagination, exclamation, etc.

  3. Lidia -  October 22, 2016 - 1:12 pm

    Why the vowel “i” as in “ship” is pronounced that way whilst in “lime” is pronounced “laim”, I need to explain the difference to an 8 years old beginner.

    • Ruth -  October 31, 2016 - 2:06 pm

      I’m currently helping my 5 year old improve her reading skills. I am not trained in education, but from what I’ve realized from her curriculum at school and see in the easy reader books, if there is one vowel in a word, you pronounce it with the short vowel sound. Put an -e on the end, and you pronounce the word with the long vowel and do not pronounce the -e.

      Consider the following examples: Run – rune; Kit-kite; hat-hate, fat-fate, far-fare, not-note.

      When my kid first started reading, she would try to sound out kite as k – short i – t – long e. Following the pattern I explained above, she never gets these wrong anymore.

      Double vowels also modify the vowel sound from the default short vowel – ai, ou, oi, ue, ow, ay, ey, oy…

      Otherwise, I’ve found – if you present me (native English speaker) with a word I don’t know with one vowel, I will naturally try to say it with a short vowel sound first, like “zat” or “lir” or “caz”. (These aren’t real words, are they?)

      Therefore, only having one vowel, ship we’d pronounce with the short vowel, and with an -e, lime is pronounced with the long vowel.

      • bdubz01 -  November 1, 2016 - 2:08 pm

        zat is a pronunciation of xat, lir is a alternate to ler witch it a name, and caz being the only true word is slang for casual

      • Peter -  November 25, 2016 - 11:38 pm

        When I was at infant school, not sure which year but I’d be somewhere between 5 and 7, in the UK. The explanation was there was a fairy e at the end of the word and this changed the sound the other vowel made. Sounds bit bizarre now.

        • Shawn -  November 30, 2016 - 3:49 pm

          My daughter’s teacher called it the “bossy e”.

      • TEACHER CHERYL -  November 29, 2016 - 1:32 pm

        I tell my grammar and reading students that English, which has roots from many other languages developed over the centuries, has more words than any other language–over 250,000, and can be very confusing. It has more rules than any other, and breaks all of them at some point. That being said, it also has more precise and detailed choices to express thoughts and feelings, and create works of art in literature.

    • bdubz01 -  November 1, 2016 - 2:00 pm

      the e at the end of a word changes the pronunciation of a proceeding vowel

    • Dena Charvat -  November 12, 2016 - 2:06 am

      “When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking” I was taught this in first grade, back when phonics was taught. The two vowels in lime are separated by only one letter, so the first vowel still does the talking-says it’s name….a long or hard “I”. In the word ship, there is no other vowel, so the “I” is shy, and not talking very much.

      • Yancey -  November 18, 2016 - 4:05 pm

        I learned a longer version: “When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking, and it usually says its own name.” This is mostly true, whether the vowels are together or separated by one consonant (but not when separated by two; in that case it is usually short). However, there are exceptions, and some fine examples of those exceptions are in the sentence itself! Consider the word “two” for example. If it were using the same rules as the word “go,” you would pronounce it “t-woah.” Then there is the word “vowel.” It’s first vowel is separated from the second one by a single consonant. But you don’t pronounce it “Voh-ul.” Now the word “one.” If it were following the rules, it would be pronounced the same as “own.” Finally, the word “does” is not pronounced “doze,” unless you are talking about more than one female deer, in which case it is. Nor is it pronounced “dose.” No wonder English is one of the hardest languages to master!

        • Wooley -  November 25, 2016 - 3:30 pm

          In the US South, one is occasionally pronounced like own.

          • Chris K. -  November 28, 2016 - 8:37 am

            Yeah and we pronounce it “un”… “Thatun over yonder” = “That one way over there”.

    • Amanda -  November 17, 2016 - 3:25 am

      Vowels have “hard” and “soft” prinounciations. The hard sound of a vowel usually sounds like the name of the letter (such as in lime, fine, or bike). The soft form is found in works like ship, pick, and fit. When a word ends in an “e,” that usually means the vowel in the word will use the hard sound.

    • Miss Emma -  December 5, 2016 - 5:03 pm

      Writing is just ‘talking on paper’ – 26 letters used in different combinations to represent the 44 or so speech sounds we use. So start with what speech sounds the letter or letters represent. It all depends on the word- think of how many speech sounds ‘a’ represents for example, even on its own and not part of a digraph etc… more than 10 speech sounds! So the /i/ represents a speech sound in the word ship but is part of a split vowel digraph /i-e/ in the word ‘lime’..a completely different speech sound. The best starting point is Monster Spelling and Code Mapping from SSP (The Speech Sound Pics Approach) as the children understand all of this without you ‘explaining’ it. You can just watch the videos on YouTube and the Code will make more sense to you too!:-)

  4. Martin -  September 10, 2016 - 1:48 am

    How did the ancient English people spell words with J when they didnt have that letter? like jousting, jungle, etc.

    • adam -  September 12, 2016 - 7:23 pm

      The letter “i” was used in words which we now spell with a “j.” And of course, the maiority of those “ancient English people” were illiterate anyway, so the problem was limited to the priestly class.

      • Dani -  November 29, 2016 - 9:43 am

        adam, i’m glad you shared that & i happened to come across it – very interesting & don’t know how i’ve made it this far along in life with NOT having ever heard this before!! i am not as well read as i thought ; )

      • Ed Eaglehouse -  December 2, 2016 - 8:12 am

        The letter “j” was originally a long “i”. Consider in German, the root of many English words, the names Ian and Jan are both pronounced “yon”. That’s a generalization, but the best I could think of at this moment.

    • Happy Littletree -  September 21, 2016 - 6:49 pm

      Old English didn’t have those words. The J sound only came between vowels and was spelt ‘cg’. Words starting with J came later, borrowed from Latin.

      • Grania -  October 14, 2016 - 7:31 am

        Actually Happy Littletree, even Latin did not have those words (or even the “/j/” sound) until the church began using Ecclesiastical Latin after most of the rest of Latin had died away. You are correct that the Latin words were spelled with an “i,” but the “j” did not come about until much later. They were not pronounced with a “j” sound either. They were sounded out as “yi” most of the time.
        Take for example, the Latin word “iuvio.” Pronounced “yoo-wee-OH” using the original classical Latin. Later in the Catholic Church the priests altered the spelling to “juvio” and pronounced it “JOO-vee-oh” with the soft “/j/” sound. See what I mean?

  5. Thomas Dreiling -  August 20, 2016 - 6:15 pm

    Has anyone else ever noticed that the “th” can also be silent, as in asthma.

    • George -  September 18, 2016 - 10:23 am

      It’s actually not supposed to be silenced, it’s just that modern pronunciation PERMITS it not to be (when I was a kid I was made to pronounce it VERY CAREFULLY using the th sound rather than the more common z sound now used (azzma). It actually does require some lingual acrobatics to pronounce it “correctly” now.

      • Reece Druiven -  October 10, 2016 - 11:28 pm

        This is incorrect. ‘Th’ is pronounced simply as ‘t’ in Greek derived terms/words in English (as ‘th’/Θ was in Ancient Greek) – an ‘aspirated’ T. That’s why anaesthetic, prosthetic, etc are pronounced as they are. So the “correct” pronunciation of asthma would be ast-ma.

        • Daniel Murphy -  October 12, 2016 - 7:24 pm

          You are mispronouncing anaesthetic and prosthetic if you pronounce “th” as “t”. Check the OED, the only pronunciation given is an-es-THet-ik.

    • Tunes -  October 17, 2016 - 9:22 pm

      And if you’re from certain parts of England, it’s pronounced as an “F” … “I (f)ink I’m gonna call me mum on (f)ursday.”

      • Dena Charvat -  November 12, 2016 - 2:11 am

        Only if you’re a clod.

        • A Sussex -  November 28, 2016 - 12:36 pm

          Which part of England? My family history says the British part of the family was from Devonshire. I used to say “th” as “f,” since that was what my dad sort of said.

          • DeeDee Wilson -  December 7, 2016 - 8:26 am

            Today, in the cities of Britain, football hooligans are often to as ‘rowdy yoofs’.

  6. Phyllis -  August 18, 2016 - 10:57 am

    Lol The history is completely wrong in this article. The Christians did not spread the Latin language! That was the Romans! The Romans, who lived in Rome, spoke Latin, and created the first super empire–remember them? No? The Christians weren’t even around yet when the Latin language was being spread across Europe.

    • Logan -  August 25, 2016 - 4:24 pm

      First of all, Christians were around during the Roman empire, and by AD 391 all religions other than Christianity were made illegal in the empire. Also, the Christians did spread the Latin alphabet to Europe, considering the old Roman empire was practically nonexistent by then. Christian missionaries spread to Europe and to England around the Middle Ages,, where they converted many pagans such as the Picts to Christianity, and spread the Latin alphabet.

      • BAW -  September 1, 2016 - 5:41 am

        The Roman Empire occupied Britain before the Angles & Saxons had settled there. The inhabitants of southern Britain in the Roman period were Celts, related to the modern Cornish and Welsh. The Angles & Saxons pretty much obliterated the Roman influences, and Latin was only re-introduced by Christian missionaries such as St. Augustine. (Christianity had come to Britain before, with the Romans, but had been obliterated pretty much in the southeastern parts of the Island where the Angles & Saxons settled, surviving only in the west and the north; the Celtic Christians had developed some customs different from the continental Latin Christianity which St. Augustine brought, but that’s another story.)

    • Ian -  September 23, 2016 - 11:32 pm

      Actually Christianity was already gaining a foot hold as early as the the 50s and 60s ce… hence Nero’s persecution of them. Also think about how the Roman Empire became the holy roman empire. In fact the only place Latin is still spoken commonly outside of academia is the Catholic clergy.

  7. Jay Reulet -  June 24, 2016 - 8:10 pm

    Do you know I love beating my head with hammer ? Because it feels so good when I stop.

    • C Wokies -  August 20, 2016 - 2:40 pm

      When Miley Cyrus is naked and licks a hammer it’s “art” and “music”… but when I do it, I’m “wasted” and “have to leave Home Depot.”

      • HAHA -  September 4, 2016 - 6:31 am

        You lick hammers? :P

        • Dan o Shanter -  September 6, 2016 - 6:57 pm

          WTF does this have to do with the post?

          • Warren Ward -  October 7, 2016 - 1:19 am

            It is vital to the post. Hammers and licking is what this discussion is all about. Get with it, Dan. Pay attention!

          • Mehr Bier -  October 12, 2016 - 11:20 am

            WTF??? No, no. It’s quod irrumabo!

          • Joseph -  December 7, 2016 - 6:33 am

            This has nothing to do with anything!

      • BLACKKIZUNA7 -  October 13, 2016 - 5:58 am


  8. Viginia -  June 17, 2016 - 11:14 am

    Soooo…what did the two letters look like? I tried
    to read comments before asking, but got too dizzy. Ha.

    • JulianL -  August 29, 2016 - 6:34 pm

      Thorn looked somewhat like a “y”, including in upper-case, perhaps with the tail then flicking back to the right. The wikipedia article has examples from early Bibles, etc, and likewise for Wynn. Icelandic uses the thorn. Also spelt þorn (using the character itself), it looks like this: Þ þ
      The Rhunic Wynn looks like a little triangular flag on a pole ᚹ, and the latin like this a spinnaker sail on a mast: Ƿ ƿ. Using the letter to spell its name is: ƿynn, or ƿen.

    • George -  September 18, 2016 - 10:25 am

      I’d suggest looking for a phonetic translator for runic-english and using words that have those sounds (you’ll see them easily enough that way)

    • Dicks!!!!!! -  October 8, 2016 - 11:19 am

      Funny Viginia

      • BLACKKIZUNA7 -  October 13, 2016 - 5:56 am

        Are u a girl

  9. P Smith -  April 11, 2016 - 10:56 am

    English has the atrocious habit of using “th” for both two different sounds. We should re-adopt the thorn.

    Use “th” solely for the soft sound (e.g. three, math) and use “dh” for the hard sound (e.g. the, mother).

    It would not be hard for native speakers to change, and would be easier for those learning it as a second language.

    • Lqoau -  April 12, 2016 - 1:50 pm

      Looks like the thorn is the English equivalent of the Hebrew letter tav, which represents the soft “th” sound and also appears as the last letter of the alphabet. (There is also no “u” or “j” in Hebrew, which makes me think the older alphabet was closer to the Hebrew alphabet.)

      • Ricky S -  May 29, 2016 - 11:16 am

        The Hebrew “tav” is pronounced as a “T” in Sephardi and in Israeli Hebrew.

        • Dave -  June 3, 2016 - 9:41 am

          That’s true, but you have to remember that Israeli Hebrew is a revival (almost from scratch) of Classical Hebrew, which is almost wholly lost, and any ambiguity in reviving it was covered with modern Aramaic rules, norms, pronunciations, conjugations, etc. Also, ‘tav’ is a BeGaD KeFaT letter, so depending upon its relative position to other letters, it can take on plosive or fricative pronunciations, something (mostly) lost in modern Hebrew. There’s also the letter “tet” to deal with as well, so I would surmise that modern Hebrew has vetted out some of the confusion extant in the classical lettering by attempting to amalgamate all the “t” phonemes into one consonant. Just a theory.

          Lqoau is on the right track – most alphabetic languages have some lineage to share with original alphabetic scripts, and those regional dialects of northwest Syria-Palestine, like Hebrew, would naturally push remnants of their alphabetic order down the line as they were incorporated into other languages.

        • Danny A. -  June 5, 2016 - 10:30 pm

          Yes, but in its original pronunciation (as evidenced by the much-older Yemenite usage, also generally considered more authentic by most linguistic authorities) tav was indeed a “th” sound. To this day Yemenites pronounce it “th” irrespective of the general usage as spoken Hebrew in Israel and elsewhere.

        • jimmie c boswell -  August 22, 2016 - 7:47 pm

          tav is pronounced with the short truncated ah sound tah. tet is pronounced with the short truncated eh sound teh. and the third t sound tsadeek is represented with a short ah sound also. usually represented by either combination of tz or ts in english transliterations. though these consonants sounds are modified by the associated vowel points a, aa, e, ee, o, oo.

          the letters c, i, j, q, u, w, and x are not usable for eevreet to english transliterations. the purpose of any transliteration, is to speak in one language the precise as possible phonetic way in another language.

          also known as yeedeesh, when converting an eevreet word phoneticly to another language. converting an eevreet transliteration, from between other languages has resulted in many introduced errors.

          and just switching a german transliteration to english is disastrous. such as the german j, and w are not phonetically pronounced the same way as in english. where the german j, at the beginning of a word is pronounced like the english y. and the german w, is pronounced like an english v. and totally screwing up, the german jhvh, or yhwh insulting to YHVH in eevreet.

      • Jimson -  July 10, 2016 - 7:11 pm

        Of course English comes from Hebrew, are you kidding ? Why you think there’s such a thing as British Israelism ?

        On another note it looks just like “th” and “dh” might be used like the Greek letters theta and delta . With theta θ as in ‘thin’, ‘thaw’ and delta δ as in ‘then’, ‘those’ … imagine that.

      • Atemu -  August 21, 2016 - 2:22 pm

        …You are the first person on this thread that actually makes any sense. You not only did your homework, but you’ve just gave a glimpse of the reason for the “falsehood” being spewed by Phyllis and the Authors above.
        …What they failed to realize is that Angle-Saxxons were the descendants of Isaac and his sons’ son(Ephraim)
        …Look closely at the letters of the Jutes(jews?)and the SaccSons they pre-date latin,greek, egyptian and phoenicia.
        …People have been lied to for centuries “even now” and have NOT given Daniel R. Walsh(Lost Tribes Study Maps 1995) the credit he and countless others deserves.

        • jimmie c boswell -  August 22, 2016 - 7:55 pm

          i would say that all other languages, date back to the tower of babel. before that they all, spoke one in english language like Noach:)

        • adam -  September 12, 2016 - 7:30 pm

          Very astute, Atemu. Much has been concealed from modern humanity. Consider, for instance, the presence in ancient pictograms of clear representations of beings from the planet Z’darnax, whose hair was identical to that of Elvis The King.

          • Adam's Astute friend -  December 2, 2016 - 9:56 am

            Dear Adam, My teacher at school taught me that it was the planet Th’darnax. Hence the ‘th’ in Elvis Prethley.

    • Warren -  May 2, 2016 - 3:53 pm

      How is the th sound in three different to in mother? I say the two exactly the same.

      • Jack -  May 3, 2016 - 5:10 pm

        The “th” in mother is voiced. The “th” in three is unvoiced.

        Perhaps a better pair of words that demonstrate the difference are the words “bath” (unvoiced) and the word “bathe” (voiced).

        It’s a nearly identical distinction to the same unvoiced/voiced comparison heard in the word “brass” (unvoiced) and the word “braise” (voiced).

        • David Bourne -  June 25, 2016 - 11:50 pm

          Surely it’s the “a” of “bath” or “bathe” that changes, not the “th” sound.

          • Sid -  June 28, 2016 - 11:35 pm

            Try comparing “faith” (unvoiced) and “bathe” (voiced) then. Spelling aside, the vowels are pronounced exactly the same, at least in the dialects I’m aware of. Hopefully the distinction is clearer.

            The final consonants of “bath” and “bathe” have the same difference.
            A few more examples of voiced: the, they, them, though, then, than
            A few unvoiced: think, thing, thin, thought, through, thank

            Reading the entire first line you ought to hear your voice and feel your vocal chords engaged the whole time. The second line ought to have nearly no throat-action at all; if you were to whisper both lines, the second would come out a lot easier.

          • Dan -  July 25, 2016 - 11:29 am

            Not necessarily. The flat “a” in “bath” doesn’t force an unvoiced “th”. You can easily substitute an unvoiced “th” in “bath” without changing the “a” sound.

          • Xu -  August 4, 2016 - 7:20 am

            Both change quite clearly. The verb isn’t bayth rhyming with faith. It’s closer to bay-the. Just don’t sound the final e. Actually, some people do actually, sound the final e so it sounds almost like ‘bay the’.

          • G L -  August 27, 2016 - 1:25 pm

            By vocalized and voiced, Jack means using your vocal chords.

            Try saying bath and extending the closing “th” sound. All you’re doing is blowing air as you hold your tongue against your teeth, right?

            Now say bathe, and extend the sound. Your tongue is still touching your teeth in the same way, and you’re still blowing air, but the difference is that you’re allowing the blowing air to vibrate your vocal chords at the same time, which makes a humming noise.

          • Mehr Bier -  October 12, 2016 - 11:29 am

            Perhaps the best way to see the difference is between “this” and “thin.” I’m all for changing the English spellings. No need to add a letter or go back to thorn, just use dh for the hard th sound.

          • Jackie's sister. -  October 15, 2016 - 12:56 am

            David Bourne – 25 June, 2016

            “Surely it’s the “a” of “bath” or “bathe” that changes, not the “th” sound.”

            No, David; it’s both. ‘Bath’ becomes ‘bathe’ in the presence of the ‘magic E’, and the soft diphthong ‘th’, as in ‘both’, hardens when voiced, as in ‘the’.

        • Bob Hunt -  October 6, 2016 - 7:24 am

          A great example of the unvoiced and voiced “th” sound in English is in the two distincts pronunciations of thin and then. So easy for English native speakers but a real problem for Continental Speakers (Castilian speakers being the exception).

      • Danerjane -  May 3, 2016 - 9:32 pm

        Exactly what I was thinking.

      • Dan -  July 25, 2016 - 11:25 am

        The “th” in “thaw” forces the air past the tongue and teeth more than the “th” in “mother”. With the former, if you exaggerate the sound, you can hear the hissing of the air being expelled. With the latter, it’s more of a buzz than a hiss.

      • Xu -  August 4, 2016 - 7:13 am

        Are you a native speaker of English? Th has two distinct sounds, hard and soft. The hard sound is voiced and sort of buzzes like the example ‘bathe’ given before. The soft or unvoiced does not like in ‘bath.’

        If you said mother without the hard sound it would sound like ‘moth-er’ or a person that hunts moths.

        That’s another example. Singular, moth is soft or unvoiced but plural, it shifts to hard or voiced… It’s not moth-s.

      • Jo Shoes -  August 23, 2016 - 8:18 am

        Perhaps the word moth will work better for you then.
        Imagine a conversation between some moths going like…

        “I’m the moth-est!”
        “Nuh uh, I’m moth-er than you!”

        Moth-er wouldn’t sound the same as mother. Or at least it shouldn’t. If it does, talk to a doctor about your hearing, (seriously).

        • riff raff -  October 14, 2016 - 6:39 am

          More like moff and muvver round these parts

        • Ron -  October 15, 2016 - 9:28 pm

          “Nuh uh, I’m moth-er than you!”

          The attribute of being more like a moth would be “mothier”, not “moth-er”.

      • Gordon -  October 6, 2016 - 9:40 am

        Depends whether “mother” has a child or simply collects moths. Just saying.

    • BackFromThePast000 -  May 4, 2016 - 1:42 pm

      The Thorn is þ and the wynn is ƿ.

    • Lisa -  August 12, 2016 - 3:36 pm

      Can you give more examples? I can’t hear, or notice with my tongue placement, a difference in those th’s.

      • Mary -  August 17, 2016 - 5:36 pm

        It’s not tongue placement. It’s literally just weather or not your vocal chords are vibrating or not.
        Try saying bath as “batttttthhhhh”, holding the th sound for a long time. While you do, touch your throat. Nothing interesting going on there.
        Try saying bathe as “batttttthhhhheeee”, holding the th sound again.
        Now touch your throat again. You can feel it vibrating.

        In English we have loads of sounds that are like this, the only difference being that the two different th sounds only have one spelling.
        For example, have you ever thought of the difference between s and z? f and v? t and d? You create them exactly the same way in your mouth–The only difference is that the first one of the pair uses no voicing (vibrating vocal chords) and the second one does.

        • Ishkabibble -  September 18, 2016 - 3:26 pm

          Kindness and respect are not missing when I tell you that it’s vocal CORDS, not vocal CHORDS.

          • Ponsonby Britt -  November 10, 2016 - 11:36 am

            Actually, it’s vocal folds.

    • Ze Bard -  September 30, 2016 - 8:23 pm

      Old English, i.e. Anglo Saxon, had a second th letter. It looks like a d with the top bent over the bottom part and a cross mark on it. It was used for words like “with.” That is the soft th we use today and do not differentiate between the writing of the two sounds. There was also another Old English letter we no longer use that looks like an a and an e stuck together. Its sound somewhat like the a in our word “that.”

  10. Paul Roberts -  March 1, 2016 - 11:20 pm

    In a document I found what may one of the last uses of the thorn; Boston Massachusetts 1805.

  11. Ósk -  February 9, 2016 - 5:57 pm

    As an Icelander I can tell you we often scratch our head and ask ourselves;
    why did written English drop this perfect letter “Þ/þ” for two letters? We picked it up and we love it!
    We also have the letter “Ð/ð” which is a softer th sound.
    And also the singular “you” needs to come back. We cannot have this awesome language without singular “you”.
    You have a perfect word for it. Just saying

    • Hugh Harrison -  March 10, 2016 - 9:13 pm

      If we had a different symbol for every distinct sound in the English language, our alphabet could comprise between 44 and 48 letters and that’s not including regional, social or dialectical differences in pronunciation.

      Mind you, if you consider that our current orthographic system relies on more than 230 alternative ways to spell those four dozen or so distinct sounds, a larger alphabet that accurately accommodates all the phonemes in the language could actually prove to be an easier way for both native and non-native speaking people to learn how to read and write English.

      That being said, if written English was ever standardized to the extent that words were spelled exactly as they are pronounced, it would be a tremendous loss to lovers of linguistics, especially diachronic linguistics. For the entire history of English and, to a certain extent, of English civilization itself, unfolds before our eyes every time we gaze upon the wonderfully idiosyncratic orthography of this uniquely flexible and resilient language.

      With roots that predate written language, through waves of successive invasions, occupations and cultural dominance by Celts, Romans, Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Vikings from Denmark and Scandinavia, French from Normandy and later Anjou; Latin briefly overshadowed English as the church assumed new powers over the peasants, but crusaders caught up in the hysteria of the day introduced their fellow Englishmen to new ideas from faraway and new words to describe them. Soon the Reformation gave way to the Renaissance and a new age of enlightenment, an age of reason, of science, of philosophy, and to accommodate these new ideas, English merely expropriated a whole new scientific vocabulary from the very people who created the first building blocks of civilization, the ancient Greeks.

      As England turned its attention to expanding trade and gaining global power in the new era of exploration, so it continued to expand the lexicon of the English language by applying a strategy that has helped it to not only survive an onslaught of so many diverse historical forces. The English simply take whatever words they find useful and make those words, regardless of origin, their own. Words like glasnot and perestroika? English. Words like typhoon and tsunami? English. Words like jazz and jamboree? Why English of course. Like a giant alien Thing, the English language continues to thrive and grow by voraciously assuming any and all words from any and all languages it seems fit to use.

      And with all the new words from all the new and old languages, come the idiosyncratic forms of spelling the same sounds – like an eff sound spelt with one or two /f/s as in fan or cliff, or ph as in phone, or gh as in laugh, or lf as in calf, or ft as in often. Or how about the /z/ sound as found in zebra, buzz, has, scissors, xylophone, maze or cheese – one sound, seven ways to spell it.

      Isn’t English fun? Why would anybody want to try to purefy it or standardize it? And this is just the spelling I’m talking about. When you consider the flexibility where the same word can be a noun, verb, adjective, idiom, metaphor – you name it – with absolutely no change in form…it really makes English a uniquely flexible language which is both it’s reason for survival and growth over the past few thousand years and it’s unorthodox orthography which make it a challenge to learn to read and write correctly.

      All this I see every time I look at a page of English text and I wouldn’t change it for all the Tees in Tetrasubstitutedest.

      • Ed W -  March 11, 2016 - 7:37 pm

        Very informative, but … “It’s” is a contraction (it is = it’s), not a possessive pronoun. Just fyi.

        • Tim -  March 17, 2016 - 4:24 pm

          It’s a common mistake to add an apostrophe “s” to “it” in an attempt to make the noun it possessive but collides with it’s* use in a contraction. The only possessive noun treated this was. I make it often and, for a delightful change, spellcheck does seem to handle the rule well. *used correctly as an example of “it’s” and not as the contraction of it is or an attempt to make it possessive. Isn’t it wonderful?

          • Jeroen -  March 24, 2016 - 12:41 pm

            *You could have written “..collides with it’s’ use in a contraction.”. That would have made it possessive, no? :)

          • G.T.B. Tru -  May 20, 2016 - 2:15 pm

            Your note puzzles me. Is it a translation into English from some unidentifiable parent tongue? How is the sentence, <>, to be translated into English? Can you, as well, translate, <>? Is there a noun or noun group hiding in plain sight? A verb, to which either might connect? Your evident delight is admirable but difficult to share when the entrance to the maze from which it emerges cannot be located.

          • G.T.B. Tru -  May 20, 2016 - 2:32 pm

            Regrettably the quotes from your text in my May 20, 2016-2:15pm note disappeared in transit. I repost the text in its entirety: Your note puzzles me. Is it a translation into English from some unidentifiable parent tongue? How is the sentence, “THE ONLY POSSESSIVE NOUN TREATED THIS WAS”, to be translated into English? Can you, as well, translate, “*USED CORRECTLY AS AN EXAMPLE OF “IT’S” AND NOT AS THE CONTRACTION OF IT IS OR AN ATTEMPT TO MAKE IT POSSESSIVE.”? Is there a noun or noun group hiding in plain sight? A verb, to which either might connect? Your evident delight is admirable but difficult to share when the entrance to the maze from which it emerges cannot be located.

          • bernie -  June 18, 2016 - 11:02 am

            “Its/it’s” misuse is perhaps the single most common writing error, mainly for the above-detailed cause of the possessive intent. It is not completely unique- “her’s” is another misuse example. Don’t get me started on rampant use of apostrophe in pluralization. Schools are obviously falling down in communicating the basic of when NOT to apost- Pronouns His/Hers/Its, and all s-added pluralizations.

          • bernie -  June 18, 2016 - 11:10 am

            forgot ours/theirs ;)

          • stephen schroer -  June 30, 2016 - 7:55 pm

            also forgot about they’re/their/there ;) these are also commonly misused too.

        • jimmie c boswell -  August 22, 2016 - 8:13 pm

          i use its’ for the possessive form, to distinguish it from the contraction of it is.

          though the knights of knee, may not agree with it.

      • Mihály -  March 30, 2016 - 3:10 am

        The Hungarian alphabet comprises of 44 letters, one for each sound in our language.

        • Scott -  April 1, 2016 - 4:24 pm

          That’s awesome.. but where did that fall in with ‘it’s’ haha

          • Scott -  April 1, 2016 - 4:27 pm

            Forgive me Mihaly, I thought your reply was to the reply above. But upon further investigation of the structure of this page, I was wrong haha

        • calhoun jacoby -  April 14, 2016 - 8:52 am

          Actually it comprises 44 letters, not comprises of 44 letters.

          • Mitch -  April 28, 2016 - 8:17 am

            re comprises: the whole consists of the parts, the parts comprise the whole.
            Thus “the Hungarian language consists of 44 letters” and “44 letters comprise the Hungarian language”. There is however a more recent shift in the meaning of these two related constructs in which “comprise” while retaining its (possessive = no apostrophe) earlier meaning is more frequently also being used to replace “consist” – what results is a lazy use of the language that reduces clarity of meaning to a “what the?” moment.

          • Simon -  April 28, 2016 - 3:20 pm

            And you never make mistakes when you write in Hungarian?…

          • ClubOfRome -  May 6, 2016 - 11:54 am

            To square the circle, the Hungarian alphabet is composed of the 44 letters which comprise the Hungarian alphabet.
            And it’s amazing how long this very interesting article has been getting comments!

        • Ron -  October 15, 2016 - 9:31 pm

          I’m sure that makes typing a lot slower, or typewriters/keyboards that are a lot bigger.

      • Andrew Tracey -  April 29, 2016 - 4:56 am

        For an English language enthusiast I am shocked that you cannot distinguish between its (genitive) and it’s (it is).

      • atanliar -  May 10, 2016 - 12:06 am

        Well done for a chopsuey language that evolved into its present popularity !

        • Rifter -  May 10, 2016 - 12:20 pm

          how many times do people get lazy and use your when they mean you’re?

          • stef bevilaqua -  May 12, 2016 - 5:50 pm

            so, how many times do people get lazy and use your WHAT (when they mean you’re)? lissen up: your reading of to many posits pasted on two many web posts simply shoze too daze’ amnipotent ilitRucy fever swiping our un-saved screenz. just sayn.

      • Salina -  October 11, 2016 - 4:22 pm

        You can turn that into an article. Ask a publication company.

      • Salina -  October 11, 2016 - 4:24 pm

        How long did it take you to type that??

    • Bill -  May 19, 2016 - 1:22 pm

      That’s a good question, Ósk. The reason thorn was dropped is because it wasn’t present in the first printing presses to reach Britain, which mostly came from France. And so Y was used as a substitute, which is what is alluded to here:

      “In the Latin alphabet, the “y” was the symbol that most closely resembled the character that represented thorn. So, thorn was dropped and “y” took its place.”

    • SouthernExposure -  May 30, 2016 - 10:00 am

      In the American South, we have singular you: “You”. The proper plural is “Y’all”.

      • LordofGoats -  May 31, 2016 - 1:10 pm

        A relatively modern invention, one of many regional varieties that have sprouted since English lost the distinction between singular and plural second person.

        Thou(subject)/thee(object) was singular and ye(subject)/you(object) was plural. As in French, the plural became used as a more formal mode of address, while the singular was used only for more intimate acquaintances. Eventually the singular fell out of use entirely and we were left with a glaring need for a plural you. And thus y’all was born!

        • BAW -  September 1, 2016 - 5:43 am

          In PA, the plural of You is Yins.

      • NorthernLight -  June 11, 2016 - 12:26 pm

        Oh no, we’re not going down that road! Many southerners use y’all as a singular form. Their de facto plural is the nonsensical “All of y’all”.

        • DaveM -  September 14, 2016 - 8:32 am

          I disagree. I grew up here in NC and never heard a local down heah use y’all as a singular form of address. Plenty of transplants do, however. When I was in the military, I met a bud in the hall, who was from Ohio. He said, “Hi Dave, how are y’all?” I looked behind me, saw no one, and answered, “We’re fine, I guess.” He never did get it.

          • cube -  November 10, 2016 - 12:25 pm

            Oh my goodness, that’s great. Thank y’all for making me laugh.

  12. Wm Borsson -  December 10, 2015 - 5:53 am

    “Here’s an example: In Old English, a letter called “thorn” represented the “th” sound (as in “that”) in Modern English.”

    Not true. Thorn (Þ/þ) represented the VOICELESS version of phoneme now denoted by “th” – known as the voiceless dental fricative in IPA terms – as in “maTH”, “THink”, “myTH”, etc. The sound of the ‘th’ in words such as “THat”, “wiTHer”, “sooTHe”, etc. is a VOICED consonant, and was represented by a different letter known as eth (pronounced as a near-rhyme to ‘edge’, though obviously with the voiced dental fricative sound replacing the -dge sound) written Ð/ð.

    Eventually, people began using the two interchangeably (using thorn for the voiced dental fricative, eth for the voiceless dental fricative, and vice versa), before eth fell out of use altogether. At that point, thorn took over for both phonemes, before also eventually being discarded. But originally, and correctly, eth was voiced and thorn was voiceless. This use and distinction is preserved in modern-day Icelandic, which has changed very little in the past 800-900 years, and is EXTREMELY similar to Old Norse, a language which, itself, was quite similar to Old English.

    • Jeff -  December 25, 2015 - 10:54 am

      You went all IPA on their ass! Good work. Dictionary aficionadi should be versed enough to know the difference between th sounds. I didn’t notice it myself, but I knew what you were saying once I read your post and I even learned a bit!

      • Nigel -  March 18, 2016 - 10:32 pm

        Normally “aficionados” (like “avocados”).

        • Huygir -  May 5, 2016 - 12:56 pm

          wait… not “avocadi” ?!? ;-)

    • Eve Quave -  December 26, 2015 - 5:26 pm

      Well, thank you. That was very interesting.

    • oiBOY333 -  January 8, 2016 - 5:55 pm

      You know way too much about the English language. But this is coming from someone that didn’t like learning about the English language until years after I left high school. I really doubt I’ll ever need to know this unless I’m ever on a game show and a question on this subject pops up. But still I found it interesting enough to type out this whole comment out using the on screen keyboard since the batteries are dead in my wireless keyboard… I know, I have too much time on my hands. (5 minutes of my life well spent/wasted?)

      • Marcus A C. -  February 20, 2016 - 10:43 pm

        Well, what results are you expecting. Einstien described “Instanity” as doing the same thing over and over, while expecting different results to occur.
        So are you getting the results you expect/desire/intend?

        It seemed to me that you commented perhaps out of Envy in a way? You said so you self you are interested in words and language (english) at least after highschool.. I know I personally wasted a lot of my highschool with the total disregard of an immature self-proclaimed genius rebel nerd outcast, that many of my friends and others have been as well..
        A student is only as good as her student is as good as she is.
        Aint that just a dandy. No-ones fault..
        So what I’m getting to is that you perhaps feel, ‘you wish you knew that much’- so to speak, about the English language. ;) Know way too much? What interests you in it now all of a sudden? Knowledge is the most powerful thing of value I personally am aware of.. Love perhaps as well- in a more.. unknowable way XD

        • Mark -  February 22, 2016 - 2:42 pm

          Re-reading your comments prior to pressing “enter” would have found you changing this to read:
          Insanity….not Instanity…

          Now if you want to know what insanity really means…read my comments; it’s insanity to take the time to correct another person for a misspelled word…no? :)

          • Pips -  March 3, 2016 - 12:31 am

            THANK YOU, MARK!

            If you didn’t do that, I would have!

            Envy? Ha! … A thief always thinks he’s being robbed!

          • Denny -  March 13, 2016 - 10:13 am

            I too picked up on the extra “t” erroneously placed in the word Insanity, and wasn’t going to say anything either, until I read Pips comment on it and said to myself “what the hell”…..
            Anyway, it took my attention away from the “if it’s Sunday, it’s Meet the Press” program wailing over the Trump shenanigans of the past week! A much needed break ….. Thanks

          • Nigel -  March 18, 2016 - 10:48 pm

            Insane? “Einstein”, not “Einstien” (the pronunciation of the German vowels “ei” and “ie” is according to the second vowel in each combination e.g. “Einstein” and “riesling”.

        • JOE -  March 20, 2016 - 9:19 am

          Einstein might also have described “doing the same thing over and over, while expecting different results to occur” as the Scientific Method. An example of which is the myriad experiments and observations to find(or not) a violation of the Principle of Relativity.

          • Bill -  May 20, 2016 - 2:34 pm

            Henceforth I will consider nagging my teenager over and over to do something as the Scientific Method.

      • Pauline -  February 21, 2016 - 8:54 am

        The British celebrity quiz show QI recently asked how Ye was pronounced in olden times!

        • Susan -  September 15, 2016 - 9:58 am

          In the mid 1800′s, the Mormons in Deseret (Utah Territory) invented a phonetic language for the purpose of introducing the English language to the sounds of English spoken by the colonists in US and their English converts. There were many Northern and Central Europeans who emigrated and traveled to that area. The language was called Deseret, after the name of the territory. In the Deseret, you get an inkling of the actual pronunciation of ‘th’ in certain words, as they tried to use the language symbols to capture the sounds they heard. a symbol somewhat resembling Greek capital Theta was the word/symbol they used for ‘the”. Ye Olde Bookstore (non existant place) was by Deseret language pronounced THE Old (without final e sound) etc..
          Now, my husband who studied linguistics often tells me my language usage is not precise enough, and that I must clarify myself or he would not understand me. In the same breath, he may say, “You know what I meant..” when he was unable to express himself clearly. Language has a way of mutating. So does the way we pronounce words. Even with the German Bible being written for the masses, back in Luther’s time, their language was changing very quickly. My opinion–change is good. It is the BORK of modern era. (yes, I brought Star Trek into this conversation!)

          • Shelly -  September 20, 2016 - 8:58 am

            I think you mean BORG. As in constantly assimilating new things and adapting quickly.

    • Marcus A C. -  February 20, 2016 - 10:32 pm

      Wm Borsson – That sounds incredibly fascinating, and thought provoking, sensical really.. When you see the plausible rationality of building an alphabet from the ground up, and having more characters for similar, though subtly obvious- to any small child, or Linguistics buff..
      Did you study? Are you a professor.. What I am really interested in knowing.. Is how you know what you’re saying?
      Credential Evidence in otherwords. Thusfar you seem very convincing, so I have no reason to doubt anecdotes of your sources, as.. Most things are going Open Source in the Human Condition(s). ;)

      • Marcus A C. -  February 20, 2016 - 10:36 pm

        Oops, correction- “any small child, or linguistics buff who has the wits and takes the time to actually notice the variables in performing/creating the sound… yes.


    • Shannon -  June 26, 2016 - 2:07 pm

      Good answer. Those two letters were omitted and perhaps replaced intentionally by roman letters. The pope’s plan to conquer Scandinavia, in Norway through Nicholas Breakespear,he was later rewarded with the title and position as Adrian IV, the conquerors write history, their version of it. From that version we have the cult or myth of Olav the so-called Holy, the either side of the story is the Icelandic version of Olav where he isn’t described as holy. The roman writers of this part history omitted these two letters and replaced them with the letters t and d, but yes they existed in old Norse and they still exist in the Icelandic language today with the correct symbols and sounds.

  13. Rosa -  November 2, 2015 - 6:35 pm

    I sometimes wonder if the nonsensical way English words seem to be spelled was some strange way of keeping outsiders from learning it. If American children didn’t have to waste so much time learning to spell, we may not be so far behind the world in Math and Science and other more important subjects.
    If English is ever reformed, I may even pray to Woden himself that we swich to a purely phonetical system of spelling.

    • Nadia E. -  November 5, 2015 - 5:18 am

      English, difficult?? English is an easy language that takes a short time to learn, and to learn correctly. Take French, for instance: You have l’imparfait de l’indicatif: J’avais, tu avais, il avait, nous avions, vous aviez, ils avaient = in English: HAD. Take Spanish: Yo tenía, tú tenías, él tenía, nosotros teníamos, vosotros teníais/ustedes tenían, ellos tenían = in English : HAD. Take italian: Io avevo, tu avevi, lui/lei/egli/esso aveva, noi avevamo, voi avevate, loro/essi avevano = in English : HAD. English difficult? pfff.
      English lacks difficulties other languages have. For instance, in Latin-derived languages, every object, creature or whatever has a gender, besides the obvious gender of animals or humans. For instance, the door is “la puerta” (fem.), but the harbour is “el puerto” (masc.). And Spanish speaking kids have to learn the gender of all the words in our known universe (and it takes them the same time to learn how to read and write as their English-speaking counterparts) A star is “una estrella” (fem.), but a planet is “un planeta” (masc.). Milk is leche, fem, but cheese is queso, masc. And so on. And of you venture into foreign languages, you will find that in French, milk is “le lait”, not fem. but a masc. word. Well, ultimately, studying and learning -and using- foreign languages gives us a different perspective of our own language, so we don’t think it is the most difficult.

      • Jose Monteiro -  November 11, 2015 - 2:08 pm

        Hi Nadia
        Congratulations !!! I just loved you comments. That is exactly what I’ve been trying to explain to my English speaking friends but unfortunately they are not able to understand. Most Americans are not .
        Thank you.

        • RRR -  November 20, 2015 - 12:54 pm

          to learn to speak, English is one of the easiest languages, BUT when it comes to writing and reading it, of the “Latin letters languages”, is one of the most difficult to master, as the sound easily changes depending on what letters surround it, and even when they written the same, could be pronounced differently (read can be same as red or same as rid, Live can be similar to Life or similar to Leave) and many different words can be pronounced the same(Knight and night; two, to and too; mail and male; plain and plane; genes and jeans; just to name a few)……………. when it comes to JUST READING IT(without even knowing the language), one of the easiest is Spanish

          • Laurent Écrivain -  February 3, 2016 - 11:29 pm

            To start with, English is Greek, Germanic and Latin based. It only seems easy to speak because English is a common second language in many countries, and often taught along with their native language. Spanish is considered easy, at least to speak, to many Americans because they often hear it around them and it’s a related language.

          • stephen schroer -  June 30, 2016 - 8:06 pm

            English grammar is purely german based. As for the greek, latin, french, japanese, and various other influences; those are purely vocabulary based and have little to no effect on the basic grammar whatsoever.

          • M_peau -  July 18, 2016 - 6:20 am

            I know this post/comment is older and my response may not be seen by those that originally commented. However, I shall nonetheless leave this reply for those yet to mine deep enough through this rich vein of comments.

            The grammar in Modern English is really not Germanic although a bulk of the common vocabulary is definitely rooted there, usually the origin of words native English-speakers take for granted though they lack a Hellenic or Romantic cognates for them (consider “twelve” or “build”). We thus retain a sizeable portion of the phonetics though, as previously mentioned, there are myriad dialectic and idiolectic variations of the general phonemes, like the dialectic replacement of the voiced interdental fricative [the "eth" type commonly referred to as the "hard th"] with a voiced, or even voiceless, dental or denti-alveolar fricative in parts of Ireland, Jamaica, United States, Britain, et c.

            The grammar in Late Middle and Early Modern English was a thorough implementation of Latinate grammatical construction sieved through the Norse-influenced Gallo-Romantic Old Norman spoken at the time in Northern France over a deeply Germanic Saxon tongue. This is one of the reasons that texts in Early Modern English are comprehensible even though English has shifted certain word orders. Those familiar with Modern French, which still maintains much of the same sentence structure, may have an easier time reading through Shakespeare’s dialogues.

            Question that I won’t ever get to answer: what will “Modern” English be called when it is obsolete?

      • Eric -  December 10, 2015 - 8:50 pm

        I agree that English is very easy to begin to learn, but it is extremely difficult to master. Every language has its challenges. The different verb forms are certainly far more numerous in Spanish, French and Italian, but there are more words to learn in English. English also has a far more complicated phonetic and spelling system. English has at least twice as many vowel sounds as Spanish does, and consider the spellings versus pronunciations of through, tough, thought, though. This is without even getting into phasal verbs. In English you get in a car but on a bus; you get onto a plane but into a boat. In Spanish, “subir” and “bajar”. This is just a tiny tip of the iceberg. Some phrasal verbs are separable and others aren’t. Word order is more flexible in Spanish. My knowledge of French grammar isn’t particuarly substantial. English is my native language, and I have taught it, and I think it’s a gross oversimplification to say that Spanish is simply harder than English.

      • Derinos -  December 11, 2015 - 8:19 am

        Stating that French is worse does not excuse English illogical orthography.
        “C”is notorious-can be sounded K or S.
        Vowel sounds are now entirely unpredictable, and depend on class, temporary fashion, or regional whims.
        The latest (1990 onwards) example is “o” being pronounced by the upper class as the name of the first letter- like “ey” . So “dome” is pronounced “dame”, and Mozart “mate-zart”. “roast” is pronounced “raced”. Quite inexplicable!

        • Harry Pinkerton -  December 19, 2015 - 5:00 am

          I read your contribution with some perplexity. Where on earth did you get such extreme and comic examples? They made little sense in the tone of authority that you adopted.

          • Mark -  January 7, 2016 - 7:38 am

            I’ve noticed such wild examples in cockney accents, either British or Australian. “I’m going home” sounds to my Canadian ear like “Ahm geowing hayome.” “Mayowt-zaht” etc…

        • Jim Roberts -  January 6, 2016 - 3:07 pm

          kauphy = coffee, no common letters

          • XXX -  January 17, 2016 - 5:42 am

            ghoti (is the same as) fish

          • Hish -  June 12, 2016 - 12:13 pm

            XXX, I disagree.
            As many have pointed out, the pronunciation of a letter is greatly affected by the letters surrounding it.
            In ghoti, the gh is supposed to be pronounced the same as in tough. In tough, the gh is preceeded by ou. Furthermore, there is no situation where a gh at the beginning of a word is pronounced as an f.
            Also, the ti is supposed to be pronounced like it is in nation. However, in nation is part of the suffix -tion. ti is never pronounced sh when it stands alone.

          • Mary -  August 17, 2016 - 5:42 pm

            Thank you, Hish! This is what I always try to explain. Ghoti could never be pronounced as fish because combination of letters could not make those sounds work in this environment.

        • H. Campbell -  February 19, 2016 - 10:29 pm

          Deniros and Mark – I venture that most languages have these unusual pronunciations of letters – using your example of the letter “c”. Deniros – just try Czech! I think I was told five quite separate noises – about two of which my ear could tell apart.

          The remainder of your and mark’s comment is dialect – this also applies in all languages with parts of almost every country having patois that are (French / German / English / Tagalog / etc …. or rather &c). Once in the northern dales of England a small village spoke two distinct dialects at opposite ends of a short main street! Both could understand the other and standard English – which both had to use for me.

          In the US there are clear dialectical changes – so too in Canada, east to west (try Newfie). In Australia, South Australians are significantly different in pronunciation to NSW or Victoria – which also differ. In NZ there is a distinct dialect for the Auckland region compared to the southernmost province. It is the joy of language.

          • J Gaspard -  April 4, 2016 - 10:29 am

            I grew up in south Louisiana. There are several regional dialects of French still in use here. If you grew up in one area, you could get laughed at by using a word or a phrase 50 miles away. It’s a bit strange, though, as english words are used for anything that wasn’t around pre-1850 (roughly). My grandfather would be speaking to a friend entirely in Cajun French, then the word “truck” would pop up.

            Myself, I only learned the curse words, as the adults would switch to French when they wanted to discuss something privately (or more likely, gossip about someone) while the kids were in the room.

            In the mid 1950′s, a local Cajun priest noticed the decline of the language, and wrote a dictionary, a conversational book, and recorded lessons for pronunciation and diction. I’ve been trying to get my hands on it for years now. I regret so much not learning it from my now deceased grandparents.

        • Andrew Tracey -  April 29, 2016 - 5:22 am

          If you observe a member of the uppermost class pronouncing this uniquely deviant English vowel O, I find it goes together with a mouth gesture that could be described as a ‘shrug’, where both ends of the mouth are dropped, and a ‘ Prince Charles frown’, centre of the eyebrows raised, eyelids part closed. Try it, and you can’t get the sound wrong. You’ll be welcomed in the poshest circles.

        • charles russell -  June 8, 2016 - 4:19 am

          I’ve noted at least 11 different sounds for the lone single “o” in English (I’m an American):
          one like won
          coyote like eye
          woman like book
          women like give
          move like moo
          cove like go
          love like rub
          colonel like girl
          hog like bawdy
          hot like father
          leopard (null)

      • Michaela R -  December 20, 2015 - 5:21 pm

        Exactly, Nadia!

      • TruthFighter -  January 8, 2016 - 9:33 am

        English is very difficult. It can be understood through tough thorough thought, though.

        Ever wonder why Pony and Bologna rhyme? me too…

        • Michael Blair -  January 28, 2016 - 4:29 am

          Baloney (bologna) is an English mispronunciation of the Italian, in which ng is pronounced as ny.

          • Bryan David -  March 1, 2016 - 9:46 am

            Baloney and bologna are distinct words. Baloney is equivalent to malarkey in meaning. Bologna is a corruption of Bolognese in both the word and the quality of the meat.

      • bob -  February 8, 2016 - 9:35 am


      • Jasen E -  February 9, 2016 - 5:42 pm

        Nice try with the cojugations of other languages. We conjugate in English, too. We simply do it by adding another word in front of the word in question. “I” had, “you” had, “we” had, “they” had. In those languages you mentioned, that different conjugation of the words you noted is basically our two words combined. Unlike English, all the Romantics follow a pattern. Once you learn that pattern, you can conjugate most verbs in the language. There is no pattern to anything comparable in English. Instead, one must learn a new rule for practically every situation. I can tell you as an ESL teacher, it was far easier for students in my school to learn Spanish, than it was for the Hispanic students to learn English even though they were submersed in an English culture while learning. That doesn’t even take into account spelling. Show me a pattern in a straight-across-the-board rule for spelling. Non existent. At least for Spanish, spelling is an absolute rule without exception. So is pronunciation. English is incredibly complex and students spend most of their adult lives learning its many and contradictory rules.

        • Bryan David -  March 1, 2016 - 9:50 am

          Without exception, huh? How about the pronunciation x? The rule there seems pretty situational.

      • Dave Taylor -  February 17, 2016 - 7:30 pm

        Good grief Nadia, I thought Japanese was complicated! I learned recently about the practice of teaching in Canada where one or two subjects are taught in French rather than French being taught. We should all do this. My little one is learning Mandarin. The parents are picking up a few words themselves!

        Thanks for the fascinating comments.

      • Marcus A C. -  February 20, 2016 - 10:59 pm

        Forget we not- the depth and applicability with Math as a language.
        Seems pretty straightforward.. Linear.. till someone goes and say “there are as many even numbers as even and odd numbers put together”… of course, Infinity Sets makes a lot more sense, considering the nature of scales of measurement. Degrees, etc.

        What I want to know, is the simplicity of English more valuable to us, here and now, with the English speaking world, and otherwise- you said so yourself, the relative ease of it’s comprehension and articulation. Even accents seem to be conscious choice’s by most foreigners who later speak English with more accentually anyway- more depth of understanding what they are saying, and intending exactly what they have said. The meant every word. Decisively. XD
        I am excited to learn many languages throughout my life- really how could you come to understand one language without another to correspond alternatives. :D


    • Leedle Leedle Leedle Lee -  December 9, 2015 - 11:53 am


    • JohnR -  December 21, 2015 - 1:07 am

      I don’t see anything “nonsensical” about English spelling. It makes almost perfect sense since things are spelled as they were pronounced. All the letters in “laugh”, “knight”, and “thought” were pronounced in Chaucer’s time. Words from foreign languages are spelled sensibly if you learn some of that languge.

      Spelling cannot be taught in schools except to aid in special cases. At 20 words per week, it would take over 950 years to learn English words. We learn to spell by seeing the words written correctly in books and reading them over and over. Writing them helps to cement that memory.

      • juan -  January 27, 2016 - 7:26 pm

        We also need to remember that English is a mixture of at least five different languages, produced by the several invasions of Britain up to and including the Norman French invasion of 1066, each with its own orthography and pronunciation: Celtic, Latin, Anglo-Saxon, Danish, Norwegian, and Norman French.

      • Matt -  February 1, 2016 - 1:35 am

        I’ll have to disagree that English spelling makes almost perfect sense. The words certainly aren’t spelled like they are pronounced anymore. If you want a language where words are spelled and pronounced the same, look at a language like Finnish. There are very few and minor exceptions.

        • Jasen E -  February 9, 2016 - 5:46 pm

          Look at Spanish spellings–there are no exceptions that I can think of. Even pronunciation is a rule without exception.

        • Mary -  March 30, 2016 - 4:03 pm

          Matt, I already was planning on learning Finnish. Now I am thrilled to find out that it will not be as difficult as I imagined, and I may be able to speak a little by next year. I hope to visit Finland then. How to do I meet people who would be willing to practice with me on-line? I love all things Finnish, especially the baby boxes. It seems like a caring culture. I am American, and so do not have anyone here that I can practice with.

          • Mary -  March 30, 2016 - 4:05 pm

            I know you’re not Finnish, you just sound like someone who would know these things.

        • somegal -  March 30, 2016 - 11:19 pm

          haha. English spelling makes almost perfect sense? you mean how ghoti = fish? or how “go” and “so” rhyme with “to”? how “what” and “that” rhyme? how “kaughy” = “coffee”?

          you need to learn a second language.

      • Joyce LeBlanc -  April 1, 2016 - 10:30 am

        John R., I totally agree with your statement about learning by reading or seeing correctly written words in books. It is unfortunate that the current generation’s spelling is being ruined by excessive texting and tweeting with no concern for correct spelling to the extent they don’t bother to learn correct spelling and punctuation for those occasions where they need it. Blog writers abound who don’t spell or punctuate accurately because they never learned. New authors self-publish books for Kindle, apparently skipping the editing process. They lose credibility for what might have been good work. Sadly, I don’t see this getting better.

    • J G Schubert -  December 23, 2015 - 6:42 am

      Reform English? Nah, best leave it (and other languages alone)! All those idiosyncrasies and spellings that are not phonetic, etc. represent history and cultural evolution. Good discussion here though on what people think makes particular languages difficult or not.

      Want a language to learn that can be universal as a second language (great for travel in other countries!), try Esperanto – it was invented specifically to be easy to learn, has few grammar rules and never breaks them!

      Dewa mata (Romanized Japanese for ‘until next time’ – usually spoken between friends and relatives only)

      • DAVID MCMILLEN -  February 6, 2016 - 8:14 pm

        Schubert – I agree. Leave it alone. It was explained to at age 50 when I complained about the spellings and rules, that it is a LIVING language, supple, adaptable and evolving. Unlike German which is rigid and precise. A funny joke in English often can not be told in German. No multiple meanings. So let it live.

    • pascal -  December 24, 2015 - 7:52 am

      English difficult to learn?
      Try German or Dutch. Both countries are far ahead in educating their citizens. So perhaps the USA being behind has to do with it’s seemingly acceptable culture of disregarding science. (intelligent design, smoking is not harmful and global warming is not real are a few examples)
      Whatever it is, I’m pretty sure that the english language has nothing to do with this.

      • Phil -  January 29, 2016 - 10:26 am

        Acceptable culture of “disregarding” science? In my view, it is the American penchant for questioning those who think they really know better, but often don’t. It goes back to a general rejection of the feudal system.

        • somegal -  March 30, 2016 - 11:13 pm

          Uh you mean the American penchant for claiming to know and then questioning those who do by throwing tantrums. It goes back to a general confusion that self-righteousness equals knowledge.

      • Mary -  August 17, 2016 - 5:46 pm

        As an American, I take offense with your fallacy. No Americans believe smoking to not be harmful.

    • Michael Blair -  January 28, 2016 - 4:44 am

      You can blame the Normans for the anomalies in English orthography. Old English (and much of Middle English) is pronounced exactly as it is spelled. The -gh in Old English is a sound not used in Modern English. The anomalies come from the interaction of Old English and Norman French. Thus, yu becomes you. Mus became mouse, originally pronounced the same, but reading interference altered the word’s pronunciation eventually. As for reforming English spelling, it’s a lost cause. Regional pronunciation differences make it impossible. For some regions, Mary, marry, and merry are pronounced identically; for some other regions the three are clearly distinct. And what to do with pause and paws? While we are blaming the Normans, we might as well blame them for “irregular verbs.” Old English has four “anomalous” verbs, but the rest of Modern English “irregular verbs” are, in Old English, entirely predictable, belonging to one or another of seven classes of “strong masculine verbs.” Our current “regular verbs” are the Old English “weak feminine verbs” (forming the past tense with the -ed suffix) because that was the only way to add Norman French verbs to English.

    • david -  January 30, 2016 - 9:55 pm

      whose dialect? The present spelling works well for every ‘version’ of English. Very few words could be re-spelt to suit every dialect or regional variety.

      • JOE -  March 20, 2016 - 9:33 am

        To pick a very small nit: color vs colour.

    • Jo W. -  April 6, 2016 - 9:56 pm

      You cannot blame to shortcomings of the American educational system on the fact that American kids have to learn to spell English. Now that’s really NOT the underlying reason for being “so far behind the world in Math ans Science and other important subjects.”
      In many countries, kids will learn several languages while in school. Take Switzerland, for example (I grew up there so I know the education system pretty well). It has four official, national languages. If you live in the French part, school is obviously in French. Starting in grade 3, you get slowly accustomed to learning German, which then becomes a subject in its entirety in grade 5. In grade 7, you start learning English – while also having the opportunity to start Italian or even Latin at the same time. In grade 9, you could take Spanish if you wanted to (or Greek).
      So, as you can see, there are a lot of languages, however I don’t see Swiss kids lagging behind all that much in other subjects because they “have to” spend too much time learning languages in school.
      Granted, English is a language with “few rules and a lot of exceptions” but really, it’s not that hard. And it should definitely not be blamed on the shortcomings of American kids relative to kids in other countries. That’s the fault of the American educational system, not the language.

  14. Nicholas R COLE -  June 9, 2015 - 1:59 pm

    Today’s English Alphabet has 26 Letters, but I reckon it should have 33. Restore ae(ash), thorn, eth, wynn and the long S which in British Copperplate handwriting is like the looped f but lacks the little tie in the middle . I woot not how to write it here, I cannot even print the long ‘s’ or the eth or thorn. I have investigated Spelling Reform and decided I prefer the standard King;s English. nb Not “Queen’s” – : It refers not to the person the our Throne, it refers to King’s College Cambridge in the 19th & 20th centuries . One could with 33 Letters have one symbol [Grapheme] for one sound[Phoneme] but two for all the vowls with a bar over one for teaching. Or one could go to the English Spelling Society and look at Dr Roy W Blain’s Saaspell System using the existing 26 Letters. Nick

    • MrMonster -  June 10, 2015 - 10:41 am

      I like the Yogh (ȝ).

      In Scotland, you get the name Menzies, which is pronounced “Menges” because the original word is Menȝies, but the letter ȝ is now written as a z.

      • Bill Costley -  October 20, 2015 - 1:39 pm

        Menzies is actually pronounced ‘Minnis’ in Scotland.

        • Peter Ireland -  November 4, 2015 - 3:00 am

          Actually it is pronounced “Mingis”

          • gerard.c -  November 8, 2015 - 9:02 pm

            All three of you are correct depending on where you are standing at a given time and which dialect you are listening to.

    • Alex -  June 23, 2015 - 2:36 pm

      Switch your keyboard to Icelandic, they still use “þ” and “ð”.

    • Derek Northcutt -  July 29, 2015 - 4:38 pm

      The edth looks like an “f” without the cross and the bottom extending below the line, and the thorn is sort of a number “6″ tilted a bit to the right with a cross above the loop. The ash is ae with those two letters joined together as in haemorrhage, but there is also an oe joined together as in foetus, but I do not know its name (it appears in French in coeur or moeurs as well), but you have to be a printer’s devil to have the character in hand. They don’t even appear in the computer’s character map, yet I have seen them printed in an introduction to English in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, so perhaps the letters were customised for that book.

      • Jaxer Ionbooster -  September 29, 2015 - 6:39 pm

        ash is also used in dæmons

      • Andrew R -  October 14, 2015 - 1:00 pm

        Don’t even get me started on the oe in fetus that you British people are so fond of. I’ve done my research. The o is an error in transcription. The Latin words it is based on do not contain an o.

        • PluKYgo -  January 4, 2016 - 8:00 am

          Coupons Fo Free can get You Frees’ frys if ya’ll ask.
          Invertly COhearseEDLY conVERTed ZIDworded worldy skin shirt fo FREE ImmearseBLY the SUNKin ships cAN fill a bee. HAHAHA. SeesiCcee.HA. HA!

      • Michael Blair -  January 28, 2016 - 4:53 am

        You’ve got thorn confused with eth. Eth is a d with a bar through the tail. Still used in Viet-Namese, where it is pronounced as d. Their simple d is pronounced as either z or y depending on dialect. An “f” without the cross and the bottom extending below the line” does not exist in insular minuscule, the common alphabet used in Old English.

    • Yoethe -  September 28, 2015 - 10:16 am

      Here’s a small exotic collection: Yogh: Ȝ ȝ; Wynn: Ƿ ƿ; Thorn: Þ þ; Eth: Ð ð; Esh: Ʃ ʃ; long S: ſ; ligatures: Æ æ Œ œ, and two strangers: Ghayn: Ғ ғ; Shay: Ϣ ϣ

      • Leedle Leedle Leedle Lee -  December 9, 2015 - 11:55 am

        That’s pretty cool man. I like you. I would like to do business with you. Thanks for your time!

    • Fred B -  November 6, 2015 - 6:38 am

      Æ used to be in the alphabet–what happened?

      • Eidom -  January 1, 2016 - 4:39 pm

        People stopped using it in writing, then dictionaries stopped including it in spelling lists.

    • Passa -  December 29, 2015 - 1:00 pm


  15. kit -  February 25, 2015 - 3:30 pm

    Does anyone else notice how in some very important older documents and such, the “s” looks like it is a “f” instead?

    • Peter Perrone -  April 2, 2015 - 1:10 pm

      If you look closely, the cross-bar that you see on an “f” crosses completely through the vertical line of the “f”. On the “s”, that cross-bar only is seen on the left side of the vertical. Since we’re not used to that configuration for the “s” nowadays, we tend easily to want to read that as an “f”.

    • Sharon O'Donnal -  April 5, 2015 - 1:39 pm

      Having done genealogical research using Old English, I studied a cheat sheet with major alphabetical lettering. A word that has a double letter like the word mission, looks like “fs” a “f” and “s”…is actually an “ss”. You might want to look up and copy the examples of various lettering. I’ve also noticed that the use of “y” and “I” were interchanged in a word.

      • Bill Kalenborn -  April 18, 2015 - 8:11 pm

        That first s in the pair is a long s, written in an Italic hand as an f without the crossbar. I could be wrong, but I think the short s was used mostly at the end of plurals.

        German still uses the sz letter, ß, for a double lower case s.

        • Jovet -  May 2, 2015 - 9:09 pm

          It’s my understanding the “long s” rules were really complicated, unstable, and often not followed correctly anyways. I am glad the letter was dropped. The difference between f and ſ is pretty dang subtle outside of context. English is confusing and complicated enough as it is. I can’t claim to know how well the modern Greeks handle their double sigma situation, though.

          Anyone who wants to see the archaic form of S ( ſ ) in action can read an original copy of the American Declaration of Independence.

          • Rika -  May 19, 2015 - 5:09 pm

            I learned a bit of Greek for a couple of years. I was not that good, but I think I understood the alphabet (hopefully). The s-shaped sigma is only used at the end of a word. The other, circular sigma is used everywhere else.

          • Patrick -  June 25, 2015 - 2:53 pm

            Yes, it looks like they’re talking about “life, liberty, and the purfuit of happinefs.”

          • Derek Northcutt -  July 29, 2015 - 4:46 pm

            Actually, the ss character you are referring to is analogous to the German es-tset (ß) and it is pronounced differently that just ss. The odd character has the prononunciation of both s’s with sort of a slight pause between the two s’s, while ss is just a longer pronouncement of the “s” sound as in the word “hiss.”

            Yes, I am a philologist, but not really expert in English — Sanskrit is my thing. Any questions on it, I am available.

          • jack sprat -  September 16, 2015 - 11:31 am

            Patrick: You rang a bell for me. Wm. F. Buckley affected such pronunciations, I believe I recall. The ‘s’ in “happinefs” is pronounced as a sibilant. That likely accounted for much of Buckley’s supposed reputation for ‘lisping’. He was actually playing with language, while refusing to brag on himself by explaining what it was that he was doing. No doubt he liked not only the sound pattern, but also the specialness of his esoteric knowledge. The man was amusing himself.

        • walter seiler -  May 17, 2015 - 2:14 am

          Well, actually the “sz”-letter (ß) and the “ss” are used very different in german.
          The “ss” for instance appears in “Wasser” – water, while the “ß” appears in “Maß” – measure, but once again “ss” in “messen” – which is the verb “to measure”.
          A rough rule of thumb is: short vowel is followed by “ss”, long vowel is followed by “ß”.

    • Missybob -  April 18, 2015 - 8:37 pm

      I just read through about 1/4th of the comments here… It is very interesting subject to me! The best book I’ve read on this subject is written by a lady, Gail Ripplinger titles In Awe of Thy Word. Thanks.

  16. Reane McGuinness -  December 6, 2014 - 7:21 pm

    There is actually 28 letters in the alphebet.

    • NMcLean -  January 7, 2015 - 3:14 pm

      There are is correct, not there is. :)

      • kendo -  April 14, 2015 - 3:42 am

        oh you PENDANT

        • Eric -  May 5, 2015 - 1:56 am

          “oh you PENDANT”

          Pendants should go and hang themselves.

          Pedants care whether something is write or wrong. Non-pedants are care-less.

          Most non-pedants care very much about getting the right change.

          • Abdul -  June 19, 2015 - 10:56 pm

            I suggest: “right or wrong” in stand of “write or wrong”.

            And, “Pendant”? You must have mistaken yourself for perfectionist.

            And to be exact, not all perfectionists are meticulous people because of the different severities of perfectionism.

          • Ozzman -  October 25, 2015 - 12:20 pm

            LOL … Nicely done

          • Ozzman -  October 25, 2015 - 12:22 pm

            I didn’t cee anything wrung with what kendo post it ;)

          • Duane -  November 23, 2015 - 2:03 am

            Trolling is a art.

        • C's in English -  July 12, 2015 - 8:34 am

          It should be: Oh! You pedant.”

          • Dory -  July 30, 2015 - 6:02 am

            Probably a spell check “fix”. Most irritating.

          • Jeff Dale -  August 23, 2015 - 7:55 am

            “Oh you pendant!” has been added to my arsenal. What a classic retort. I love it.

          • RJEB -  November 24, 2015 - 9:55 am

            “I’d rather be a pedant than a peasant.”

      • Catherine Biondi -  August 18, 2015 - 4:40 am

        So, being precise in language is pedantic, but precision in other pursuits is admirable, or even essential?

        Granted, grammatical errors may not have as great an impact as, say, errors in the engineering of a bridge, but ridiculing those of us who believe that subjects and verbs should agree seems petulant.

        It’s my opinion that people who don’t write or speak carefully enough probably don’t think carefully enough, either.

        • jack sprat -  September 16, 2015 - 11:44 pm

          Or, more gently, “A craftsman is only as good as his tools.”

        • Joe H. -  December 2, 2015 - 7:29 am

          I don’t quite agree with you Catherine. I am a software developer. I have worked with folks that were not very good at spelling, but they were masters at programming.

          Obviously programming requires careful thinking. Perhaps focusing on relatively insignificant things (like spelling) causes one not to “think” as well as they might have if they had focused on the problem at hand.

          • boldben -  January 2, 2016 - 12:36 am

            There are software people whose conventional spelling is poor, but no one can program (not programme) in text-based development environments without taking care over spelling. As you will know misspelling reserved words will give you syntax errors and misspelling declared variable names will give you logic errors. In many environments even case errors can involve hours of debugging time.

    • Michael -  January 23, 2015 - 10:23 am

      I am trying to find a written example of where i understand that in old english the second “s” in a double “s” was often written in a manner that resembled an “h”

      • Page -  March 6, 2015 - 4:40 pm

        Are you thinking of when a long s and a short s are used in the middle of a word with a double s? Such as “miſsion” instead of “miſſion” or the modern “mission”

      • STEPHEN -  March 12, 2015 - 4:38 am

        All the states in Germany used different Letters and a person Condensed the language so the ” Dem deutche folk” could learn at school and not pay somebody to do it for you…Hitler. The schaftless S and the ulaut survived. You see the long S as in strasser .

        • Eileen T. -  April 26, 2015 - 7:23 am

          Thank you, Steven. And the word is “umlaut”. I did take a few years of German language class grades 7-11. I enjoyed the comments here and upon reading the first few, immediately thought of the German “ss”, which I’ve always thought was very prettily written. Who says German isnt a beautiful language?

          • Eileen T. -  April 26, 2015 - 7:27 am

            I’m sorry for misspelling your name.

          • Eric -  May 5, 2015 - 1:59 am

            Has German spelling not been officially modified, to remove the umlaut and the double s symbol?

            For example, Koln (Cologne) with an umlaut over the o is now seen as Koeln.

          • Andy K. -  May 5, 2015 - 2:32 am

            I’ve read that the German double s (or ess-zett) will soon be consigned to the letter scrapheap to join the letters English lost years ago, including eth, yogh, thorn and wynn.

          • Monika -  May 11, 2015 - 10:02 am

            I do not think that German could drop its ‘Umlaut’. There would be too much confusion. How about ‘wählen’ and ‘Wahlen’? It’s bad enough that there are suggestions of dropping the capital letter for nouns. It’s like the English wanting to write everything phonetically. Then cycology would be the study of wheels.
            There is the option of writing letters that should have an ‘Umlaut’ as ‘ae’, ‘ue’ and ‘oe’. The ‘ae’ comes closest to the Old English ‘ae’ written as one letter and is pronounced in the same manner. ‘faethere’ was the Old English for ‘father’.
            As for the German ‘sz’: of course, one can use the ‘ss’, but the ‘ß’ has a beautiful shape (curvaceous) and is pleasant to write by hand, starting at the bottom of the long downward stroke.

          • Bernard -  June 5, 2015 - 3:46 pm

            Actually, Monika, cycology is still not phonetic as it does not make an obvious difference between the “s” sound of the first c, and the “c” sound of the second c in cycology. It would be more obvious in
            s(ai)(k or hard-c)(ah)(closing L)(oh or “uh-oo”)(gh or j)(ee), obviously with symbols representing such missing letter-sound pairs. By the way, I am one of those English speakers. I despise the phonetical inconsistency of English.

          • Javier Corona -  August 21, 2015 - 9:03 am

            German umlauts stand for the letter “e”. So, Koeln and Köln are two ways of writing the same thing. Some names, however, are never to be written with an umlaut. Goethe, for instance. It seems to be a question of style pertaining to family names.
            I think that any german would understand that “ueber” is “über” written on a keyboard without the umlaut symbol.
            That, by the way, is why a name like Häagen (think of ice cream) makes no sense. Haeagen?

          • Laurent Écrivain -  February 4, 2016 - 12:47 am

            “That, by the way, is why a name like Häagen (think of ice cream) makes no sense. Haeagen?”

            That would make sense, but Häagen is Danish and Norwegian.

    • Andrew -  September 10, 2015 - 11:01 am

      28? I count 8 letters in alphabet.

  17. Reane McGuinness -  December 6, 2014 - 7:19 pm

    There are actually 28 letters in the alphabet.

    • tonycaudil -  February 27, 2015 - 8:00 am

      Unless I have 6 fingers on each hand there ARE
      26 letters in the alphabet.

    • Luca -  April 23, 2015 - 10:17 am

      you can answer directly under your first comment if you want to…

    • Derek Northcutt -  July 29, 2015 - 4:50 pm

      But poor English-only users are always reading Königstraße and I guess they are assuming that the Germans have a “fancy” letter and write in our alphabet as Konigstrabe. I see that all the time on travel websites when you are looking for the address of a hotel in Germany or Austria.

  18. sample of order letter in philippines -  November 25, 2014 - 3:41 am

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  19. order letter with example -  November 14, 2014 - 5:17 am

    […] The alphabet used to have other letters — meet two The english alphabet, as you likely know, is made up of 26 letters. english was first written in the anglo-saxon . . . see more. […]

  20. Darwin -  September 12, 2014 - 9:35 pm

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  21. harley -  March 30, 2014 - 1:12 pm

    @jay kruse in it”s original pronounceing u would make the k hard then roll the r like in germanany or spainish if it”s easey the u would have the umlaut makeing it like oe/oo and the se as see and or ond in old English would have meant cross. my last name is supposed to have the umlaut over the o making it go:ff the double ff is like a single f n slightly like a v I hope I helped u

    • SONU NIGAM RAJPUR -  October 27, 2014 - 6:47 am

      I l u

    • chas -  December 27, 2014 - 8:38 am

      thanks, informative but would have been better if you could spell.

    • tonycaudil -  February 27, 2015 - 8:03 am

      Huh ? Did not follow that post.

      • Vic -  March 27, 2015 - 7:38 am

        ‘texting’ or ‘txtng’ seems to be destroying our ability to communicate clearly, as does that damnable ‘auto-correct.’
        I hope people know that auto-correct is an option they can turn off.

  22. harley -  March 30, 2014 - 12:25 pm

    @Glitchy the y with out a dot was pronounced like a u like ypsolon in old English or middle English u would have used thou for you in some places ther was a y with a dot above it was pronounced eye or ie another letter im teaching my daughter n her teachers whene she has teachers to teach lol

  23. harley -  March 30, 2014 - 12:04 pm

    @nick if u translate the end of your comment it would read that was good king it”s from Beowulf the o in god is supposed to have a dot over the o it was pronounced like oo im teaching the o with a dot to my baby as well as all her teachers whene she goes to school. the c was pronounced like the k

  24. harley -  March 30, 2014 - 11:47 am

    @odin”s-Boy the ruinc symbol of ingwaz or ng was a x with two diamonds set on top of each outher im nat sure why more people aren’t taught of these letters their part of English it would be easer in writing,im going to teach them to my one year ond daughter lol I accadentley said and before I wrought daughter ha ha her name ist aanaztarc.ia ist was used in middle English or is it aenglish :-)

    • tonycaudil -  February 27, 2015 - 8:08 am

      Harley……. YOU need to learn the English spelling, yourself, before teaching ANY child. Poor thing would be embarrassed in school, every day.

  25. harley -  March 30, 2014 - 11:14 am

    I have a one year daughter n I have included da ae ,oe ,thorn ,sh ,ng, and ,yoga in da alphabeta and will be giving a copy to all of her teachers whene she starts school oh n the umlaut like da doted letter c. or the y with a dot n her middle name has da thorn in it her middle name is lylythzee but u put da umlaut over da e e n a dot over the y n a thorn for the th it means sea of lillis

    • Vic -  March 27, 2015 - 7:42 am

      This just doesn’t work when you txt it, dude. You cannot be righteous and wrong all at the same time.

      • Jim k -  April 27, 2015 - 3:11 pm

        Doesn’t his comment prove that he can???

  26. Kate -  March 5, 2014 - 4:27 am

    Just wondering what the QWERTY keyboard would look like with these changes. All of us would have to go back to typing class.

  27. Ralph Morgan Lewis -  January 22, 2014 - 9:11 pm

    For Mr. Kruse: German pronunciation is kru-zuh with u like that in cool. Many families anglicized the pronunciation to sound less German, especially during WW 1 and WW 2.

    In many languages, the polite form for “you” was based on the 3rd person pronouns, as in the use of 3rd person when addressing royalty. 2nd person pronouns (German “du”, plural “ihr”) are used for family, close friends, or children. The polite form “Sie” uses 3d person plural verb forms when addressing one or several people. Other languages, likewise use a 3rd person form for polite (Spanish “Usted”, pl. “Ustedes”; French “vous” for both singular & plural; Italian “Lei”, pl. “Loro”)

  28. Ralph Morgan Lewis -  January 22, 2014 - 8:31 pm

    Your statement concerning Old English thorn [ ϸ ] is incorrect: it represented the voiceless th sound in think, thought, with. The voiced th sound of the, this, that, then was represented by edh [ ð ] the large form of which resembled a Y and thus led to confusion.

    • Willard -  January 16, 2015 - 9:45 pm

      The modern Icelandic alphabet includes thorn & edh.

  29. Ye Olde Fenwick & wolf tamer and tree puncher -  December 11, 2013 - 3:27 am

    I always thought “ye” was like “you.”
    Signed, Ye Olde Fenwick*

    *If you’ve read the 39 Clues, you should know who I am.

    I’m glad neither “w” nor “th” are in my name. (My real name, not my screen name.) Minecrafters forever!!
    -A wolf tamer and tree puncher

  30. Lawrence -  July 10, 2013 - 5:01 am

    What would happen if I spelled my name out and said double v instead of double u? Do you think they would get it?

  31. yayapapaya -  June 11, 2013 - 1:41 am

    wait. it’s 4.40 pm on my clock.

  32. yayapapaya -  June 11, 2013 - 1:39 am


  33. Hector -  January 5, 2013 - 3:34 pm

    Bless all you guys. Not because you’re so damn smart, but
    because you’re so damn curious about this kind of stuff. Long
    live the Geeks of the world.

    • Kat -  May 9, 2015 - 6:31 am

      Heck yeah! Geeks rule! And I personally think th should still be a letter- it’s a discrete sound, so combining t and h for it seems disrespectful. On another note, does anyone here know if there is a difference in sound between c and k? My husband and I were talking about that last night, and I have some hearing issues so I can’t tell for sure.

      • Bartholomew Humble -  August 29, 2015 - 9:27 am

        There are 3 strong vowels (a,o,u) and 2 weak vowels (i,e). The c and k sound identical when they precede a strong vowel (cart, kale), however, the c sounds like the letter s when it precedes a weak vowel ( cell, cent, city, civil), while the k continues to sound the same preceding all vowels (kite, kettle, kayak, kosher, kudo). The letter y is considered a weak vowel consequently the c sounds like an s when it precedes a y (cycle,cyst).

    • Yehoshua Friedman -  July 26, 2015 - 12:59 pm

      This is not just any old Geek. This is Ancient Geek!

  34. Diana -  September 26, 2012 - 4:45 pm

    **crazy, I just realized that’s how you pronounce ‘ear’. This is now embarrassing. And yet there is still a difference! But this is not article-relevant, so accept the nit-picking apology and ignore me.

  35. Diana -  September 26, 2012 - 4:42 pm

    To Everybody: Thanks for the healthy discussion, this adds so much more knowledge to what the article already has to offer. To Nate: I study German, and ‘ihr’ is not pronounced as ‘ear’; ‘ihr’ has a little more of an open-ended lilt to it where the r is concerned and is definitely more broken-up than smooth, kind of like pronouncing ‘e’ first and then ‘ar’. But these things are hard to explain in words, they must be heard. Sorry I’m so nit-picky, it’s a bit of a fix. :<

    • Eileen T. -  April 26, 2015 - 7:35 am
  36. Nathaniel -  September 18, 2012 - 10:44 am

    In Old English, it was known as “æsc”; this has become “ash” in Modern English.

    • Barfasmuel jaschqwiecz -  May 20, 2014 - 9:52 am

      No, I believe you are wrong.

      • Helgeva jaschqwiecz -  May 20, 2014 - 9:54 am

        No, he is right you idiot.

  37. Said -  September 16, 2012 - 7:03 pm

    What about the British ae symbol?

  38. Logan -  September 11, 2012 - 8:12 am

    To Dracodis: Thx 4 the info. im SO gonna tell my English teacher that!

  39. Olivia -  August 12, 2012 - 5:47 pm

    COOL! this article links to lots of other random ones but thats good and btw wynn is such a pretty word!! thorn woulda been soooooooooooo useful!!!! we need to add that back and also a letter for sh and ch. mayb ck too

    • Vic -  March 27, 2015 - 7:55 am

      I agree, except for the ck idea. ch is a sound created by the blend of the two letters.
      ck is just the k sound where the k is not influenced by the presence of the c, therefore, the c could be eliminated wherever it appears with the k.
      It would be nice to have a way to differentiate the soft c from the hard c so that correct pronunciation could be assured when reading aloud.
      Also, I just remembered: sometimes ch sounds like k and that often presents a confusion for the reader. I am told English is a difficult and hard to learn language. The more I follow this blog, the more I understand how confusing it could be to someone trying to learn it. Those of us blessed to be born into it have it easy.
      I’m having a real rough time with Spanish. To me it seems unnecessarily complicated and yet very limited in scope.

      • Vic -  March 27, 2015 - 7:59 am

        Same issue with soft g and hard g, as in gym versus goat.

      • Shant Harootunian -  May 2, 2015 - 1:41 pm

        Spanish would not give you a rough time if you would simply remember that the language and its grammatical rules are driven bythe original Castilian pronunciation. If youy pronounce the word properly, it will explain all of the orthographical rules, the placing of accent marks, “irregular” verbs, etc.

      • Sou Eu -  May 8, 2015 - 9:52 am

        “Ch” sounds like “k” when it comes from the Greek Chi (Χ). Chi looks like our “x” in English and is the first letter of Christ written in Greek (that’s why Christmas is sometimes abbreviated to X-mas).

        Since English is a conglomerate of many languages, you need to know the origins of a word to know its (probable) pronunciation and spelling.

      • walter seiler -  May 17, 2015 - 2:25 am

        Lol, Vic, did you create the guidelines for the german “Rechtschreibreform” of a few years past?
        There is a lot of difference between “fracking” and “fraking”, for instance.
        Just saying.

  40. Glendan -  July 24, 2012 - 2:44 pm

    Just because it’s bothering me.

    First, the article says that y replaces thorn, which is not true. The letter ‘y’ was imported with the Latin alphabet, and was used by the Anglo-Saxons to represent a high front rounded vowel, such as the “ue” in Modern German.

    Second, eth and thorn were used indiscriminately. There was no distinction making one for one kind of ‘th’ and the other for another ‘th’. They both represented either kind, and were used interchangeably. The only difference was that thorn derived from the Runic alphabet, and eth derived from the Roman.

    The 3-looking letter yogh represented ‘gh’, and is derived from the old (insular) form of the letter ‘g’, as someone pointed out earlier.

    • Fenevad -  May 21, 2015 - 10:51 am

      I think you misunderstood the point. It wasn’t that y systematically replaced þ, but rather that in the case of þe Later people mistook it for ye since in the script of the time the y curved almost to a close and was easily confused for þ. So people made the mistake in this one word. The author was not claiming that y is derived from þ since they were always separate letters.

  41. Nate -  July 19, 2012 - 8:19 am

    Actually, “Ye” was the second person plural pronoun which doesn’t exist as a single word in modern English and descends from the ancestor of High German’s “Ihr” (pronounced like “ear”). This was a pronoun rather than an article, also used as the possessive of the second-person plural pronoun.

    So “Ye Olde Book Shoppe” would mean “You all’s book store”, rather than simply “the bookstore.”

    I’d love you to show your research sources on this. Otherwise, excellent and informative article.

    • _______ -  January 26, 2015 - 8:18 pm

      I think it could mean either. If the ‘y’ is raised slightly over the other letters, it stands for the ‘th’, but if not, it means you. :) I’ve been studying old manuscripts, letters, and such for school… but just warning you, I’m no authority on the subject, that’s just my thought.

    • Luca -  March 27, 2015 - 12:10 pm

      No. People today pretending to sound archaic and saying “Ye olde” = “The old”: þ looks like y, apparently, so in the very early press when they couldn’t write þ they used y. And ofc þe is the. Ye as an actual word was the second person plural subjective pronoun. A very simple google search will tell you all, but let me help you: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/ye

      • Jovet -  May 2, 2015 - 9:12 pm

        That’s my understanding as well. “Ye” was never a proper word in any flavor of English, the Y was just used for convenience of the printer. Everyone “knew” what was meant.

  42. Me -  July 16, 2012 - 9:43 pm


  43. Paul -  July 14, 2012 - 10:57 am

    Written and spoken English kan be improved. A few suggestions:

    -abandon digrafs such as ‘th’ and ‘ph’ unless one means to pronounse þem as in Latin;
    -restore usage of ye as þe sekond person plural pronoun;
    -use distinkt endings for verbs and nouns according both to their kase (subjektive, objektive, etk.) and number; and
    -eliminate redundant konsonants exsept as needed for foreign words and frases not yet kommon in English. C and Q come to mind.

    Þe þird, restoring inflektions, would permit more flexible word order þat, in turn, would inkrease þe amount of meaning konveyable wiþ a given number of words. Using þorn would be a praktical way to improve one’s visual akuity, too.

    Difþongs, also, kould be changed or added. For example, Powl, instead of Paul, to indikate the pronunsiation used in klassikal Latin. In fakt, why not use π instead of p to sπell πronunsiation? Op peπlase r wiþ po in πponunsiation?

    Wpitten and sπoken English kan be imπpoved, and fop þose of us in Amepika þe imπrovements would have addishional utility: To seπapate oupselves fpom tpoublemakeps like Demokpats, Peπublikans, and the lawyeps of þe Fedepalist Sosiety.

    Now, wut about ‘ch’, ‘ng’, and ‘sh’?

    • Glenn -  April 5, 2015 - 5:04 pm

      Nicely done!

    • Eileen T. -  April 26, 2015 - 7:45 am

      Fabulous! I’d definitely accept this as our new written language. It would, undoubtedly, take some getting used to, but I think it’s a wonderful idea. It’s not unlike an idea of mine while I was in elementary school. Of course, the idea was laughed at by none other than my “teacher”. (And I use that word very loosely here)

    • letaprinta -  September 16, 2015 - 11:41 am

      Earlier, I left a message telling that Paul’s (Powl’s) suggested changes can be implemented by changing the US English keyboard. It has been removed probably because it had two URLs

      So, again, you can make a custom keyboard very easily. Search for “Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator” and find it at Microsoft’s web site. (Do not try downloading from other web sites). Install it and load the installed US English keyboard frm the list, give it a different name and add or replace letters in the layout diagram. It is easy and simple to do.

      For instance, if you want to add Thorn at Alt-T, double click the position of T in the layout and type þ in the box for that keystroke. þ, ð, and æ can be found in the texts of comments here. I made one for typing romanized Singhala. (It is ideal for OE as well)

      Once you have made the changes, test it and make the installation program. Now you can install the new keyboard in your computer. (Win XP, Vista, 8)

    • Tyler -  September 18, 2015 - 3:22 pm

      Or, we could all just … go back to German and forget this whole mess called modern English ever happened ;)

      Night night English, thanks for the confusing mess that you gave us humans. Don’t think of me as rude, but I’m breaking up with you to go back to German, my first and forever love.

    • Larry M. -  December 7, 2015 - 9:13 pm

      Ja, das ist richtig.

  44. David JM -  July 5, 2012 - 7:05 am

    A New Zealander comments that he hasn’t seen Q on a British numberplate. It does occur, but as other letters are used to denote the age of the vehicle, Q is reserved for those which have been so restored or modified that they cannot be dated. Ex-Army vehicles also have Qs because Army numberplates are distinct and cannot be used on civilian-owned vehicles.

  45. Mini Wembo -  June 27, 2012 - 11:19 am

    yis is so auusome!

  46. Raven -  June 26, 2012 - 10:53 pm

    Ƿᛝ ≠ ∞ ; Ƿᛝ = •

  47. Raven -  June 26, 2012 - 10:05 pm

    To clear up the “Y” in “ye” question: if you look closely at eth ( ð ), that little crossbar on the d-upstroke looks like a lowercase-y, and the rest of the letter below it looks like the loop on a script-y. So “ðe” looks like “ye” to someone unfamiliar with eth. And as eth is voiced-th, it is of course used to spell “the”.

  48. Raven -  June 26, 2012 - 9:57 pm

    Stewart7: Chesstnutss, my preciouss!

    “Too wise you are, too wise you be,
    I see you are too wise for me.”

  49. Stewart7 -  June 26, 2012 - 12:51 pm

    This is all fascinating, all I can say is:

    Who can translate the quickest?

  50. Peter_Mason -  June 15, 2012 - 3:36 pm

    I have never understood why there is no letter for th, one of most common sounds in the English language. I now learn that there was one and it was dropped. Why? Why? Let’s bring it back!

    • Jovet -  May 2, 2015 - 10:25 pm

      Icelandic still uses both thorn þ and eth ð. French (and a few other less common languages) still use ash ae and ethel œ. Wynn ƿ is the only former English language letter I’m aware of that isn’t in use at all anymore.

      I agree, it seems to me these letters had their place. I don’t miss the long s, but ðin makes more sense to me than “thin” and þe makes more sense than “the”.

      I made myself a runic/English type font which has all sorts of weird quirks you can use, and I was sure to include things like that.

      • Eidom -  January 1, 2016 - 4:35 pm

        I think you’ve mixed up your letters there: þ is the voiceless ‘th’ sound in ‘thin’ whereas ð is the voiced ‘th’ sound in ‘this’

  51. Jarel Zen -  May 4, 2012 - 4:26 pm

    …and You said backwards is We, LOL. Many “Con-sonants” are formed by “Vow-Els”. When you say the letter “Y” it sounds like uu-i and it naturally forms a “W” between the “uu” and “i”. For instance, many people believe the Tetragrammaton is YaHWeH but it is really all Vowels (Vow-El) in the original Proto-Sinaitic AlefBet and is pronounced I-A-O-A. I as in “This”, A as in “Father”, O as in “Food” and A as in “Day”. The Consonants Y, H, and W form naturally in between the Vowels. All languages came from one. Think about the Prefixes and Suffixes Con and Able. Con (Cain) is “Against” something and Able “For” something. The original language was all vowels, it is the most beautiful thing you will most likely never hear.
    PS The Tetragrammaton really is only Three Letters and “Wav” and the second “Hay” are not part of it, although a Vowel is formed if you pronounce It properly. Exodus 3.14 is where you will find the Infinite. It is strange that men would divide the Word that way. ;-) You may even find the Center of Everything there, it is a Rush, start in the middle and go both ways. I won’t get into what you can find between the Two Pillars at the entrance to the Holy of Holies. Yeah I know, I’m off topic. Sorry but it is all relevant.

  52. Grandfather Oak -  May 1, 2012 - 1:13 pm

    The story of death and rebirth are common place during this time of year. The tale of resurrection has been told by many different people all over the world… Attis, Mithras, Adonis, Tammuz, Orpheus. and Jesus. Their stories go hand in hand with one another – Jesus being the last…. so far. I wonder who, when, where and how this amazing story will re-tell itself in the future.

    I was once Christian and I have some wonderful friends which to this day are Christians but I wanted/needed something more so i return back to my roots. Today after holding the priesthood – I am Pagan/Wiccan.

    Every man, woman and child has a right to believe whatever, whomever they like and should not this be the way of it – to do so without the hate and ugly comments made by others because a person feels, looks and worships differently.

    To all that have dared to post – Have a wonderful and full-filling life.
    Blessed Be

  53. Sthembiso -  April 11, 2012 - 9:50 am


  54. Dayb -  April 11, 2012 - 4:36 am


    That word you mentioned, “geardagum”, looks and sounds suspiciously much like the Icelandic word “gærdagur” which (in modern Icelandic anyway) means “yesterday”.

  55. Socrates -  April 10, 2012 - 2:46 pm

    In the (9-10th century) Wessobrunn poem in old-highgerman, which describes God’s creation of the earth, it reads as follows:

    “Dat ero ni uuas noh ufhimil (That earth wasn’t nor heaven above)
    noh paum noh pereg ni uuas” (nor tree or mountai, there wasn’t)

    uuas was pronounced “waas”and noh as “noch”, as in ach.
    The “w” was actually a handwritten as uu, (fusing the 2 center upstrokes into one,) rather than the vv found in print.

  56. sherryyu -  April 9, 2012 - 9:25 am

    “Great info my lads of knowledge” god would say to u guys who posted a lot of info in one comment

  57. [...] of how the alphabet relates to early civilization here: The alphabet used to have other letters — meet two | The Hot Word | Hot & Trending Words D…. 40.791389 -77.858611 Share this: Pin ItEmailShare on TumblrMorePrintDiggLike this:LikeBe the [...]

  58. DBB -  February 16, 2012 - 9:36 pm


    Yes… well, for today’s English language you can blame Johnson, the Bible, and Shakespeare, respectively. For almost two centuries, (since Gutenberg, basically) what most literate people read was the bible. The second most popular thing to read and or watch was Shakespeare, and between the two they normalized the language in such a way it hasn’t really changed much since then. Samuel Johnson was the guy who wrote the first Dictionary. He normalized spelling conventions, which before then were pretty chaotic.

    Well, if my education can be believed, anyway. It’s a pretty big generalization, but approximately correct in broad strokes. ;)

  59. Monica -  February 12, 2012 - 1:42 pm

    That whole ‘thorn’ and ‘Ye Olde Bookshop’ thing sort of just blew my mind. :D
    I love dictionary.com.

  60. Ike Rose -  November 16, 2011 - 6:03 pm

    The Thorn is still used in phonetics, where it is written like a Y that crosses it’s tail, while the other “th” sound is represented by the Greek letter Theta. (A circle with a line through it)

    According to my Phonetics professor (back in the VERY old days of my undergraduate studies), the Thorn looked a lot like a Y to very early printers, who knew the original letter. Using a “Y” to replace “TH” when setting print by hand (a very labor intensive job) meant one less little metal letter to set, but the convention was to use the Y as a Thorn only as an initial sound, as in “Ye Olde”, to avoid confusion to a newly literate middle class.

  61. Joyce -  November 8, 2011 - 5:43 am

    @ vcm on February 3, 2011 at 6:07 am: Well said, bravo! To each, his own!

    Today’s English language has a vast, complex and often fascinating history indeed… for those of us who are interested!

  62. Elise E. -  October 22, 2011 - 3:42 am

    so, before, what letter represented the “y” sound?

  63. AnWulf -  October 4, 2011 - 7:44 pm

    …So it is improper (old) English to yell “I shall run ye through with my pike!” …

    Yes, it is bad English. I assume you really talking to one person so then it would be: I shall run thee (þee) thru (þru) with my pike.

    Ye was (and still is) the second person SUBJECTIVE plural. The objective plural was you. Further, the T-V distinction (using ye as a polite form) did not happen until after the Norman conquest in 1066 and it took a couple hundred years for it to kind of take hold. In Anglo-Saxon (Old English) there was no T-V distinction (tu-vos from Latin … which, ironically, originally also did not originally use vos as a polite form). Anglo-Saxon was truly the language of equals in this regard.

    “In Old English, thou was governed by a simple rule: thou addressed one person, and ye more than one. After the Norman Conquest, which marks the beginning of the French vocabulary influence that characterized the Middle English period, thou was gradually replaced by the plural ye as the form of address for a superior person and later for an equal. …

    The practice of matching singular and plural forms with informal and formal connotations is called the T-V distinction, and in English is largely due to the influence of French.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thou

    As for how to get the letter þ … on a mac, make sure that you have the extended keyboard selected in your setup, then it is opt + t, (ð = opt +d)

    For a PC, try using AltGr+t on a modern US-International keyboard.

    • _______ -  January 26, 2015 - 8:29 pm

      I read somewhere that you used to be the polite version, and thou & thee & ye were normal then somewhere along the line they switched…. :D

  64. njwarriorprincess -  October 3, 2011 - 3:08 am

    Mr. Raymond Kenneth Petry (12 Oct ’10): Your comments are very interesting, (& most creative regdg the etymology of Schnook, I laughed…our German-speaking friends wd be quite amused by that one*) but w/ regard to the use of YHWH and JHWH which resulted in the creation and use of the word Jehovah and later, Yahweh (they did not develop from the liquid YhWh but were directly, if very inaccurately, lifted from the Hebrew scriptures)), these two words are not only fabrications based on a centuries-old, major misinterpetation of the original texts which unfortunately continues to the present; they are considered blasphemous in the Jewish faith. Once I understood the underlying meaning and the sacredness of the original terminology I came to feel the same way…below is the explanation as best I can put it:

    *http://www.etymonline.com/ http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=shnook http://www.thefreedictionary.com/schnook

    In the Hebrew scriptures, every place where the above word we know as “G-d” appears, in the text (written R->L) you’ll see four Hebrew letters: Yodh, Het, Vav, Het. Their pronunciation on their own is basically “y-h-v-h”…but keep in mind they’re all consonants (the vowel sounds are provided by additional markings above & below the letters known as points), and that w/o knowing what the vowel sounds are, you won’t have any better idea how to pronounce the word than if I wrote “lft, lttr, pst”. I could be thinking of lift, letter, post; or left, latter and past. And just as the meaning changes drastically in English, so it does in Hebrew.

    This word for G-d was so holy it was never even to be spoken aloud…The word was so ancient I am not certain if the pronunciation was in fact remembered by the time of writing. But NOBODY ever did or would, in reciting, and later reading, Scripture, look at that most holy word and say “Yhvh” or anything close. The word that was always substituted, and is used to this day, is the word “Adonoi” (another meaning for “G-d”).

    But WAIT, THERE’S MORE! When these portions of Scripture were written down, the scribes wrote the consonants Yodh-Het-Vav-Het, but used the vowel signs for Adonoi. This word is abbreviated as Yodh-yodh, or Y-y and the vowel signs are “ah-oh-aw” (sound familiar?)…and here is how we got to the awful mix-up of that most-wretchedly misinterpreted word Yahweh: the writers of Scripture wrote the four YHVH consonants, then applied the vowel signs for the word Adonoi, so that the reader would know to say “Adonoi” when he/she got to that word; and there was never confusion on this point…that is, until the Europeans came along and decided to translate it on their own. Oy, such a mess they could have saved themselves! – if they had just – asked us for a little help.

    As you’ve likely figured out by now, the older use of J for modern-day Y-beginning words, and switching of W for V, just complicated the initial error, and led to creation of the term “Jehovah”. [anybody still awake?] OK, anybody who hasn’t yet fallen asleep is now an expert on the subject of this misbegotten word. So, as no one in my parish would ever think to say…Mazel tov!

    • OP -  February 3, 2016 - 1:05 pm

      Actually, you may find a lot more about this if you can suspend ‘belief’ briefly…writing was around 4,000+ yrs. prior to any ‘accepted’ belief in ‘God’- be aware that there is a lot more than meets the eye when it comes to ‘religion’ and ‘history’.

  65. njwarriorprincess -  October 3, 2011 - 1:35 am

    @ashis (21 Apr ’11): good question. The prefixes dys + dis have two totally meanings. Dys (which I believe originated from Greek) indicates a malfunction or abnormality of some sort, or impaired or difficult. Dyspepsia = indigestion. Dysfunctional = impaired or abnormal functioning; dyslexia I’m sure you recognise; and so on. Dis (from Latin) essentially = not or taking away from, or apart, away, utterly; or having some kind of negative or reversive impact. Disgust literally means take away the flavour or taste of something. Disconnect, disrobe, disappear…you get it now ;-)

    james (29 Sept ’11): I thought the same thing when I read these comments, though I’m not certain there is a relevancy/link. No doubt you’ve also encountered, in Farsi, the interesting correlation of the “pe” + “he” equalling something very near to “fe” as we in English combine p + h to obtain “f”. BTW getting a handle on Nasta’liq after a lifetime of writing in Nashq sure makes me crazy… ;-D

    crappydame (3 Sept ’11): Touché, madame!

    Sterling Grey (23 Mar ’11) & Glitchy: “I shall run ye through with my pike!” is, in fact, neither [questionable] Old English nor Pirate. It’s the standard Jersey Driverese exchange encountered on I-80 and 287 weekdays in heavy traffic.

  66. Leadmann12g -  October 2, 2011 - 11:51 am

    For: “pissed on October 12, 2010 at 4:15 am”.

    I understand that I’m a bit out of sync responding to this comment, but having learned and having used correctly the English language (and always acknowledging my errors when I make them) I’ve to comment on the above referenced post.

    If you have no interest in English grammar, spelling and etymology I can empathize, that they are very confusing and difficult to understand. However, if you plan to speak or write the English language (especially posting it on the Internet for the entire world to see) at least make sure to spell check and proof the document first (the posting referenced above a case in point).

    We in America don’t expect people to use the ‘Kings English’. However, it would be nice not to have to stop reading to make mental corrections to a document, to be clear that we understand what a person has written.

  67. Sandy -  October 1, 2011 - 5:26 am

    Interesting that the runes pictured on the left of the article are now used for divining. Perhaps there is a subtle energy or power to words and letters after all!

    • _______ -  January 26, 2015 - 8:35 pm

      they looked like the runes in the lord of the rings… I was confused for a minute… I feel stupid… Haha! :)

  68. Sarah Bohne -  September 30, 2011 - 11:18 am

    Fascinating! Glad to see i’m not the only one who could read about this all day!

  69. James -  September 29, 2011 - 2:40 pm

    About the “YOGH”, when it’s symbol is reversed, it looks like the Arabic letter (‘ayn)
    which depending upon how it’s used, may represent a glottal stop. More importantly, there is another letter, “ghain” غ
    which sound like gh. Because our alphabet is written backwards(semitic languages are written right to left), I propose the symbol was “flipped” when it came into usage as a “yogh”. In addition, the arabic-indic numeric system utilizes a similar looking numeral, ٤, to represent 4 (strange; it looks like a flipped 3, right?).

    I taught myself the Arabic alphabet and language, then transitioned to various dialects of Persian.

  70. Ian Colley -  September 22, 2011 - 6:51 am

    “put clothes on you & your families backs”

  71. Patrick Neylan -  September 9, 2011 - 10:46 am

    Thorn is still used by sign writers, especially on pub signs. People pronounce it as a ‘y’ (‘Ye Olde Pubbe’) but it’s a genuine thorn. It’s use in ordinary writing was last seen in the 17th Century.

    Most of these letters dropped out of use as printing was introduced around 1500, since the first printing presses were made on the continent and didn’t have eth, yoch or thorn.

    Yoch is still used as the lower case of z in some forms of handwriting, but in Scotland it’s often still treated as a yoch. The first name of the politician Menzies Campbell is pronounced ‘menghis’ and is abbreviated to ‘Ming’.

  72. graciel -  September 7, 2011 - 8:42 am

    oh really interesting!!!

  73. Pezski -  September 7, 2011 - 1:09 am

    @Nigel from New Zealand – Q on British car registrations is reserved for rebuilt vehicles (or kit cars, you see a few Super 7s with it), so is fairly rare.

    To the few people who asked if “ye” was never actually used for “you”, that adds another layer of confusion, as ye was (and sometimes still is) used in Scottish and English in some parts of Northern England, so you’d get a mix of “ye” and “thee”

  74. bianca -  September 6, 2011 - 8:37 pm

    omg, never knew that, like they say, u learn a new thing, EVERY DAY. haha, lol!! (;

  75. Grapefruit -  September 5, 2011 - 4:46 pm

    Interesting. I honestly don’t understand why they’ve been omitted. It would make much more sense. I also don’t feel we have a need for C (because any sound it makes could be made by K or S), unless it was changed so that it made only the “ch” (as in “chair”) sound. Q and X are rather pointless as well. I think we’d be better off if each letter only made one sound, and there was a letter for every sound. But something tells me we’re done messing with the alphabet. Too bad. :D Very interesting, thank you for sharing!

  76. Ed -  September 5, 2011 - 10:28 am

    To Sterling Grey: It surprised me to see your name (again). I used to have a close friend by that name. (He was a judge in Nashville, TN.) And, in case you wonder, I was never a hapless defendant appearing before him in his line-of-work. In fact, he played (tuba) in the same orchestra in which I played (‘cello). Sadly, he died (by his own hand) of a bullet-wound. Odd as it may seem, I also had another close friend who was a (probate) judge in Nashville, and he also died in very-much the same way. (He was a Viet Nam veteran, who suffered from either PTSD or culture-shock — we’re not quite sure which it was.)

    I enjoyed reading your erudite comments. I cannot tell where you are from, which I think would be interesting to know. You may contact me, if you wish, at echulse@yahoo.com

  77. Christopher Burd -  September 5, 2011 - 10:11 am

    In Icelandic, Þ makes the voiceless TH sound as in “thin”, and Ð makes its voiced counterpart, as in “then”.

    Weirdly, this wasn’t the case in Anglo-saxon, where the two letters were used more or less randomly. There are manuscripts that have “þæt” on one line and “ðæt” on the next. This didn’t cause any real problems in Anglo-saxon, ‘cos in fact the two sounds were just positional variants of the same phoneme (voiced between vowels, otherwise unvoiced).

    It’s not clear why they invented two letters to serve the same function. Possibly some (but not all) Christians were uncomfortable with “þ” because the association of the runic alphabet with paganism.

  78. LMFAO -  September 5, 2011 - 4:38 am

    this was quite interesting, but I think Neanderthals are what I personally could read up on all day. (I’m actually not joking, I find the idea of modern humans, homo sapiens and neanderthals really interesting. might become an archaeologist when i grow up!)

  79. Doug -  September 4, 2011 - 4:40 pm

    @Alorah – see the post of Rune (2 before yours). He’s right.

    @person – you’ve got it backwards:
    θ is unvoiced (thorn, bath, thigh),
    ð is voiced (there, tithe, bathe).

    Take a look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Phonetic_Alphabet
    where the unvoiced consonant of an unvoiced/voiced pair always comes first (pb, sz, …).

    @Pink – Earlier versions of English (including the modern English of Shakespeare’s era) had two words for the second person, just as do French (tu/vous), German (du, Sie), Czech (ty/vy) and myriad other languages.

    Thee and thou were forms of the familiar ‘you’; ye was plural or polite.

    Thou is nominative (thou goest, thou art, …),
    thee is objective (“How do I love thee, let me count the ways”).

    The corresponding plural (or polite singular) pronouns were ye/you. Apparently there was a time when ye was nominative, you objective, but both words eventually assumed both roles.

    I wish I could remember where … there’s a Shakespeare scene in which a man is politely referring to a woman as ‘ye,’ but as their argument becomes more heated, he switches to the informal ‘thee/thou,’ considered insulting in such a context.

  80. L -  September 4, 2011 - 10:47 am

    Good Job Hot Word! Pay no attention to ill mannered posts. Keep ‘em coming. Cheers!

  81. bu -  September 4, 2011 - 8:33 am

    &jay, if u read this…
    kruse sounds like a typically german name. your pronunciation is more or less rather near on the german one, as are the others.
    a german would pronounce it crew-se or kroo-se, with s and an e at the end (like in end).
    so, what i assume: this missing e in spoken english, at the end in kroose or cruise, should be some sort of shortening for the sake of english speakers.
    i dont know how u speak it, but your zee shouldnt be spoken like in see or sea (no difference in german speaking, its spoken like our i). just a short vocal sounding like in ‘end’.

  82. Daniel -  September 3, 2011 - 5:51 pm

    @jamesivan24 J.R.R. Tolkien was also a scholar of middle English. He understood the language’s history very well and incorporated many elements of the history into it.

    @all I know this article is older but I wanted to point out 2 things.. 1) ye in “Ye Olde Coffee Shoppe” evolved from handwritten forms of thorn which gradually shifted the loop upward similar to Wynn (after wynn had fallen out of use) and eventually was written as a y with a dot over it. That’s why y was the closest symbol. 2) ye did indeed have a second function as a totally unrelated word. It used to be the second person singular subject pronoun. “Ye are going to the store”.

  83. Erik -  September 3, 2011 - 8:44 am

    Very interesting article, thankyou. Annoy – not everything is about money and food; etymology ids an example of a civilised activity that man can perform purely for interest – it’s not supposed to be a chore, and just because it’s not directly useful to survival doesn’t make it pointless. Do you think any of science (medicine, engineering etc) would have happened if there hadn’t been concurrent development in those most reviled of learning areas, lingustic expression and maths etc.?

  84. crappydame -  September 3, 2011 - 8:33 am

    While I really enjoy most of the topics and comments on this site, it bothers me how many of the people who post seem to have totally forgotten the rules of punctuation, spelling, etc. The same goes for phone texting. Why have we decided that “R” is acceptable for “are” and “sumn” is acceptable for “something” and so on? Has society as a whole simply decided to dumb its self down for the sake of expediency?

  85. thompson -  September 3, 2011 - 5:20 am

    I’M LEARING!!!!!!!!!!!!

  86. jamesivan24 -  September 2, 2011 - 3:26 pm

    Interesting to notice when J.R.R. Tolkien took advantage of this in The Hobbit. Dwarvish runes include the letter Thorn, not with the same rune, but a similar rune: a single rune to depict the sound ‘th’ as in “THe Hobbit.” He was quite a linguistic master and that definitely contributed to creating Elvish, Dwarvish, and his other languages.

  87. Ðïðå -  May 12, 2011 - 7:37 pm

    it is right that Þ made soft, or voiceless, dental fricative like in thing, think, thin. Ð made voiced dental fricative, hard TH in this, that, breathe bathe and those. Anyone who does not want to read it does not have to, though I would say to the writer to check the facts and keep the linguistic mayhem. I would also say that too many people are happy with our language, and do not give a single thought to its origins and the sound changes it has encountered over time. :(

  88. ontoursecretly -  April 24, 2011 - 7:08 pm

    @ annoy

    [I am new, so I don't know if I'm supposed to take the bait of someone called "annoy"...]

    You got all that in English class? You were very lucky. Possibly privileged, and attending a well-funded public school, or a private one? Arguments about putting food on the table from someone in that situation strike me as moot, if not outright ridiculous. (But moot is a more fun word, so I’ll go with that one.)

  89. Ole Ed -  April 23, 2011 - 6:36 am

    I gotta stop looking things up in dictionary.com . I come in here wanting to learn the meaning of a six letter word and end up a half hour latter still reading about the alphabet. Got so engrossed I even forgot about the coffee water I had on the stove… it boiled away! I guess I’ve just got to allow more time to see what’s new in dictionary.com and be prepared to be taunted to stay longer than planned. Isn’t love grand? I love you dictionary.com !

  90. eponymy -  April 22, 2011 - 5:33 pm

    After 4 yrs. of morphology, syntax, phonology, pragmatics and crazy Chomsky’s transformational grammar and of course, his XBar theory etc– I find historical linguistics like this to be so much more fun!…Keep it coming! Thanks for the fun!

  91. Your Father -  April 22, 2011 - 5:05 am

    what did the letters look like?

  92. ashis -  April 21, 2011 - 5:09 am

    It’s an interesting hypothesis,but is it perfectly what it is?…can you explain me why the word- dysfunction is – ‘dys’ instead of ‘dis’ ?

  93. Molly -  April 20, 2011 - 1:39 pm

    cool! i wondered for some time what the deal with ‘ye’ was…

  94. Monique -  April 19, 2011 - 10:50 pm

    Always interesting to learn how our language and alphabet have evolved.

  95. toni -  April 19, 2011 - 5:15 am

    To all of those questioning the value of this topic, why are you here? If you’re not interested, go read another blog. Understanding why our language takes its present form is not just a lesson in linguistics but in history. Looking at older forms of our language can help us understand & learn other languages with similar roots, and it can help us really comprehend not only the spellings we use but the reasons for various parts of speech. It’s all part of our cultural heritage.

  96. eduardo -  April 18, 2011 - 11:34 pm

    I have a question for you guys. Why is Modern English not pronounced the same way as it is written? It seems that Old English was pronounced the same way it was written with all of those old letters which represented a sound each. I’d appreciate if an answer to this could be provided. Thanks!

  97. x -  April 18, 2011 - 11:10 pm

    Reading this, I’m really debating whether or not ‘ye’ was actually pronounced with a YEH sound for the ‘y’ at any point in time in history (save for today where we know so little), since if the y was a substitute for thorne then ye=THee makes absolute and perfect sense both on a pronunciation front AND meaning on all accounts.

    So what do you all think? Was it pronouced YEH for ye? Or was it only ever TH thee for the proper pronunciation for ‘ye’? Is there even a way to tell at this point?

  98. Francis -  April 15, 2011 - 5:46 pm

    ‘th’is an example- read ‘The Hobbit’ by J.R.R Tolkien

  99. Jay -  April 9, 2011 - 10:15 am

    I find a lot of posters here who have a lot of knowledge on this subject. Perhaps one of you could help me on something that is off topic. I would like to have a source that tells me the origin of how surnames are pronounced.

    My last name is Kruse which my family pronounces Crew Zee. I find tracing my family tree that we originated in Gremany, at least so far. But all other names I find with the same spelling are prounced either as Cruise or Kroose (similar to goose).

    If any of you have a background that could point me in the right direction for finding information where this unusual pronouncing originates I would appreciate your help.

    I hope no one is offended by my getting off point. If you are, my apologies.


    • Tanya -  November 15, 2014 - 1:03 am

      My surname is klieve, it has Goethe roots dating back to early Christendom. We pronounce it Klee-vee, others in English speaking countries pronounce it Klee-vuh or Klee-ver. The correct pronunciation is Klee-va., I think your name would fall into the same pronunciation key. I hope this helps. Regards, Tanya

  100. Pinki -  April 8, 2011 - 9:58 pm

    What about “thee” and “thou” and those stuff??? Cool article though!!!!

  101. JustMalea -  March 24, 2011 - 4:08 pm

    @Sterling Grey The thorn, þ, was actually used interchangeably with the eth, ð, in Old and Middle English which, obviously, caused pronunciation confusion just as our spelling of “th” does today. They, like the “th,” are used for both voiced (then) and unvoiced (thin) sounds. However, in the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) the eth /ð/ is used to represent a voiced “th” (then) sound whereas the theta /Θ/ is used to represent the unvoiced “th” (thin) sound. (person had it exactly backwards.)

    Also, as far as “ye” goes, it was an Old and Middle English second person plural pronoun. So, “I’ll drive ye through!” is the same as “I’ll kill you all!” (basically). Keep in mind, before the printing press was invented in the mid-fifteenth century (1440 I think?), there was no standard for spelling though there were a few attempts at it so people basically spelled phonetically and since dialects can vary greatly, the same word could be spelled quite differently depending on the dialect of the author.

  102. Sterling Grey -  March 23, 2011 - 2:19 pm

    This will be it for me today, honest!…

    But, again, in case one of you clever, linguistically well-informed folks notices this post… I wanted to run this summary past everybody to see if my understanding of what I’ve seen here checks out… (or not!):

    The (‘T-crossed’ capital D &/or lowercase delta) — “ETH” — is VOICED [or ‘hard’] … as in THis, THat, or THe?

    The (‘Hybrid p/b’) — “THORN” — is UN-VOICED [or ‘soft’] … as in THHree-THHirty, THHeatre, THHrifty, or THHinking?

    AND, if I can believe what I think I understood from the post of ‘person’, the (Greek) — “THETA” — is hard and VOICED… as in THese, THose, or bathe…

    Let me hear from you if you know if these are accurate assessments! Thanks for any light you can shed!


  103. Sterling Grey -  March 23, 2011 - 1:51 pm

    Okay… So, I’ve been pondering this, and I don’t think I’ve seen this particular question, or maybe I missed it…

    But, according to the author and Hot Word:
    “In Old English, a letter called “thorn” represented the “th” sound* (as in “that”) in Modern English.”

    So now, I’m saying, Really?… Wouldn’t “þ” — “thorn” — be pronounced the way one would guess, as the perfect example of the soft “th”… as in the way we pronounce THHORN? Why would it sound like ”th” in ”that”?

    OR… am I assuming (incorrectly) that our way, now, has ALways been the way “Thorn” is pronounced… Is it perhaps possible that, in fact, they used to say “Thorn” with the harder, VOICED “th”??? (I guess anything is possible…)

    If anyone of you bright, linguistically-educated folks notices this post… and if you have any insight on this, can you let me know and alleviate my ‘perplexity’? ;-)


    [þanks?] or maybe [ðanks?]… or maybe even [Θanks?]…

  104. Sterling Grey -  March 23, 2011 - 11:51 am

    @Glitchy … I like your humor! (BUT!… to take it as a serious question ANYway…) ;o) …I think the “ye” in your phrase, “I shall run ye through with my pike!” is more akin to, say, the way a stereotypical Pirate would use it… as a ‘lazy,’ or more accurately ‘casual’ or ‘colorful’ pronunciation of “you.” I see it as similar in a way to when we say “See ya!”, especially in print or text. We all know it’s “you”, but to spell it that way imitates the way we say it and conjures the ‘voice’ we mean to say it in…

    @everyone in general: It seems odd to me that, as the original essay stated:
    “In the Latin alphabet, the “y” was the symbol that most closely resembled the character that represented thorn.”
    …(and I’m not arguing the point with the Hot Word author, because I have not studied this, while he/she has!)
    …but whereas “thorn,” as we’ve seen — þ — looks like a hybrid of our lowercase “p” and “b” [sharing the same circle with stems going both up (b) and down (p) from it on the left]… the symbol for “wynn,” on the other hand (at least as shown in this conversation — Ƿ –) at least LOOKS like a “y” (with a ‘fork’ diverging from the top of the stem), except that the right-hand ‘branch’ of the two strokes that fork off of the stem curls around to the left, to meet the left-hand ‘branch’ just below the very top, closing the figure instead of leaving it open like our “y”! Now THAT is more of a resemblance in my eyes!

    Hey, what do I know, though… Just sayin’!!

    It’s been fun following this string!…

  105. jasmine -  February 18, 2011 - 3:05 am

    nice article..

  106. Lincoln -  February 17, 2011 - 10:09 pm

    True to nigel :)

  107. Nigel from New Zealand -  February 17, 2011 - 8:58 am

    In Britain I haven’t seen ‘Q’ on a number plate. Is that another disappearing letter? :-(

  108. Wealtheow -  February 17, 2011 - 3:42 am

    actually, in regards to “ye olde…” – from what I understand of the historic use of Þ, since the Old English character resembles a ‘y,’ long after the letter had been phased out of the language it would be found on signs during archealogical studies. Due to fading of the letters and lack of knowledge of the people of the time, Þ was assumed to be a ‘y’

  109. RPianist -  February 3, 2011 - 11:28 am

    The number 3, as others have noted, is not the same as ȝ (yogh), in fact their similarities are actually purely circumstantial. The number 3 comes to us from the Hindu-Arabic numeral system which came to Europe in the Middle Ages (all the way from India), long after Old English first came on the scene, or long after Futhorc came on the scene which is the origins of the runic symbols used in Old English.

    Rather, Roman numerals were used prior to the use of Hindu-Arabic numerals. But suffice to say these two similar looking symbols were developed independently halfway around the world from each other, so there is no relation.

  110. $h0rty -  February 3, 2011 - 9:56 am

    WAT? VAT???

  111. vcm -  February 3, 2011 - 6:07 am

    “As for the girl with a B.A in English who thinks we’re all mad, you don’t deserve your degree if you have no passion for your subject,”

    At least where I went to college, linguistics and literature fell under two separate majors. (“English” and “Linguistics”, unsurprisingly.) Being interested in higher applications vs technical applications need not be the same thing. Similarly, one may, say, enjoy building a computer but not enjoy writing software code, and another may enjoy programming but dislike working with the actual hardware. And a chemist may like the composition of an ink whereas an artist would enjoy putting that ink to paper.

    One need not encompass the entirety of a subject in every manner to enjoy it.

  112. Antigone -  February 2, 2011 - 7:46 pm

    It saddens me that so many people are completely uninterested in the origins of their language. Despite that, it is alarming n the nicest possible way to see so many intelligent and thorough comments up there. As for the girl with a B.A in English who thinks we’re all mad, you don’t deserve your degree if you have no passion for your subject, you should respect your language for it is the tool of your ancestors and one of the very important reasons that you are even alive today. I’m gonna leave before the ignorance gets to me too much! xD Take care all :)

  113. Zippi -  December 30, 2010 - 5:53 pm

    Aye, Rune. I noticed the error, too. The example that was given for thorn (þ) was “th,” as in “that,” rather than “thank.” As I understand it, the “th” in “that” is represented by eth (ð). I know about yogh, often mistaken fir “Z,” hence why Menzies sounds more like Ming’es.
    Staphanie, I have not read that; it sounds interesting, though. I have been informed that it is because of the Normans that we have “warrantee,” as well as “guarantee.” there are other word, however, I have forgotten what they are but they are similar in that one version begins with “g,” whislt the other begins with “w.”

  114. Stephanie -  December 7, 2010 - 8:15 pm

    I think this may also connect to the Norman conquest in 1066. I once read that while the Anglo-Saxons had two distinct letters (thorn and Ev) and also two distinct sounds for “th” (as in feather and theatre), the Normans only had one. Because they were the dominant governmental force at the time, the Norman spelling rules were adopted, but that did not stop the pronunciation rules from being passed from generation to generation. This could explain why we still have two ways of pronouncing the “th,” but only one way of spelling it. Has anyone read something along these lines?

  115. Sydni -  November 23, 2010 - 4:26 pm

    This looks a lot like “Dragon Script” from the book “Dragonology”… But some of the letters are different =P

  116. Emi -  October 26, 2010 - 6:39 pm

    Great article! I was beginning to wonder if the hot word blog had any good info left but clearley you do! Love this, great job. =)

  117. Jank -  October 24, 2010 - 1:58 am

    There’s a place in Niedersachsen/Lower Saxony where a dialect said to be close to Old English is still spoken. Those who speak it are descendants of some who migrated there from farther north.

  118. campingdogs -  October 23, 2010 - 6:41 pm

    I have a B.A. in English and I think you people are ALL crazy.

  119. Jocantha Telsey -  October 16, 2010 - 8:38 pm

    geez i’m too confused to figure this all out. make up you’re mind. and better blog today Hot Word, you’re getting better at this.

  120. Mark V -  October 14, 2010 - 7:54 am

    RE: making symbols
    With numlock ON, hold ALT and press 4 numbers on the Numpad, IE Alt+0222 = Þ, alt+0254 þ , alt+0208 = Ð I cant ever remember the actual coding for it, but i know that
    Alt + 6666666
    (6, seven times) makes ¬, which is used in my personal favorite, the unimpressed emoticon ¬_¬

    Start Menu – All Programs – accessories – system tools – Charmap
    gives you piles and piles of symbols that you can copy from, and learn the Alt-code for. Alot of accented lowercase letters are between 0224 and 0253

  121. ms.karma -  October 13, 2010 - 11:22 pm

    @steph: “This isn’t your site, it’s not yours to boss people around on.”
    you are right. thank you for your comments.

    @nikki: love and peace. :)

  122. NKohp -  October 13, 2010 - 1:28 pm

    @Raymond Petry. They still have the same pronounciation for W/U in Welsh. Like the name Huw which is pronounced slightly rounder than Hugh but few people would notice a difference at all. It’s a weird sound because it’s neither a U or W in Welsh, it’s something in between.

    Does anyone know if Wynn and W existed at the same time to represent these two sounds? The sounds of course would have then merged meaning Wynn became obsolete, rather like how Thorn represented the “th” sound, but we still had a T and a H alongside it used mainly in the European way. If anyone gets what I mean.

    Still an interesting concept.

  123. Odin's_boy -  October 13, 2010 - 9:05 am

    @Ruko – Touché
    @Chicken pot pie – Shame on you ;)

    As people seem interested I would like to add one last little snippet of cool knowledge regarding the whole English/Anglo-Saxon migration and the hurdles in modern language left by our forefathers.

    As Keith correctly mentions there were significant differences in pronounciation of dipthongs based on the context of the letter/rune. One of the reasons for this is that Anglo-Saxon contrary to other Germanic languages avoids glottal stop before vowels, this is purely a dialect based artefact influenced by the softer pronouncing Scandinavians then their own countrymen.

    This means that any initial vowel in English is generally aspirated, i.e. there is a gentle ‘h’ before it. That’s why in ‘an apple’ the syllables separate because originally an apple was actually called napple and pronounced ‘a – napple’, this prevents the harsh glottal stop you would get from ‘a napple’. Same applies to Ox formerly called Nox and most anglicised words that now start with a vowel.

    In areas such as Ireland, Scotland and London, where the accent was affected not only by large quantities of Germanic and Slavik migrants, but also the fashion for speaking like the Germanic Monarchary in the 18th Century [citation needed], thus readdressing the original Anglo/Saxon legacy. In these accents you hear the glottal stop more pronounced instead of a ‘t’ sound in ‘butter’ you get ‘bu**er’ and instead of ‘water’ you get’wa*er’. In Scotland and Irelands case this is due to the lack of linguistic influence of the invading forces such as the Vikings and Saxons on Gaelic. The Welsh (for the sake of completeness) managed to maintain language and dialect from the influence of most of Englands invaders for many centuries and is therefore very individiual.

    @Eternalgreenknight – Looked fine to me…so when are we going to start seeking to change the international standard ;)

  124. person -  October 13, 2010 - 8:26 am

    ð is actually a symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) today. It represents the [th] sound, like in bath, thwart, and math. However, the [th] sound in the words bathe, that, and those is represented by the symbol Ɵ.

  125. Steph -  October 13, 2010 - 4:57 am

    Same thing with Alan Turner.
    This isn’t your site, it’s not yours to boss people around on.

  126. Steph -  October 13, 2010 - 4:45 am

    @Nikki – That was a little harsh on ms.karma. The comments section is a place on HotWord where people can post their thoughts to the public. And if that’s what ms.karma was thinking, she had all rights and liberty to post that.
    Not trying to be mean, just saying. I think you’re acting a little superior and maybe the tiniest bit nasty to ms.karma when she didn’t do anything wrong.

  127. Anna -  October 12, 2010 - 7:31 pm

    coooool geiky stuff never would have known that still need to read story about how the name Friday came from a good looking goddess!!!!!!!!

  128. Ruko -  October 12, 2010 - 3:40 pm

    Chicken~Knowledge for knowledge’s sake.

  129. sweetpea -  October 12, 2010 - 3:37 pm

    I thought “ye” could also mean “you”. And how do you make that “þ” sign on the computer? I just copied it from someone else.

  130. Mr. Raymond Kenneth Petry -  October 12, 2010 - 3:17 pm

    (That was not intended as funny-talk but in-fact has good historic evidence: Anwps of Egypt was sent east to Sumer to become the first ‘Watcher in the East’ where he was also known to the later Hebrews, as Enoch, but which is really ChNWK Kh-An-Wk THE-Lord-chief, first son of Cain become first-of Seth because Cain owed Shw Yhw Jehovah a son … Point being, ChNWK, is where we get Schnook … from Lord-Oops…! Ray.)

  131. Mr. Raymond Kenneth Petry -  October 12, 2010 - 3:06 pm

    P.S. It is also interesting to compare the Greek-Y Γ and Y-grec (Fr. term for English ‘Y’) … these are actually two different tonguings that sound almost the same… (And you can hear why they were called, liquid).


  132. Mr. Raymond Kenneth Petry -  October 12, 2010 - 2:57 pm

    But, Is the THORN always, aspirated–? (cf THIS v. THISTLE, THINE v. THIN)

    And that (font) doesn’t look like a thorn but like the written, lowercase, ‘p’,– like a flower bud not a stem thorn….

    And worse– the WYNN looks like a lower-lowercase ‘p’….

    Also– The WYNN WEN is actually the original pronunciation, W-nasal W^(n), cf UNE, meaning, one, which is why English-speakers say ‘WUN’ for ONE….

    (ONE is actually from O-mega-NE, spelled WNE or UNE….)

    And, we used to call, Y, W, L, R, ‘liquid’, because they are strongly like consonants but definitely open like vowels, (and voiced but there are also the unvoiced liquids, Yh, Wh, Lh, Rh, not often current but historic, cf YhWh got changed to YHWH, which hardened to JHWH)…


  133. Wynn Boehmcke -  October 12, 2010 - 2:30 pm

    This is so cool, considering my name is Wynn!

  134. Chicken pot pie -  October 12, 2010 - 2:00 pm

    who cares about the old alphebet, it doesn’t matter because we don’t even use it. Whats the big deal? =P

  135. RUNES ALPHABET | BLOGCHI@mayopia.com -  October 12, 2010 - 1:32 pm

    [...] So many litters — so little time — Proliferating freely — there be a somewhat need for something extinct — the way that things are moving with information overload — and being over run by critters — forget the rhyme — it’s profiteering really — we’re in the wrong precinct — for “thorn and wynn” to bother us — before our heads explode — with useless information — so we’ll sit here curse and cuss — and maybe fart — that’s our situation. — But is it ART?–>>Rupert L.T.Rhyme [...]

  136. tina -  October 12, 2010 - 1:28 pm

    wow that is soooo kewl i just learned someting new today and thats not what you usally get when your out of college

  137. Glitchy -  October 12, 2010 - 1:06 pm

    So it is improper (old) English to yell “I shall run ye through with my pike!”

  138. ann -  October 12, 2010 - 12:32 pm

    here in the philippines we have ñ and ng as part of our alphabet..

  139. eternalgreenknight -  October 12, 2010 - 12:31 pm

    þe problem wiþ using “þ” is þat spell checker doesn’t like it and my eyes at first want to see it as a “b” or a “p” and not a “th.”

    It certainly would be more efficient if it could catch on again… and we could get used to it, but þat’s not very likely. :-þ

  140. NKohp -  October 12, 2010 - 10:44 am

    @ Erdos: ȝ (yogh) the 3 symbol actually represented gh, not g. It was similar to the phlegmy sound ch in Loch or the gh in Van Gogh.

    ᵹ < It originally looked like this. I'm showing the original symbol because some people will probably google it and find both.

    I never really understood why we dropped thorn. They still use it in Icelandic in a very similar way to how we did, so really it is efficient than the "th" digraph.

  141. keith -  October 12, 2010 - 9:53 am

    The various pronounciations of the YOGH rune is one of the reasons that you have different ways of pronouncing ough in English such as Slough (Slaow), trough (troff), tough (tuff) and so on.
    There was a dialectic difference between the different Saxon and Angle tribes. English today is derived from one dialect (called East Midlands) but others did and still do exist.
    For example the F and V letter can be either interchangeable or quite distinct depending on dialect.
    Likewise the use of dipthongs where vowels run together such as ae or oe are related to dialect. The poem Beowulf was written down in West Saxon and so has more dipthongs including at the start with HWAET (hark!)

  142. Strawhat -  October 12, 2010 - 9:50 am

    @Nathan – Tolkien was a linguist (specializing in Old English and Old Norse), so yes, he borrowed the futhork runes and used them to represent Dwarvish runes where Dwarvish script was needed.

    Sure, he invented the languages themselves, but considering his background and expertise, it’s not totally unexpected for him to rip off some of it for a proto-European fantasy world. ;)

    man all this linguistics talk is making me relive college, I love it.

  143. joseph -  October 12, 2010 - 9:03 am

    @poopy, areyou sure? Or is it the way you’ve heard most uninformed people pronounce it? which would be most everyone.

  144. #5 is alive -  October 12, 2010 - 9:02 am

    yes i do agree with your hypothosis. if we collected enough specimins then mabye it just might work. i will get right on that!

  145. Garrett_is_Smith -  October 12, 2010 - 8:27 am

    To “ALEXANDRA”, if you want to have your kind of fun, go on twitter. This is intellectual fun. In addition, this is not the Word of the Day; it is The Hot Word Blog. Furthermore, “likee” does not mean “like” just as well as “much” is not “muchh”- Duh! (Do you see what I did there? I used it correctly) I am too annoyed to continue. You should have your fingers restricted for public indecency.

  146. Dave -  October 12, 2010 - 8:14 am

    good info

  147. CF -  October 12, 2010 - 8:07 am

    @rissa: It’s all because they’re awesome and magical.

  148. ALEXANDRA -  October 12, 2010 - 8:07 am

    I don’t likee this word very muchh , if youu want to put word of thee day makee it funn duhhh !

  149. HTwoWhoa -  October 12, 2010 - 7:49 am

    I use the thorn in some emoticons: “tongue-stuck-out”.

  150. dex -  October 12, 2010 - 7:40 am

    wow.. these little daily tips from dictionary.com are almost as useful as the website itself. :]

  151. Btjie -  October 12, 2010 - 7:36 am

    Finally the “double u” of w makes sense! What an interesting read. English is probably the most diverse language out there… Could research it endlessly.

  152. Jan -  October 12, 2010 - 7:16 am

    Alorah, you are confusing me. “The” is clearly a voiced th, while “thin” is unvoiced.

  153. louis paiz -  October 12, 2010 - 6:53 am

    well remember that our languges are formed by other ones either extint or alive like for example prefixes and sufixes form our everyday language we also are part or have part in our language some cognate or half and half we also have indoeuropians words. i think is because when societates change they have to accomodate them selves to their language or the languages people speack in their culture .for example i remember the first time i read the word mexico it was with the letter j then x and the other day i was reading a book and faund it with doule ss or messico. thanks keep up the good work

  154. johnesh -  October 12, 2010 - 6:48 am

    Rune on October 11, 2010 at 8:53 pm Thorn was used for the unvoiced th sound (the sound in “thing” or “thorn”) and eth was used for the voiced th sound (the sound in “this” or “that”).
    Rune is absolutely correct. In fact, both of these letters still exist in modern Icelandic, and still perform exactly these functions.

  155. Halli -  October 12, 2010 - 6:37 am

    “Þ” or “þ” is still used in Icelandic and represents the “th” sound in the word “three”, for example. Similar sound but without the power (air), so to speak (I don´t know the phonetical term for it), is the letter “Д or “ð”, which represents the “th” sound in the word “bother”, for example.

  156. Nathan -  October 12, 2010 - 6:30 am

    Interesting. Very interesting. The picture of the blog reminds me of the characters “The Lord of the Rings” uses. Maybe it’s the same thing. But I know I have seen those characters somewhere before.

  157. AMY-LOU -  October 12, 2010 - 6:21 am

    So wait what you’re saying is old christians gave us the language we talk now???

  158. Nick -  October 12, 2010 - 6:02 am

    Old English also used to have the æ/Æ letter for the vowel in “that”, “cat”, “hat” etc.

    Þæt wæs god cyning!

  159. mhood1 -  October 12, 2010 - 5:49 am

    If I’m not mistaken, Eth (soft “th”) and Thorn (hard “th”) are still used in Iceland.

  160. bholland -  October 12, 2010 - 5:41 am

    The English language is fascinating all unto itself.

  161. Cindy -  October 12, 2010 - 5:28 am

    cool words

  162. Blizzard -  October 12, 2010 - 5:15 am

    Just remember…
    Derp will always be a number (:
    This is very interesting, but I would rather stick with the alphabet we have now!!! ;D


  163. Arthur -  October 12, 2010 - 5:14 am

    Þ and ð are common in icelandic language.

    Example -> Það (it), þeir (they), Þór (Thor), maður (man)

  164. James Baker -  October 12, 2010 - 4:36 am

    Lies! Its all lies! THE GAME!

  165. Odin's_boy -  October 12, 2010 - 4:18 am

    Interestingly enough (well to me anyway) the use of Thorn and Wynn were an artefact left over from elder futhark used by the Old Norse and Old Teutonic tribes. Elder futhark being the runic alphabet in use from around 150AD – 800AD and was still being written in various guises (albeit in Northern Europe only) until 1100AD, by which time the more contemporary alphabets had incorporated/been replaced by the Latin alphabet.

    Thorn originated from the Thuriaz rune (proto-germanic term), which as well as ‘th’ sound when used with other letters, also represented the God of lightening and thunder Thor and the number 3 (þrir in Old Norse)when used in isolation.

    Wynn orginated from the Wunjo rune (proto-germanic term), which evolved into the ‘w’ from the ‘uu’ sound. The rune on its own represented joy as well as a letter in matters of rune readins – part of pagan worship at the time.

    There was a third rune termed Ingwaz, which I haven’t been able to find making the transition into Old High German and then into Old English. Ingwaz made an ‘ng’ sound, as in ri’ng’. It represented earth as in soil, which is why I find it strange to not have made the same journey as Wynn and Thorn. Any thoughts?

  166. pissed -  October 12, 2010 - 4:15 am

    @ dictionary.com

    U have put up banners of some game called amazonia. This is an example of intrusive advertising. The banner automatically opens up the game site. Each time i open a word in a new tab, this annoying this starts it play.
    I have dictionary.com as my home page. Do you wish that people get annoyed with you ridiculous advertising techniques and change the home page.

    BTw- I have repeatedly requested the website, to start a separate forum for the ardent logophiles who wish to air their view on stuff, ur word of the day is linked with facebook and twitter, why cant u have a forum to comment on under the word itself. People generally do not like going to ridiculous site that you strategically direct them to

  167. AvidReader -  October 12, 2010 - 3:52 am

    Very excited. I always wanted to know the difference between “ye” and “the”. Never made sense to me. But now it does :D

  168. Nikki -  October 12, 2010 - 2:53 am

    @rissa: Conduct some research; you should find some interesting information like the information. You’ll find facts and information you didn’t know!

    Sounds like there is quite a dispute going up there at the top of the comment list. Well, erdos, it’s not a “3″ as others have noted! @GS, yes. @Rune and @alorah, thanks for the information. Just a few questions: ms.karma, don’t put useless or nonsensical comments up there. Just get to the point. And Alan Turner, your comment doesn’t make sense and doesn’t relate to the topic – Old English letters now not in the alphabet anymore.

    Oh yes, and Hot Word, thanks for the information; for once you have taken up a better topic. Old English symbols not in use are definitely something to blog about. Yet try not to confuse people…did you see the comments “criticising”‘ the blog post for confusion?


  169. Annoy -  October 12, 2010 - 1:53 am

    Reading that made me remember why I hated English class in school! Ahhhhhhh, who cares if U & J came along in the alphabet later on, how is that going to put food on your family’s table, pay bills & put clothes on you & your families backs….?

  170. Zachary Overline -  October 12, 2010 - 1:53 am

    Awww. I knew a gothic chick in high school who always used to write me secret notes coded in ruins. How nostalgic :)

  171. rissa -  October 12, 2010 - 12:57 am

    thats cool. i just wonder how you found all that out

  172. Alan Turner -  October 12, 2010 - 12:20 am

    Read up conjunctions

  173. alorah -  October 11, 2010 - 11:07 pm

    thorn (thôrn) The runic letter þ originally representing either sound of the Modern English th, as in the and thin, used in Old English and Middle English manuscripts.
    ([Old English; related to Old High German dorn, Old Norse thorn])

    wynn (wn) or wen (wn) An Old English rune having the sound (w) and used in Old English and early Middle English writing.

  174. ms.karma -  October 11, 2010 - 9:46 pm

    oh, nice.


  175. Rune -  October 11, 2010 - 8:53 pm

    Of interest,
    here is thorn: þ
    and here is wynn: Ƿ
    You can see why they made their way out of the alphabet.

    There was another letter in the English alphabet which went out of use, eth (ð). Eth also represented the Modern th sound.
    Thorn was used for the unvoiced th sound (the sound in “thing” or “thorn”) and eth was used for the voiced th sound (the sound in “this” or “that”).

    To Dracodis and Erdos. Thorn was represented by the letter Y, not by yogh, g or 3.
    The 3-like symbol used for g was used when the g made a y sound, which it did fairly often in Old English (the word “geardagum”* was pronounced yee-are-day-oom). Modern computer typefaces have wrought havoc with yogh/ezh/long z/three.
    According to Wikipedia, “In medieval Cornish manuscripts, yogh is used to represent the voiced interdental fricative”. In plain English, medieval Cornish manuscripts use Ȝ for ð. That’s probably where the confusion stems from.

    *literally “year-days”, it meant something like “days of old”, “ancient times” or “once upon a time”

  176. Toby_Dupree -  October 11, 2010 - 8:32 pm

    Fascinating. I could read about stuff like that all day.

  177. Ian -  October 11, 2010 - 8:17 pm

    @GS: Yep! :)

  178. Dracodis -  October 11, 2010 - 8:12 pm

    To erdos: Although it looks similar to a three, that’s actually the letter yogh (Ȝ) and is quite different. It also could represent the sounds represented by the modern consonantal “y” and the glutteral sound represented by “ch” in German “ach.”

    To GS: Yep.

  179. poopy -  October 11, 2010 - 8:12 pm

    …but they still pronounce it ye old bookshop or ye old fair…

  180. GS -  October 11, 2010 - 7:38 pm

    So ‘Ye Olde Booke Shoppe’ was pronounced ‘The Old Book Shop’?

    • Jack -  September 23, 2015 - 4:08 pm

      The technical answer to your question as you asked it (in past tense) is Yes. But most people today, seeing ye, pronounce it ye [yee] rather than the [thee] (‘thee’ rather than ‘the’ because it is followed by a vowel sound).

  181. erdos -  October 11, 2010 - 7:11 pm

    I just cross-checked it. 3 represented “g” and not “th”.

  182. erdos -  October 11, 2010 - 7:07 pm

    I had read somewhere that “thorn” was represented by the number 3, which contradicts what you say here.


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