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Picture of Chris J. Strolin
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A discussion involving what is called the "long s" is presently in progress on the OEDILF site in cauliflower's "bygone" limerick. As you may or may not know, the "long s" generally went out of style in English writing around the year 1800. A primary point of disagreement in that discussion involves just how well readers of today understand what the "long s" is all about and so a poll was suggested.

Now, first off, it has been shown in the past that both OEDILFers and Wordcrafters are, on the whole, considerably more erudite than the local slob on the street. I'm sorry if that sounds elitist but them's just the facts. I mention this since although it will be interesting to see the poll results, I wouldn't really accept them as being representative of the population as a whole.

OK. Here's a sentence in modern English:

Such a silly number of jokes are incessantly played on the phone of my sister that she suffers sincere stress and has since transferred to Sacramento.

Granted, it's a little convoluted but, frankly, I didn't feel like spending two hours coming up with something that looked vaguely Shakespearean. In the English that was used in the late 18th century, with the "long s" represented by the symbol "ſ" (it only looked like a lowercase "f"). this same sentence might come out:

ſuch a ſilly number of jokeſ are inceſsantly played on the ſone of my ſiſter that ſhe ſufferſ ſinſere streſſ and has ſinſe tranſferred to ſacramento.

The poll question: How many words in the sentence above have the "long s" used INCORRECTLY. In other words, count the mistakes.

This is not an intelligence competition so please do no research on this subject before answering the poll. Also, if you learned something about the "long s" from that WSing that you didn't know before, please opt for the "Other" choice in this poll.

I have researched this subject and the answers I'll provide after a week or 10 days are correct to the best of my understanding. Then again, if someone comes up with supporting data showing that I am incorrect somewhere along the line, I wouldn't be totally surprised. As I say in this thread title, it's not so fimple.

(Note to Wordcrafters: The above is almost word for word what I posted in the OEDILF forum poll but I have listed it here as a discussion item since the software for our respective sites is different in how polls are conducted. Ours allows for ten choices and I gave the options of three through eleven, conclusive, and "Other." Wordcraft polls are set up to allow for five answers and so in order to keep things fairly even, one side to the other, I opted for a discussion here and not a poll.)
 
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Picture of Richard English
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Frankly I don't understand it at all and it's certainly never used in modern UK English. My guess is that it is similar to the German sharp "s", traditionally shown as "ß" but, more commonly these days I suspect, as "ss".

The situation is different in the case of that other archaism, the use of "Y" as an abbreviation for "TH" (to substitute for the Old English letter "thorn Þ"). Ye is still commonly used in titles for things that purport to be old. For example, Ye Olde Tea Shoppe". However, few people know the history of the abbreviation and most pronounce it as a "Y".


Richard English
 
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Picture of wordmatic
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My knowledge of the long "s" is limited to the bit in "Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America" where Ben Franklin remarks to Thomas Jefferson, "all your S's look like F's!" Didn't know it was called "long s" or that it was actually a different typographical character from the F.

It seems as if every inscription in stone I've ever seen that uses it does use the long s for every s, so I would say the only errors in that sentence are probably the ones where the long s replaceſ actual f's--just two of them.

One is ſone and the other is inceſsantly.

Wordmatic
 
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Picture of zmježd
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The German ligature eszett (i.e., ß) consists of a long s followed by a z. (This Wikipedia article is in German, though the illustration is informative.)

On the use and misuse of the long s, Andrew West (a blogging buddy of mine) has a nice pair of entries: first and second.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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Picture of BobHale
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I'll put my hands up. Without researching I don't know but I suspect the answer is "most of them".
 
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Picture of Kalleh
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This is another subject I will have to research <sigh>. (I suspect I am more like CJ's "slob on the street" person than others here or on OEDILF.) Not only have I not heard of the "long s", but I have no idea where you get that cute f-like symbol. Roll Eyes
 
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Picture of zmježd
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I have no idea where you get that cute f-like symbol

You could use the Character Map utility on Windows. It's U+017F in the Latin Extended-A block of Unicode.

Here's a go at CJ's sentence:

Such a ſilly number of jokes are inceſsantly played on the phone of my ſiſter that ſhe ſuffers ſincere ſtreſs and has ſince transferred to Sacramento


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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How about phone, sincere, and since?
 
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