minstrel: Bards, Ceilidhs, and Ye Olde Englyshe

Rockall Herald/Auntie Jen elp003 at bangor.ac.uk
Fri Apr 25 05:41:46 PDT 1997

On Thu, 24 Apr 1997 mn13189 at WCUVAX1.WCU.EDU wrote:

> First off, the practice of using all these "y"s and "e"s.  For a time
> during the development of Middle English, "y" and "e" were
> interchangeable, much like "u" and "v" were.  So thys would be just as
> correct as this.  

You do mean "y" and "i" were interchangeable (as your example shows), 
don't you?  And they remained so well into the seventeenth century.

>Alfredo can  help me on this one.  However, the practice
> of adding superfulous "e"s on the end of words that otherwise don't have
> them was a Vicortian romantic convention to make something sound archaic.

I beg to differ.  Also "common modern" practise originated in the 
Victorian era, there was *no* rule about adding final "e" or not until 
the Enlightenment, when They more or less invented "proper" spelling.  
Look at Chaucer, for example--sometimes he uses them, sometimes he 
doesn't, and the pronunciation thereof depends wholly on metrical 
demand.  The word "kind" could be rendered kind, kynd, kinde, or kynde.

Again, this carries through well into the early modern era.

> So "Ye Olde Englishe Shoppe" is horribly incorrect (unless you are trying
> to sound Victorian).  Also not that "ye" meaning "the" (as in the previous
> example) is Victorian also.  Now Middle English did use "e"s on the end of
> words when needed, and "ye" was in the vocabulary as "you."  But these
> things were not used in the way we stereotypically see them used on store
> signs and what not.

"Ye" for "the" is the result of incorrect reading, or rather rendering.  
An open "th" symbol was wont to be used; especially when it came to the 
printed page, this often looked like a "y".   People back-reading early 
modern texts without knowledge of the old "th" forms therefore mistook it.

As a rule of thumb, if you're going to use a final "e", and it's in a 
word such as "english" or "shop", double the final consonant, thus:  
englysshe, shoppe.  (Also wysshe, freindschippe, etc.)  But even this is 
subject to region and dialect.

That Damned Scot, yclept Sela Mac'a'phearsoin, mundanely

Jennifer A. McGowan 
English Department
University of Wales, Bangor.
Bangor, Gwynedd, N. Wales

email:  elp003 at bangor.ac.uk

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