Tag: Now is the Winter of our Discontent

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. The Discontented Alphabet in Winter

 

History and the English Alphabet

When George Washington was a lad, he learned his alphabet, all twenty-seven letters. Back in the Eighteenth Century, the English alphabet still had twenty-seven letters. The alphabet didn’t end with Z, but with &. When reciting the alphabet, they would use a Latin phrase at the end, “Y, Z, and, per se, And.” According to some sources, this is how we got the word “Ampersand” was through millions of young kids running together “and, per se, And” while reciting their alphabet as fast as possible to get it over with.

When English was first written, though, it had twenty-four letters, not including several we know today, such as J or V or W. Because English was not Latin, when the English language was transliterated to the Latin alphabet, there were several sounds not represented, and as such, those founders of written English as we know it modified letters to represent sounds or they borrowed from the former alphabet that had represented English, the Futhorc system of runes. Thus English had letters that other languages did not. That caused problems several hundred years later. When the idea of movable-type printing first flowered in Europe, most of the printing was done in what we now call Germany by German people. English manuscripts would be sent off to Germany to be printed, and the German printers would have this sort of conversation:

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Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Reading in the Winter of Discontent

 

BooksA year ago I wrote an article called “Keeping Up” (published elsewhere) about my reading plan for 2019. I noted that since I have fewer reading years ahead of me than behind me, it would be a good use of my time to plan the coming year. It is part of my winter of discontent that I failed to keep that plan.

Not that my plan wasn’t good. To quote myself:

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Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Now Is the Play of Our Discontent

 

When one thinks of great Russian literature, one does not associate it with the time period of Stalin. Venezuela probably has great literature in its history, but I doubt much of it is written today by some crony of Maduro. But such is the oddness of the English language and the English people that the greatest flowering of English literature happened during the time of an illegitimate, usurping dynasty that had its thumb squarely upon the people and the arts created, a dynasty that resorted to execution more than any since.

Some say Shakespeare was a genius for his accomplishments. But how much more of a genius was he that he accomplished all that he did in an oppressive atmosphere that saw many locked up or executed for offending the Tudor monarch? A play like Romeo and Juliet might not have been too dangerous. Classical comedies and tragedies were not too dangerous, especially when set in places like Italy. The Taming of the Shrew? Two Gentlemen of Verona? But Shakespeare delved into another realm altogether: the history play. With histories from far off in time, indeed, apocryphal histories, such as King Lear and Macbeth, danger was not so apparent, yet Shakespeare came closer in time, right up to the time of his monarch. And in the writing of these nearer histories, Shakespeare prostituted himself, becoming the propagandist of the Tudor Dynasty, or did he?

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