thorn

You learn something new every day. Today I learned about this: þ. This is the letter ‘thorn,’ which I didn’t even know was a letter. And in a way, it’s not–at least not in modern English. It was used in Old English, Old Norse and is apparently still in use in the Icelandic alphabet. It’s pronounced like the digraph ‘th’ (as in either ‘theory’ or ‘then’).

Now, why is this cool? I’ll tell you why. Because over time þ began to be written as Ƿ, which eventually became indistinguishable from the letter ‘Y’.

Okay, it’s still not clear why that’s cool, is it. It becomes more clear when you see the letter thorn in use. As in ‘Ƿe Olde Pickle Shoppe.’ Which is now generally written as ‘Ye Olde Pickle Shoppe.’ And which is always pronounced ‘Yee’ when it should, in fact, be pronounced ‘The’.

All right, then–maybe it’s not all that cool. But hey, I learned something new.

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