My first novel, Heart Land is about to be republished with a new editor and in a new edition. The story is about the hyjinx of a boy, Oliver Larson, growing up in rural American in 1940, prior to World War 11. One of Oliver’s favorite hangouts is a bakery known as Ye Old Bake Shoppe. The spelling is meant to indicate the establishment is cozy and quaint. Beyond that I gave the words no further thought after I wrote them. The other day, however, Ye Old Bake Shoppe came to mind as I read an article by Michael Rosen, a writer of children’s books, who had published an article explaining how some letters of our alphabet had disappeared as scribes shifted from Runes to our modern ABCs. (Click)
“Ye” for example, says Rosen, isn’t pronounced ye at all but stood for today’s “th”. That makes sense as most of us know, ye means “The.” The letter known as Wynn, which looked like ‘P’ in the Runic alphabet, has disappeared altogether, replaced by the “w.” A few Runic spellings still exist like, “encyclopaedia” for “encyclopedia” and “foetus” for “fetus,” but they are rarely employed, except for effect as in my use of ye in Heart Land. That these archaic spellings persisted at all, Rosen credits to English monks of old who, working as scribes, didn’t entirely embrace new spellings.
One rune that has completely disappeared is the upright ‘S’ which was easily confused with the more modern ‘f’ and so had to be eliminated. Case in point is the bawdy laughter bound to follow if the upright S persisted in a song like Shakespeare’s, “Where the bee sucks, there suck I.”
Bawdy is a word that could well describe the development of the English language. James D. Nichols, a famous American Jockey once said, “… English is about as pure as a crib house whore. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.”