Michael Everson has a new blog, þorn.info, that… well, let me quote his first post: “For many years I have been a devotee of the noble letter þorn and its history. This blog will celebrate the letter þorn and will, from time to time, be updated with þorny þings of interest.” He does not neglect eð, ƿynn, and ȝogh, either. His latest post, Old English anachronism on the Wikipǽdia, is a fine rant: “This is ridiculous. In the first place, the substitution of ƿynn is incomplete, as we still have betwixfolcliċra. But what on earth is ȝogh doing there? There was no ȝogh in Old English.” If this is the sort of thing you enjoy—and it certainly should be—you will enjoy this blog. Hwæt!

Update (Aug. 2019). The blog is long dead; I have substituted archived links for the posts cited above. I am pleased to say that though its time in the blogosphere was short, its last post (2012-05-22) was a celebratory one: “The New Yorker has a splendid article about þorn.” The article (actually a brief squib by Mary Norris) begins “A rare excitement ran through the The New Yorker’s copy department last week when it was discovered that a line of Middle English poetry quoted in a piece by Peter Hessler about standing in police lineups had a thorn in it.” It must have gladdened Everson’s heart.


  1. meia envolvimento internet arena. ponto Man Integral presente essenciais necessidade mais directa unexampled. redbrick humanidade transformaram real incontáveis dissipar progressiva miríade história chamada.
    realizando Mensagem Ensino, ciberespaço exclusivo seção Humanidade Nationwide quase excelente aluno split relacionar preocupar.
    [Start of spam message left for amusement value; rest deleted because it was too damn long. -LH]

  2. michael farris says

    I predit this thread will become a spam trap (and wonder if a certain kind of spammer has already realized the similarity between thorn and p…

  3. marie-lucie says

    Actually, I first read the word as “born”, but the thorn does look like a p in the font that shows up on my screen (it can look different on other computers). But I agree with MF about the spamming potential. “Thorn” in the title would be safer.

  4. Surely spammers don’t go around scanning random blogs for visual clues but rather depend on software which is not going to mistake a þ for a p.

  5. It’s not inconceivable that harvesting software is set up to recognize even proxy spellings. I can’t say I’ve ever noticed spammails with þ as a proxy for p, though.
    Be that as it may, what annoys me is becoming aware of that mighty potential for punning and having to let it go to waste because of spammers. Well, ȝogh can’t ƿynn them all.

  6. Is that ȝogh as in the surname Menȝies? I wonder, is the surname Cadzow really Cadȝow?

  7. Thank you, dearieme and JC. I have studied some Old and Middle English but did not realize the complexity of the “yogh”.
    Also, nice to read English with the “th’s” differentiated.

  8. Dearieme: Yes to both questions; see WP on yogh for more.
    There’s a guest post by Rudyard Kipling with hyperlinks by yours truly.

  9. michael farris says

    Poster above me said:
    “I must say i want some fantastic innovative movie pictures. I wish to get some a new one.
    I enjoy humorous, scary, along with actions plus charming providing they’re wonderful.
    Lol thus generally some good fresh dvds.
    Many thanks”
    I have nothing special to add besides many thanks yourself little spammer buddy, movies of 2OI1.
    I just wanted to preserve that paragraph for posterity in case hat deleted before realizing how awesome it is.

  10. michael farris says

    And a good thing I did, too!

  11. Yes, I’m glad you did. In general, if anyone sees a nice bit of spam they think should be preserved, by all means follow michael’s example, because when I’m deleting spam in the morning I don’t actually read it, I just see the obvious spam name and zap it.

  12. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    As one with a ð in my name (sometimes written with a þ, but I think ð is more standard) I’m very glad to know of this blog. There was a time (a long time ago) when I used to sign myself as Æðel (short for Æðelstān), but this didn’t last long, as it soon became obvious that it was more important to be understood than to be obscure.

  13. marie-lucie says

    Athel, I have never heard your name pronounced, so I thought it had a “thorn”, like Ethel and Ethan. Or should “Ethel(dred)” have an “eth” too?
    Once in England I shared a train compartment with three or four nuns, one of whom was (according to her name tag) “Sister Mary Etheldreda”.

  14. m-l: Athel, I have never heard your name pronounced, so I thought it had a “thorn”
    Not surprising, since /ð/ is not productive in English. Originally, voicing was allophonic in all English fricatives, but borrowings and sound-changes have split all of /f v/, /s z/, /θ ð/ into separate phonemes. /ʃ ʒ/ doesn’t work this way, because /ʒ/ appears only in unassimilated borrowings and from palatalization of /zj/.
    Synchronically, /ð/ now appears in these four places:
    1) Initially in function words: thy, thine, this, that, though but not thigh, thin, thaw, thatch, thought. Although is historically all though and has /ð/ also.
    2) Intervocalically in native words: either, lather, brother but not ether, anther, lethargy. Note that a preceding or following /r/ leaves the context still intervocalic for this purpose: worthy, brethren. There are occasional analogical /ð/ borrowings like zither < G Zither < OHG zitara < L, G kithara, where the source language doesn’t even have /ð/.
    3) Finally in native words where final -e has been lost: breathe, bathe, clothe but not breath, bath, cloth. In some cases, like mouth v., the -e has disappeared from the spelling. Note that words with final /ð/ still count as final even when inflectional endings are added.
    4) Before /m/ in the words rhythm, logarithm, algorithm, and formerly also asthma, nowadays usually /æzmə/.
    In RP and Southern English dialects generally there are certain nouns in -th that end in /θ/ in the singular but /ðz/ in the plural: bath, mouth, truth, wreath, oath, sheath, and a few others. Most other dialects do not have this alternation; I don’t know whether it’s a relic or an innovation.
    The pronunciation of with is variable: I myself use /ð/ where a vowel follows, otherwise not.
    So Athel(stan) has /ð/ because of the intervocalic voicing rule, but people who haven’t seen it before will be likely to use /θ/ instead, simply because of its novelty.

  15. Thanks, JC.
    Somehow I did not learn the rule for voicing final th before the plural suffix, and I was surprised when I first heard people saying baths, mouths, etc with voiced fricatives.

  16. In Australia ‘asthma’ is usually pronounced /æsmə/.

  17. I voice those -ths myself. I believe there are a fair number of other American speakers for whom bath and path rhyme but baths (/θs/) and paths (/ðz/) do not, so it must be one of the last to go for some reason.

  18. marie-lucie says

    In Australia ‘asthma’ is usually pronounced /æsmə/.
    In Canada too. Does anyone pronounce the th?

  19. The OED still lists /æsθmə/ as the first pronunciation, but that’s unmodified 1888 text. (This page lists which volumes of the OED were published when.) When OED3 reaches the word, I’m sure they’ll change it to /æsmə/ for BrE, /æzmə/ for AmE.

  20. It’s actually unmodified 1885 (or earlier) text. There’s a better summary on page x of the Compact Edition, giving the publication date of each fascicle:
    A-Ant                January 1884
    Anta-Battening   November 1885
    and so on. I should really put it online for the benefit of mankind at large.

  21. Well, actually, in addition to the change in pronunciation key (sure, modification by a program doesn’t count), the attrib. asthma herb wasn’t in NED, apparently.

  22. I wonder if the problem with ‘asthma’ is the sequence of two fricatives in the coda. I think this is relatively rare in English
    I have trouble pronouncing ‘aesthetic’ or ‘prosthesis’ without a pause between the fricatives. But, these are separated by a syllable boundary, and each have recognizable morphemes (-thetic, -thesis) that may militate against deletion.

  23. marie-lucie, Etheldreda had the works, being properly Æðelþryð, Abbess of Ely. The modern version of the name, as I’m sure all Hatters know, is Audrey. It’s a fine Jungian coincidence that Æðelþryð Hepburn starred in The Nun’s Story.

  24. marie-lucie says

    Z: Æðelþryð: quite a mouthful!
    I remember reading something about Audrey being the modern version of Etheldreda, but I had forgotten. Perhaps “Sister Mary Audrey” would have sounded too modern.
    GW, is prosthesis analyzable (in Greek) as “pros-thesis” or rather “pro-sthesis”?

  25. marie-lucie says

    asthma : actually, in Canada it is a[z]ma not a[s]ma.

  26. aquilluqaaq says

    GW: I have trouble pronouncing ‘aesthetic’ or ‘prosthesis’ without a pause between the fricatives. But, these are separated by a syllable boundary, and each have recognizable morphemes (-thetic, -thesis) that may militate against deletion.
    m.-l.: is prosthesis analyzable (in Greek) as “pros-thesis” or rather “pro-sthesis”?
    πρόσθεσις is definitely to be analyzed as πρός-θεσις, i.e. ‘ap-plication’ or ‘at-tachment’.
    αἴσθησις, on the other hand, has nothing whatsoever to do with τίθημι or θεσις, and is analyzed as αἴσθ-ησις, in which the morphological and syllabic boundary comes after the -σθ- combination.

  27. marie-lucie says

    Good to know, aquilluqaaq.

  28. Hat: Were no revisions made between fascicle publication and final publication of an OED1 volume? I thought they did a bit of patching here and there.
    I’m sure you’re right 99% of the time, though, and particularly because the fascicle introductions you posted about in 2009 seem no longer to be on line.

  29. aquilluqaaq: Thanks for the information.
    Most English speakers, including me, know very little Greek. So, it is possible, that we could analyze Greek loans differently.
    I think we often recognize morphemes while having no knowledge of what they are. As a Latinate example: re-ceive, de-ceive, con-ceive, etc. can be analyzed with no clue as to what ‘ceive’ is.

  30. After learning some Greek I had an odd feeling of satisfaction when I realized it was helico-pter and not heli-copter.

  31. the fascicle introductions you posted about in 2009 seem no longer to be on line.
    Well, hell, that’s too bad. I’ll ask them if they’re planning to repost them; I can’t imagine why they would not want them online.

  32. God damn it, they’ve shut down their e-mail address. What the hell, OED? Between them and the NYT firing Zimmer, I’m starting to think this is not my beautiful future.

  33. The NYT firing Zimmer?

  34. LH “Between them and the NYT firing Zimmer . . .”
    Are you announcing this? It hasn’t yet made it to his website or Wikipedia article.

  35. Apparently the new email addresses for “content comments” are oxfordonline at oup.com for North and South America and oed.uk at oup.com for everywhere else. In either case, the subject line should be “OED Content Comment”.
    In addition, this page is currently a placeholder, but eventually it will be a structured form for providing new proposed entries, feedback on existing ones, and so on.

  36. Crap, that’s an internal link and won’t work for you. This one should.

  37. Thanks!

  38. David Marjanović says


    Audrey is Edeltraut? Will wonders never cease.

  39. [Doing that thing where a long-dead thread gets revived and you respond to some part of the discussion other than the one that prompted the revival,] I used to pronounce esthetic, prosthesis and related words with /t/ until sometime in high school, when I decided to use /θ/ instead. I think it may be pretty common.

  40. January First-of-May says

    Weirdly, the Russian for prosthesis – at least in the “artificial body part” sense – seems to be протез, which doesn’t really make sense (a modern-ish learned loan from Greek [or from English, for that matter] would probably have been простезис, while a theoretical inherited OCS loan would presumably have given something like **просфес).

    Wiktionary says the missing s disappeared in Latin, and the rest of the weirdness is because the Russian word came from French (and not from Greek directly).

    (The other meaning of prosthesis, the linguistic one, is apparently протеза in Russian, which… doesn’t really make that much sense either.)

  41. David Marjanović says

    “Artificial body part” in German: Prothese. Don’t know about the linguistic sense.

  42. When have you last seen a philologist pass up a chance to demonstrate superior knowledge of Classical Greek?

  43. Doing that thing where a long-dead thread gets revived

    That is not dead which can eternal lie.

  44. And with strange aeons, even threads may die.

  45. And with strange aeons, even threads may die.
    That must be strange aeons indeed, if a thread here would die… 🙂

  46. “Don’t explain the joke.”

  47. David Marjanović says

    “The one who has the last laugh hasn’t understood the joke.”

  48. “He who laughs last is supposed to laugh best / So why am I cryin’ today?” —Freda Payne

  49. David Marjanović says

    In this video you can marvel at an unreduced asthma at 2:03 – though it sounds rather artificial, almost with four syllables: [æs̩θ̩mʌ] – and at progressive fortition (this [f]ideo) at 8:53.

  50. Also (just before asthma) contributing with the stress on the first syllable — is that a thing? Edit: Ah, yes, I see it’s a UK thing. How have I never known that?

  51. Cóntribute, like altérnate (adj.) and cómposite, was one of the ones that surprised me long after I thought I had a very good grasp of standard British pronunciation.

  52. David Marjanović says

    …You say compósite in America?

  53. What about contróversy?

  54. …You say compósite in America?

    We do indeed, and I’ve never heard it any other way — I seem to have the same surprise quotient as Lazar.

    What about contróversy?

    We use initial stress, but that one I was aware of.

  55. Think, in this batter’d Caravanserai
    Whose Portals are alternate Night and Day,
    How Sultan after Sultan with his Pomp
    Abode his destined Hour, and went his way.

  56. You say compósite in America?

    Because I have mainly talked about modern aerospace materials with Americans, and about mathematics with Brits, I find I say “carbon compósite” but “cómposite numbers”.

  57. Ha, very interesting!

  58. Contróversy is one of those strange pronunciations which the Brits blame the Yanks for, even though it is unknown in America.

  59. Wait, I’ve seen Æðelþryð written as Etheldreda and Aedelthryd, but how is it actually pronounced? It looks like it would be something like Ethelthruth? But that seems odd.

  60. The Old English were an odd people.

  61. John Cowan says

    Anna: The letter Æ was pronounced like the vowel of TRAP, the letters þ and ð like th, and the letter y like French u or German ü; the vowel of FLEECE is a fair approximation (and what it changed into later). The rest is pronounced as spelled. Etheldreda was a Latin approximation; Aedelthryd is what happens when you don’t have proper Old English letters.

    Hat: Please update my Kipling link to ðis. Unfortunately, most of the further links are broken now.

  62. Done. And thanks for a more responsive response to Anna.

  63. John Cowan says

    I think we often recognize morphemes while having no knowledge of what they are. As a Latinate example: re-ceive, de-ceive, con-ceive, etc. can be analyzed with no clue as to what ‘ceive’ is.

    An even stronger example is in-fest, mani-fest, where -fest < Latin -festus, whose meaning is not known; there are also Latin festinus ‘swift’ and confestim ‘immediately’.

  64. PlasticPaddy says

    Re your festus words, I thought maybe these were derived from fateor “show”. But I cannot find any reference. Are there even any fessus/festus pairs? Re Aethelthryth, this sort of name survives as Gertrude, I think I also knew a German Waltraud…

  65. I knew an Adeltraud (normally known as Traudl) which I think is the exact equivalent

  66. David Marjanović says

    Interesting – I’ve never encountered this form, only Edeltraud.

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