I've spent the last week or so with a cold that wouldn't go away. Monday I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with rhino-sinusitis. A nose and sinus infection, in other words. After three days of antibiotics, I'm better and ready to face the Illinois State students in their weekly exodus from Normal, Illinois. (At ISU the weekend seems to start on Thursday evening.) So, here are a few random facts and factoids:
I knew this already, but Michael D.C. Drout, in his course on CD, "A Way With Words III: Understanding grammar for Powerful Communication," reminded me of it. English used to have an additional two letters in its alphabet, for sounds we now write as th: the thorn (þ) and eth (ð). As the language changed, thorn was often written to look like the letter y. And after printing was invented, the type fonts imported from Italy or Germany had no thorn, so Y was the accepted substitute. Thus, "Ye Olde Tavern" is, in fact, "The Olde Tavern."
Also from Drout: A writing style popular in the Middle Ages made it difficult to distinguish the letter u from v or w, especially when written next to m or n. So scribes began to use the letter o in such words. Thus we have such words as money, honey, come, wonder, and love. Drout remarks that the cutesy way to spell love, "luv," was once the way it was spelled.
One more bit of wisdom from Drout: When I was a kid, I remember wondering why Captain Kangaroo mispronounced the word, "why" as "Y." I found out he really wasn't. As a guy from Babylon, New York, the Captain, Bob Keeshan, was saying it correctly. In the upper Midwest, we've held on to the earlier, aspirated pronunciation of "wh" as "hw."
President Barack Obama gave a wonderful speech Tuesday night, but his fact-checkers missed his line about the country that invented the automobile. That was Germany, not the United States.
The Moody Minstrel has a wonderful post about Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture."
Gerry Rafferty, (1978 hit, "Baker Street"), who last August mysteriously disappeared from St. Thomas' Hospital in London, where he was being treated for a chronic liver condition, is apparently alive and well and living in Tuscany. I've noticed that his songs are being played more often on oldies radio stations. Maybe we can locate Christina "Licorice" McKechnie of the Incredible String Band, who's been missing since 1990. The ISB deserves some airplay. If you're out there, Licorice, I named the heroine of my work in progress (Helena McKechnie) at least partially after you. She's got your soft, sweet voice.
Finally, Peter of slow reads is, as usual, giving up blogging for Lent. This time he's announced it with a sonnet. I'll miss his posts. But his last few posts are worth reading and rereading. His blog is certainly worth revisiting during the next forty days.