Trying to read old texts has its dangers, and one of these dangers are assumptions that stem from a modern perspective. For instance, there are letters in the English alphabet that has dropped out of use, and are no longer included – such as the long S.

Kings_Proclamation_1775_08_23The long S was in common use in English and in other Germanic languages such as Swedish and German up until the 18th century. By the end of the 19th century the letter had disappeared from the alphabet entirely, although there are bound to have been printers that held on to the letter until the very bitter end.

So, when a modern mind tries to read a text like the proclamation of rebellion and sedition that I have included in this post, it wants to read the long S as an F. Which can have its comedic value, I suppose. ‘Misled’ becomes ‘miffled’. ‘Suppressing’ becomes ‘Fupreffing’.

Reading the proclamation with modern eyes reads like it was written my a person that lisped in writing, and who couldn’t help writing it in some form of slang.

I’m not sure that his august Majesty the mad King George III wanted proclamations to be utterances of 17th or 18th century ghetto speak. I’m also quite certain that the colonists that the proclamation was aimed at weren’t merely ‘miffled’. I think they felt their cause was stronger than that. While they wanted to remain Englishmen, good old George kicked the chair from under them with this proclamation, and that lead – of course – to the loss of the colonies for the Crown.

I find it absolutely fascinating that there are parts, letters, and methods in English – like the dieresis and the Long S – that have just fallen away, forgotten. It certainly makes things a lot more complicated nowadays when you try to read things that used those letters, techniques and methods.

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