Magic Quotations (UNCLASSIFIED)

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Wed Aug 11 14:52:19 UTC 2010

It's called the "long s", and has been discussed here.

"At 12/12/2006 01:52 PM, Charles Doyle wrote:
>I notice that the little transcribed snippets shown by Microsoft
>Books give "f" for the old long-s.  Makes one wonder . . . .
And hope for some succor.  (Stolen from an episode of "The Vicar of
Dibley", which ends just before the unaware female assistant is to
read from an 18th century missal a passage containing that word.)

Even the dimmest-witted OCR should know the difference, because in a "f" (in type, anyway) the little cross-piece appears on both sides of the upright, whereas in the "long s" it sticks out only from the right side.
I dimly recall that the "long s" is only used in certain environments and never in others.  It seems never to appear at the end of a word, for instance (never "catf and dogf".)  When 2 "s"s appear in the middle of the word, I believe the first will be a "long s", the second a standard s (for instance, "tofsed").
Most of my reading is in the post-"long s" era; Joel should have a better sense of these patterns.

Pass this on to Mr. Google.

My apologies for using a "f" to represent the "long s" in my examples.


George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much lately.

----- Original Message -----
From: Garson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM>
Date: Wednesday, August 11, 2010 1:21 am
Subject: Re: Magic Quotations (UNCLASSIFIED)

>  Mark Mandel said:
> >
> > But "flight of hand" seems (to me at least) to deliberately evoke "sleight
> > of hand".
> Excellent point. In fact, I likely misread the text. The word "flight"
> might be "slight" because the "f" might be an "s". Further, "slight"
> might correspond to the modern sleight. OED has examples with the
> spelling "slight" for "sleight":
> 1652 URQUHART Jewel Wks. (1834) 212 Who by hook and crook,..slight and
> might, having feathered their neste to some purpose.
> Google OCR is confusing "s" & "f", a well-known problem for OCR
> systems  Here is an example from a 1775 text. Searching for "flight of
> hand" yields a match to the phrase within the definitions below where
> "slight of hand" is probably correct:
> 1775, The Royal English dictionary: or, A treasury of the English language
> JUGGLE, S. a trick performed by slight of hand; an imposture, fraud,
> or deception
> JUGGLER, S. [from juggle,] one who practises slight of hand, or
> performs tricks by nimble conveyance; a cheat or imposture.
> Garson
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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