Dave Wilton dave at WILTON.NET
Thu Feb 11 23:45:32 UTC 2010

My paleography working group met today and I put the question of the
medieval ff to them. One member said he had found it in a late-16th century
MS of the Chester mystery plays (I can get an exact cite if anyone cares).
So if you are using a generous definition of "middle ages" it could fall
within that category. It seems the practice began in the very late middle
ages or early early-modern period.

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of
Amy West
Sent: Wednesday, February 10, 2010 6:32 AM
Subject: Re: ffolliott

Our understandings of so many medieval things has changed so much
since the 1800s that many of their conclusions are suspect. Beowulf
was earlier read as history, for example. And there are
misinterpretations of physical objects -- the terms "chain mail,"
"ring mail," "scale mail," and "plate mail" are all constructs from
that period that don't relate to the actual objects (mail is often
constructed as a mesh, not as a series of chains; mail is only made
from rings so "ring mail" is redundant and "scale mail" and "plate
mail" are contradictions).

More to the topic at hand, that's a very interesting transcription
example. I wonder if what is going on is an attempt to distinguish
initial f from long-s. In MSs long-s was usually used only internally
and terminally, but I've seen it used initially in two printed
fencing manuals from the late 1700s (Angelo and Lonnergan). I wonder
if the 1800s transcriptions are trying to respond to the confusion.

Again, as David Wilton put it, as with so many topics, I know just
enough to be dangerous.

>Date:    Tue, 9 Feb 2010 20:53:58 -0500
>From:    "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
>Subject: Re: ffolliott
>I don't know about medieval, but I would tend to trust a "keeper of
>the manuscript department of the British Museum".  While admittedly
>the claim is a century old (1893), it still is long enough after
>medievality to think that she had the data.

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