Date: Fri, 3 Dec 1993 22:47:48 EST From: Robert Kelly Subject: Re: Eth and thorn - why did they vanish? one problem: the Y as grapheme equivalent of thorn lasted only in words where eth was the sound wanted: Ye Olde Teashoppe, etc. As an earlier respondent noted, in Middle English texts these letters are (I think) hope- lessly interchangeable. Recall that thorn was still "productive" (as it still is, i.e., show someone a made-up word with th- in it and they'll pronounce it with a theta) and eth restricted to a very small lexicon, mostly deictic words. I'm guessing that the obsolescence of the sound eth made the graphemic distinction less important. Then too, the snazzy new typefaces coming in from Italy in the Renaissance had no eths and thorns, and we all wanted to look like Aldus in those days. (Personally, I miss the yog letter, looked like 3 you remember, and lingers as the z in Mackenzie and Dalziell, as the gh in laugh, the w in law, etc. A good sound we have to cross the Channel to Holland to hear still. Even the Scots have lost it! rk.