This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Nuts and Bolts: yogh.

Poor yogh! It's been completely excluded from the party that is the English language. 

It has, though, like a wicked fairy, exacted a fine revenge by leaving a great mass of confusion and bewilderment in its wake.

Yogh was a letter of the alphabet which looked like this: Ȝ, or this: ȝ, and it was widely used in Middle English and Middle Scots.

It was banished for a mixture of reasons. Firstly, it shared sounds with other letters (y, ng, k, g); secondly, it wasn't available in most printing fonts; and, thirdly, the Normans were, frankly, too racist to use a letter which wasn't deemed necessary in good old Norman French (they tended to use gh instead)*.

But poor yogh's disappearance has left us with the nightmare of words like - well, nightmare. That gh should really be a yogh, and night should really be pronounced more or less nixt (some Scottish pronunciations are still close to this).

Those awkward ough words would make a lot more sense with a nice yogh in them, wouldn't they.

We also have Scottish names like Dalziel (pronounced deeyell) and Menzies (mingis) where poor yogh has been replaced by a z, to everyone's confusion.

Nuts and Bolts: yogh. This letter might be named after the 14th century word yok, which means yoke (as in cattle, milkmaids etc) because of its shape.

*Two yoghs go into a Norman bar. 'Oi, get out!' says the barman. 'We don't want your type in here.'

All right, all right, please yourselves...

1 comment:

  1. Love the joke! And never heard of a yogh which is short for yoghurt in this house! You are a never-ending source of fascinating information!