Sunday, May 24, 2009


I'd thought I'd use my 501th post (and who'da thunk I'd make 500!!) to explain
those strange little words Jeremiah Swain used in his letters: "vm, vn, vt, vs" and
so on. Part of the explanation lies in transcriptions in the book "Documentary
History of the State of Maine";the rest lies in my transcriptions of those

Now in the edition I used, which is available here on Google Books, the words
such as "vm" or "vy" appear as "ym " or "yy".It took me longer than I care to admit
to puzzle this one out. I believe the spellings are a result of one of two possible
reasons: actual 17th century penmanship or usage of what appears to be the modern
lower case letter "y" for lower case "v", or human error made when the original
transcribers misread a flowery letter "v" for our letter "y". Either way, I eventually
puzzled out that the "ym" in a sentence made sense if translated as the full word
"them", or "yy" as "they", and so on. So I made the decision to change the spellings
to "vm", "vy", "vs", and others to make reading the letters easier.

Another problem was the use of superscript, as in the word "ye" where the letter "e"
is smaller and raised slightly above the line. While I can reproduce that on Word or
Works, I've yet to discover how to do so on Blogger.

Lastly, there's the matter of copying and pasting the whole page to begin with. Most of the
Google Books pages are jpg images and I usually use the "view plain text" tab in the right
hand sidebar to copy the page into Work. This usually leads to some strange changes in
words such as "comand" which became "coiiiand" so I usually compare the text version
to the image version and correct such instances. It did lead to one funny instance where
Jeremiah's address to "Yor Honrs" became "Yor HonTM" as the text converter read the
"rs" as a registered trademark!

Anyway, vt's the story.

And vs concludes my 501th post!


Randy Seaver said...


What you have run into is called the "thorn" which was pronounced with a "th" sound but looks like a lower case v or y.

It is all over colonial documents. The funny thing is that people still say "ye" when it should be "the".


Bill West said...

Aha! So I was right in my assumption of how it was sounded out.

Thanks Randy for the info!