This is a scoping question. I'd like to ask a question that initially seems like something more suitable for ELU, but is really about the history of printing.

Specifically, whether/how early printers (specifically German) contributed to English abandoning the letter thorn (Þ) for voiced and unvoiced th: Initially replaced with y, (thus we get ye olde Historie Stack) and eventually with just th. I also want to ask about whether early English printers might have cast their own type (e.g. thorn blocks).

Is such a question appropriate here? If not, what's your best guess for whether it's better for ELU, or somewhere else?

  • 3
    I like it, FWIW. I'm not sure how ELU would feel about it.
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Commented Dec 10, 2020 at 21:07
  • The Wikipedia article implies, that other than for the words 'the' (þe) and 'that' (þt), the letter was not often used. It then states: One major reason for this was that Y existed in the printer's type fonts that were imported from Germany or Italy, while Þ did not. The 1879 book on pages 47 and 48 also states that the printers often weren't English and simply replaced the unknown letter. Changes In The English Language: Between The Publication Of Wiclif's Bible And That Of The Authorised Version. A.d. 1400 To A.d. 1600 Commented Dec 11, 2020 at 7:52
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    @MarkJohnson Something that can be addressed when/if the actual question is posted.
    – Spencer
    Commented Dec 11, 2020 at 12:36
  • Did the proposed question ever get asked? If so, an answer here with a link to it here would be nice. Commented Oct 3, 2021 at 13:19
  • @RayButterworth As so often happens, the question answered itself (as much as it could) during research.
    – Spencer
    Commented Oct 3, 2021 at 13:32
  • @Spencer, if you mean Mark Johnson's comment, remember that comments can disappear without notice at any time. Commented Oct 3, 2021 at 13:39
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    @RayButterworth Much more than that comment. Anyway, the fact that Mark answered a question that hadn't been asked yet in a comment indicates that he thinks it's trivial. So the problem becomes formulating a question that won't be closed as such
    – Spencer
    Commented Oct 3, 2021 at 14:05

1 Answer 1


This looks like it touches on cultural and miscellaneous historical issues in addition to the purely linguistic ones - and thus seems like a good fit for this site.

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