Th is for Ye

Ye old. Ye olde. Ye Olde Curiosity Shop. Olde is an affected way to make the word old look old. Olde looks old but it’s really not.

Why add the E to the end of old? An E on the end of an Old English word makes it subjunctive: it might be old, maybe it’s old. Or it makes the word a plural adjective. Multiples of old. Olds. Old squared.

Ye Olds Curiosity Shop. In Old English “ye” which looked like “ðe” (there was no Y in Old English) used to be strictly nominative plural. Y’all with me? Then it morphed to personal pronoun: second person dative singular. To you. I say this to you, Olds Curiosity shop. Old2 Curiosity Shop, this is for you.

And. Also. Sometimes “ye” is a conjunction. You’d find it in pairs spelled with one of the letters that became g: Ȝ ȝ or Ᵹ ᵹ. Thats an upper and lower case yogh (sounds like it looks but with a K type sound at the end. Bach) and upper and lower case insular G which is older and sounds a little like the G in giant, but more toward what the word measure does in its middle. Measure the giant. Don’t try to measure a giant, it will eat you. These letters are obsolete now, like the giant. Y’all might find them on the shelves of the And Olds curiosity shop. Also Old2 Curiosity Shop. Go look. It’s in Seattle and it’s delightful. When you get there, say hi to McGinty from me, he’s from my home town.

Why is that Ye there when it makes no sense? Well, it does make some sense when you know that the Y is not actually a Y. It’s a thorn. One of these: Þ. Th. The Old2 Curiosity Shop. You are supposed to see the Y and gestalt it closed on the top, picture the left side more straight. See it as the letter thorn, hear it like a th. Where did the thorn go? Thorn died in the 1400’s, long after Old English was a thing. The printing press killed thorn off for good. It just wasn’t a letter many English printers had, given that the printing press had been developed in Germany where the thorn was not in use, but they had Y so they made it work. Þe became Ye and everybody just understood what it was really supposed to be: the not ye.

Ye Olde didn’t happen for shop names until the 1890’s, nearly 400 years after printers came up with their workaround for thorn. This was around the time when Seattle’s own Ye Olde Curiosity Shop first opened its doors, which relatively speaking was yesterday. Things were starting to get really really new in the 1890’s and too fast. Steam engines and other inventions of the industrial age were changing everything quickly, speeding everything up, and making everybody feel things were moving uncomfortably fast. People got nostalgic for ye olde places and ways. Remember the past? It didn’t happen. But that never stops us from making one up as a convenient workaround to be used as needed.