Thursday, January 20, 2011

Take That!

This fall I looked at a folio reproduction of The Domesday Book, thinking that, since I can read Latin fairly well, at last I can read things like The Domesday Book. And then, I opened the page and found that, although it was indeed written in Latin, it was written in Latin shorthand, which, alas, I cannot read. Some day I will, but not today.
I noticed a lightening bolt mark over many abbreviations that looked like Harry Potter's scar. Would it not be a hoot if this is where Rowling got the lightning bolt from rather than from runes? I do not know what this mark represents but I do know what all those 7's that I saw were: the Tironian shorthand for 'and'. Tiro, Cicero's slave and secretary, did not invent the ampersand, that is the '&'. Using '7' for 'and' was not a problem in Roman times since they wrote seven like this 'VII'.
I am familiar with one other bit of Latin shorthand, although until recently I did not know it was a Latin abbreviation, and that is 'Rx' for prescription drugs. That R with the slash on the leg that looks like an 'x' stands for 'recipe', which is the imperative form for 'recipio, recipere' and means 'take'. Back in the old days when paper or parchment was expensive and hard to come by, people tried to squeeze as much as they could onto whatever paper they had. Ingredients or directions for medicines always started with the instruction 'take' and so the abbreviation was common on prescriptions since they all started in the same way. As I keep saying: you know more Latin than you think.

4 comments:

Tracy said...

Interesting - and I agree, everyone knows more latin than they think, Greek too, as so many common words are derived from these classical languages.

And who did invent the ampersand?

(and I've always written as though paper is extremely rare and I have my own form of shorthand if I have to write notes or minutes of meetings - illegible doesn't begin to describe my writing)

anachronist said...

Here you can find some Latin abreviations. Who invented ampersand? It is said everywhere that it was Marcus Tullius Tiro.

The Red Witch said...

Even Wiki says the "7" was Tiro's mark. I guess the ampersand has been around in various forms for so long the originator is unknown.

anachronist said...

It seems that "7" and & mean basically the same. From Wiki:

In Old English Manuscripts, the Tironian "et" served as both a sonic and morphological place holder. For instance a Tironian "et" between two words would be phonetically pronounced "ond" and would mean "and". However if the Tironian "et" followed the letter "s", then it would be phonetically pronounced "sond" and mean water (cognate with English sound). This additional function of a phonetic as well as a conjunction place holder has escaped formal Modern English; for example, one may not spell the word "sand" as "s&" (although this occurs in an informal style practised on certain internet forums). However, "&c." for "etc." is still seen in handwriting and books.

See also this sign