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One of the books I've been studying lately when I have an otherwise unoccupied moment at work is The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser. Besides giving me a better grasp of English history and the circumstances of the birth of the Church of England, a wider perspective on the lives of all six unfortunate ladies, and yielding up such nuggets of historical delight as the French king's delighted comment on hearing about Katherine Howard's scandalous multiple affairs ("She hath done wondrous naughty!"), it has also made me feel much better about modern English spelling, as opposed to its older and highly mercurial ancestor(s).

Just a few examples: The highly educated Catherine of Aragon writes to her husband, "In this your grace shal fee you I can kepe my promys fending you for your baners a king cote." The wondrous naughty Katherine Howard writes to her lover, "I wode you war wythe me now that you mouthe se wat pane I take yn wryteg to you." In a contemporary miniature portrait, Henry Fitzroy the Duke of Richmond is identified as HENRY DVCK OFF RICHEMOD.

I may not have any good excuse to my students for why 'knight' isn't pronounced kuh-niggit, or what on earth is up with our pluralizations...but at least in this modern day and age, men are not (usually) mistaken on paper for waterfowl. ♥
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tobu_ishi

December 2011

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