Tuesday, October 29, 2013



Genealogy tip for today: Handwriting

Handwriting of the past can be difficult to read for a number of reasons. Faded, poor quality/condition of the document or its copy, age, even the time period in which it was written. I found a website which talks about the double “s” and how it is handled today. Following is an article that was written describing the rules for it:

I’ve occasionally thought about writing a post on the “long s” of eighteenth-century (and earlier) typography. That’s the lowercase character ſ (or ſ when italicized). To unfamiliar eyes, it looks so like an f that many people, and O.C.R. programs, think people actually spelled with extra fs and try to transcribe words that way.

Andrew West at Babelstone has created a comprehensive guide to the use of the long s, not just in English over time but also in other European languages. Furthermore, in some periods English printers also followed exceptional rules for ſ based on what letters it came before or after.

Here are West’s simple rules for English:

  • short s is used at the end of a word (e.g. hiscomplainsſucceſs)
  • short s is used before an apostrophe (e.g. clos’dus’d)
  • short s is used before the letter f (e.g. ſatisfactionmisfortunetransfuſetransfixtransferſucceſsful)
  • short s is used after the letter f (e.g. offset), although not if the word is hyphenated (e.g. off-ſet) [see Short S before and after F for details]
  • short s is used before the letter b in books published during the 17th century and the first half of the 18th century (e.g. husbandShaftsbury), but long s is used in books published during the second half of the 18th century (e.g. huſbandShaftſbury) [see Short S before B and K for details]
  • short s is used before the letter k in books published during the 17th century and the first half of the 18th century (e.g. skinask, risk, masked), but long s is used in books published during the second half of the 18th century (e.g. ſkinaſkriſkmaſked) [see Short S before B and K for details]
  • Compound words with the first element ending in double s and the second element beginning with s are normally and correctly written with a dividing hyphen (e.g. Croſs-ſtitchCroſs-ſtaff), but very occasionally may be written as a single word, in which case the middle letter s is written short (e.g. Croſsſtitchcroſsſtaff).
  • long s is used initially and medially except for the exceptions noted above (e.g. ſonguſepreſsſubſtitute)
  • long s is used before a hyphen at a line break (e.g. neceſ-ſarypleaſ-ed), even when it would normally be a short s (e.g. Shaftſ-bury and huſ-band in a book where Shaftsbury and husband are normal), although exceptions do occur (e.g. Mans-field)
  • double s is normally written as double long s medially and as long s followed by short s finally (e.g. poſſeſspoſſeſſion), although in some late 18th and early 19th century books a different rule is applied, reflecting contemporary usage in handwriting, in which long s is used exclusively before short s medially and finally [see Rules for Long S in some late 18th and early 19th century books for details]
  • short s is used before a hyphen in compound words with the first element ending in the letter s (e.g. croſs-piececroſs-examinationPreſs-workbird’s-neſt)
  • long s is maintained in abbreviations such as ſ. for ſubſtantive, and Geneſ. for Geneſis (this rule means that it is practically impossible to implement fully correct automatic contextual substitution of long s at the font level)

Imagine being a printer’s apprentice trying to keep that all straight! No wonder the character was phased out around 1800.

(Hat tip to John Overholt about that Babelstone page.)




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Sir Walter Raleigh is executed. After the death of Queen Elizabeth, Raleigh's enemies spread rumors that he was opposed the accession of King James.
Mozart's opera Don Giovanni opens in Prague.
The Demologos, the first steam-powered warship, launched in New York City.
Leon Czolgosz is electrocuted for the assassination of US President William McKinley. Czolgosz, an anarchist, shot McKinley on September 6 during a public reception at the Temple of Music in Buffalo, N.Y. Despite early hopes of recovery, McKinley died September 14, in Buffalo, NY.
Russian archaeologist Peter Kozloff apparently uncovers the tomb of Genghis Khan in the Gobi Desert, a claim still in dispute.
Black Tuesday–the most catastrophic day in stock market history, the herald of the Great Depression. 16 million shares were sold at declining prices. By mid-November $30 billion of the $80 billion worth of stocks listed in September will have been wiped out.
The first ball-point pen goes is sold by Gimbell's department store in New York for a price of $12.
Alonzo G. Moron of the Virgin Islands becomes the first African-American president of Hampton Institute, Hampton, Virginia.
French forces launch Operation Lorraine against Viet Minh supply bases in Indochina.
Thieves steal a jewel collection–including the world's largest sapphire, the 565-carat "Star of India," and the 100-carat DeLong ruby–from the Museum of Natural History in New York. The thieves were caught and most of the jewels recovered.
The U.S. Supreme Court orders immediate desegregation, superseding the previous "with all deliberate speed" ruling.
First computer-to-computer link; the link is accomplished through ARPANET, forerunner of the Internet.
Palestinian guerrillas kill an airport employee and hijack a plane, carrying 27 passengers, to Cuba. They force West Germany to release 3 terrorists who were involved in the Munich Massacre.
More than 500,000 people protest in The Hague, The Netherlands, against cruise missiles.
The last stretch of Britain's M25 motorway opens.
South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission reports condemns both sides on the Apartheid issue for committing atrocities.
John Glenn, at age 77, becomes the oldest person to go into outer space. He is part of the crew of Space Shuttle Discovery, STS-95.
The deadliest Atlantic hurricane on record up to that time, Hurricane Mitch, makes landfall in Honduras (in 2005 Hurricane Wilma surpassed it); nearly 11,000 people died and approximately the same number were missing.
For the first time, Osama bin Laden admits direct responsibility for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the US; his comments are part of a video broadcast by the Al Jazeera network.
Delta and Northwest airlines merge, forming the world's largest airline.
Hurricane Sandy devastates much of the East Coast of the US; nearly 300 die directly or indirectly from the storm.


Jean Giraudoux, French dramatist, novelist and diplomat, famous for his book Tiger at the Gates.
Fanny Brice, comedian, singer and actress.
Joseph G. Göbbels, German Nazi Propaganda Minister who committed suicide in Hitler's bunker.
Henry Green, novelist (Living, Party Going).
A. J. Ayer, English philosopher.
Bill Maudlin, American cartoonist whose GI characters "Willie" and "Joe" appeared in Stars and Stripes newspapers during World War II.
Ralph Bakshi, Palestinian-American director of live films and animated full-length films for adults including 1972's Fritz the Cat (first animated film to be rated X by the Motion Picture Association of America), Wizards (1977) and The Lord of the Rings (1978).
Don Simpson, film producer, screenwriter, actor; (co-producer Flashdance, 1985; Top Gun, 1986).
Melba Moore, disco and R&B singer, actress ("You Stepped into My Life," "Lean on Me").
Peter Green, guitarist, songwriter, founder of the band Fleetwood Mac; regarded as one of the greatest guitarists of all time.
Richard Dreyfuss, actor (American Graffiti, Jaws; won Academy Award for Best Actor for 1977's The Goodbye Girl).
Kate Jackson, actress, director, producer (original Charlie's Angels TV series, Scarecrow and Mrs. King TV series).
Lee Child, author; creator of the Jack Reacher novel series.
David Remnick, journals, author, magazine editor (The New Yorker); won Pulitzer Prize for Lenin's Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire (1994).
Winona Ryder, actress, producer (Beetlejuice; Girl, Interrupted).








noun: A habitual faultfinder or complainer.



After Smelfungus, a hypercritical character in Laurence Sterne's 1768 novel, A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy. Earliest documented use: 1807.



Novelist Laurence Sterne modeled his character Smelfungus after traveler and author Tobias Smollett who complained about almost everything in his 1766 travel book Travels through France and Italy. Here's how Sterne describes Smelfungus:
"The learned Smelfungus travelled from Boulogne to Paris, from Paris to Rome, and so on; but he set out with the spleen and jaundice, and every object he pass'd by was discoloured or distorted. He wrote an account of them, but 'twas nothing but the account of his miserable feelings."



"And a couple of smellfungus from the Official Paper ... carped that Issel chose to jump when the schedule reached its toughest stretch."
Paige Woody; Issel is the Wrong Scapegoat in Nuggets' Mess; Denver Post; Feb 13, 1995.



What we hope ever to do with ease, we must learn first to do with diligence. -Samuel Johnson, lexicographer (1709-1784)



Today’s Recipe

Treats, No Tricks!



  • 1 (6-ounce) package lime gelatin
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 3 cups chilled pineapple juice
  • 1 (2 liter) bottle chilled lemon-lime soft drink or ginger ale


Special equipment:

  • 1 large black plastic cauldron (available at party or craft stores)
  • 1 punch bowl that fits inside the cauldron
  • 1 plastic hand (available at party supply stores), sterilized in hot water
  • 1 block dry ice (available at supermarkets, ice cream shops or ice companies)


Pour the gelatin mix into a large bowl. Slowly stir in the boiling water. Stir at least 2 minutes, until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Stir in the pineapple juice. Let cool to room temperature.

Wearing heavy duty gloves or using tongs, place the block of dry ice in the bottom of the cauldron. (Dry ice will burn skin, so handle it with gloves and tongs and keep it away from kids and pets!)

Use an ice pick to break the block into smaller chunks, if necessary.

Fill the cauldron with just enough water to cover the dry ice. It will begin to "steam."

Place the punch bowl inside the cauldron, on top of the dry ice. The cauldron will appear to be magically smoking.

Entrap the sterilized rubber hand between the cauldron and the punch bowl, squeezing it tight so the hand appears to be reaching out of the mist for help. Hot-glue the hand to the cauldron, if necessary, to hold it in place.

Carefully pour the drink mixture into the punch bowl. Slowly add the lemon-lime soda or ginger ale. Stir gently to mix.





Now You Know!