Category Archives: oti

From the Pentateuch to the Pizza Parlor

Tonight I am reading an article by TMS professor Dr. Michael Grisanti in The Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society.

In this article he makes reference to the development of the Hebrew language over the course of the thousand-some years of OT compositional history. As an example of evolution in language, Grisanti includes a poem written in English over 400 years ago:

Svmer is icumen in,
Lhude sing cuccu!
Groweþ sed and bloweþ med
And springþ þe wde nu,
Sing cuccu!
Awe bleteþ after lomb,
Lhouþ after calue cu.
Bulluc sterteþ, bucke uerteþ,
Murie sing cuccu!
Cuccu, cuccu, wel singes þu, cuccu;
Ne swik þu nauer nu.
Sing cuccu nu. Sing cuccu.
Sing cuccu. Sing cuccu nu!

I was curious about this character “þ” and googled it. Turns out it sounds like our “th” (this much I had guessed), and the letter is called a “thorn”.

The Wikipedia article listed several abbreviations used in Middle English that incorporated the thorn; for example, the thorn with a superscript “t” means “that”, and the thorn with a superscript “e” means “the”.

Over the course of time, the thorn gradually became indistinguishable from the letter “Y”, and still shows up today in examples like this sign which should actually be read as “The Olde Pizza Parlor”.

Suddenly it all makes sense! I always figured the pizza guy was guilty of bad grammar, using a nominative pronoun where he should have used a possessive pronoun. Turns out he was only guilty of cheesy decor! (Well, maybe still bad grammar.)

I realize this may not be new to some of my career linguist readers, or my classically educated readers, but I am now a much better informed pizza lover.

Уe things I learn in seminary!