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ff (formerly the Stubbins ffirth thread)

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Barbara-B
826911.  Sun Jun 26, 2011 12:41 pm Reply with quote

The origin of English double small f surnames goes back to the late middle ages it is certainly not a 19th Century transcription error (and yes, I know Brewers Phrase and Fable says this is the case, but it is wrong).

If you think on it a second you'll see just how preposterous this notion is. For this to happened just once it would mean that someone looking up their ancestry, in every example they found of distant ancestors and their extended families in every generation, their family name's initial letter would have had to have used the script (the medieval equivalent of a font) that could be mistaken for a doubled f.

Quite unlikely, now multiply that unlikelyness by every family who uses a double small f and it's easy to see why the claims of the initial double ff being either a transcription error or, as Brewer's puts it "an affectation", are unsustainable.

Double ff surnames originated in the 1400s and Parish records show have been in continuous use since.

How they came into existence is wrapped up with the story of capitalization. There was an increase in literacy in the 15th Century, and people were aware that important passages of text began with a large letter known as a majuscule or versal, so when their names were entered in lists (as witnesses or jurors in court documents for example) people began to insist the scribe put their name on a line to itself beginning with a majuscule, or did so themselves when signatures were needed.

However, at that time there was no appreciable difference between majuscule and minuscule "f"s so persons whose name began with f doubled it as their way initialising their names: examples of forenames such as "ffrancis" can be found in this era.

This practise eventually formalised itself into the two alphabets, capital and lower case, that we use today and capitalisation expanded to all proper names and sentence initial letters (In German orthography nouns are capitalised too).

When the modern capital F was introduced along with Italic writing in the Elizabethan era many of the "ff" families retained their double initial small f; presumably to retain continuity with records such as patents of nobility, land deeds, court rolls, and qualifications etc.

See:
"Reading Tudor and Stuart Handwriting" by L Munby, S Hobbs, & A Crosby [ISBN 1-86077-237-4] page 11, paragraph 6.
and;
"Palaeography for Family and Local Historians" by Hilary Marshall,
[ISBN 978-1-86077-651-9], page 27, paragraph 2.

 
Spud McLaren
826952.  Sun Jun 26, 2011 3:53 pm Reply with quote

Now that's more like it. I'm never a big believer in theories that depend on single obscure instances as their points of origin.

 
Barbara-B
826971.  Sun Jun 26, 2011 4:58 pm Reply with quote

glad to be of service :)

 
Jenny
826981.  Sun Jun 26, 2011 5:20 pm Reply with quote

And interesting too. I hope you stick around, Barbara - I feel your talents may well come in useful when we start working on the J series.

 
sjb
826982.  Sun Jun 26, 2011 5:22 pm Reply with quote

Ditto wot Jenny said! I'm enjoying your posts very much Barbara-B! :)

 
Celebaelin
826985.  Sun Jun 26, 2011 5:26 pm Reply with quote

ff in Welsh is the sound 'f' whereas f signifies a 'v'.

The Tudors were Welsh - did it perhaps become fashionable to use ff in Tudor times?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tudor_dynasty

 
Barbara-B
827007.  Sun Jun 26, 2011 6:48 pm Reply with quote

Guys, you're making me blush - don't stop :-)

@Celebaelin superficially you'd think that might be the case, but these are English language surnames (as used by Scots and Irish English speakers at the time too) and the records show that before the "fashion" for capitalisation came along these families were quite happy with their single f initial.

 
soup
827078.  Mon Jun 27, 2011 5:41 am Reply with quote

Barbara-B wrote:
the records show that before the "fashion" for capitalisation came along these families were quite happy with their single f initial.


But only f?
I can think of no case were a lower case letter starts a surname, apart from the particular case of ff.
Cue lots of examples of surnames beginning with a lower case letter that isn't an f, or ff.

Added bit

There must be lots of letters where the Upper case and lower case letters (especially written) look the same eg Cc Ss Xx Yy Zz Uu Vv Oo

 
Barbara-B
827090.  Mon Jun 27, 2011 7:08 am Reply with quote

soup wrote:
Barbara-B wrote:
the records show that before the "fashion" for capitalisation came along these families were quite happy with their single f initial.


But only f?
I can think of no case were a lower case letter starts a surname, apart from the particular case of ff.
Cue lots of examples of surnames beginning with a lower case letter that isn't an f, or ff.

Added bit

There must be lots of letters where the Upper case and lower case letters (especially written) look the same eg Cc Ss Xx Yy Zz Uu Vv Oo


No, perhaps I've explained it badly. Before the late middle ages nobody's surname began with a capital letter - capital letters did not exist. The letter examples you cite are different, the capitals are ascenders and the lower case are not - very different, and besides that are the modern forms rather than the medieval forms, some of which were quite different from modern forms (English medeival C for example looks more like a danish than a letter to modern eyes) . There was no appreciable difference between majuscule and minuscule "f"s in English language handwriting in that era which is why the "ff" initial letter is unique.

"ff" is a survival from the period of transition between a single minuscule alphabet and dual alphabets with majuscule and minuscule forms of each letter.

Does that clarify the first post?

 
soup
827100.  Mon Jun 27, 2011 7:46 am Reply with quote

Barbara-B wrote:

There was no appreciable difference between majuscule and minuscule "f"s in English language handwriting in that era which is why the "ff" initial letter is unique.

"ff" is a survival from the period of transition between a single minuscule alphabet and dual alphabets with majuscule and minuscule forms of each letter.

Does that clarify the first post?


Not really It still doesn't explain (to me anyway) why only F (or the medieval equivalent) is rendered today as ff why not (say, I do not know if there was a medeval s or how it was written) S as ss etc[1] . There are bound to have been (medieval) letters were the letters looked the same as their dual alphabet majuscule form.
So people whose names began with one of these same looking "replacements" would have written their name with the single miniscule alphabet character repeated rather than move to the double alphabet majascule version.

[1] wasn't a "lower case" s written as an f without the short cross/stroke?
A bit like :-

 
Efros
827148.  Mon Jun 27, 2011 10:06 am Reply with quote

that was the long s, typically like mi∫take

 
Barbara-B
827203.  Mon Jun 27, 2011 11:15 am Reply with quote

@Efros. Indeed, it was a graphic variant, the use of which in any particular script was aesthetic rather than prescribed. In German the letter which has the sound value of /ss/ originates from a long s followed by a short s; ∫ + s = . Another variant, dropped when "arabic numbers" became widespread was ""S-final" which was written as "8".

@soup. I've gotta ask, have you actually read my 1st post in this thread on page two or did you just jump in the middle? Everything you've brought up was dealt with there. As for you finding it hard to believe that f was the only initial letter with this problem, perhaps you're looking at modern script such as this (which is based upon Renaissance "Humanist Hand" which it turn is based upon a combination of "Carolingian Minuscule" and "Trajan Capitals") and trying to apply its visual rules to Tudor era Secretary Hand?

 
soup
827302.  Mon Jun 27, 2011 3:18 pm Reply with quote

Barbara-B wrote:


@soup. I've gotta ask, have you actually read my 1st post in this thread on page two


Yup. the font thing (a capital F looks like two fs ) doesn't grab me either.

Barbara-B wrote:
As for you finding it hard to believe that f was the only initial letter with this problem, perhaps you're looking at modern script such as this (which is based upon Renaissance "Humanist Hand" which it turn is based upon a combination of "Carolingian Minuscule" and "Trajan Capitals") and trying to apply its visual rules to Tudor era Secretary Hand?


Must be. I still find it impossible, not hard, impossible to believe this only happened with f. But then I am no linguist/lexicographer/whatever an expert on medieval scripts are called.

 
Barbara-B
828638.  Sun Jul 03, 2011 10:42 am Reply with quote

Palaeographers, soup, palaeographers.

This sort of thing happens all the time in the organic growth of a natural language writing system.

Does "impossible" mean you do not want to know how this happened to f and not the other letters?

 
soup
828652.  Sun Jul 03, 2011 11:42 am Reply with quote

Barbara-B wrote:
Does "impossible" mean you do not want to know how this happened to f and not the other letters?


No. It means I find it impossible (ok not impossible e-e-e-extremely hard) to believe this only happened to f not I don't want to know how this only happened to f .

 

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