Þe ⟨ð⟩-er ⟨þ⟩-y Question
I dislike digraphs, this much is true
I can’t stand an ⟨ei⟩ or an ⟨ai⟩ or a ⟨ou⟩
And don’t get me started on ⟨sh⟩, my friend;
And as for ⟨ch⟩, it drives me round the bend.
But there is one digraph I’ll tolerate
And might even stretch to calling it ‘mate’;
It’s ⟨t⟩ plus ⟨h⟩ in that great combination:
Yes, ⟨th⟩’s an acceptable digraphication.
‘Why do you like it?’, I hear you ask.
Because it accomplished the noble task
Of replacing two letters which, under my breath,
I will deign to mention: they’re ⟨þ⟩ and ⟨ð⟩.
No darker stain on the orthography
Of Anglo-Saxon (aka OE)
Can be imagined, dreamt of or guessed;
Unworthy, unkind, unpleasant, unblessed.
⟨þ⟩ and ⟨ð⟩ are the evil twins
Of OE orthography; þey’re ðere in kennings,
And riddles and poems—and the Chronicle;
But they’re laughable, risible, comical.
Just for clarity, I never fret
’Bout their use in th’Icelandic alphabet.
The people of Iceland, if it makes ’em tick,
Are welcome to ’em! God bless Reykjavik!
Nor do I mind them in Faroese!
Good Faroe islanders: use them, please.
God bless your islands and fair Torshavn,
The picturesque, coastal and largest town!
It’s just in Old English where they get my goat
And I’ll plough you a furlong or grant you a groat
If you could remove ’em from OE texts
But we’re stuck with ’em both and their ⟨þ⟩-y tricks.
My objection’s phonology-orthographic
I’m a phoneme-symbol uber-fanatic:
And ⟨þ⟩ and ⟨ð⟩ are duplicates
For dental fricatives in both the states
Of voiced and voiceless—which were allophonic:
/θ/ → [ð]. Call me histrionic
But ‘one phoneme, one symbol’: why be redundant?
We don’t need two letters; that’s ine[þ/ð]icient!
Now there was a distinction, but again, my friend
It was orthographic: ⟨ð⟩ at the end
Or in the middle; ⟨þ⟩ at the start;
The distinction between a burp and a fart.
And that’s just silly. No other letter
Makes this distinction, claiming it’s better
And needing alternative allographs.
The rest are quite happy. It makes me laugh
That ⟨þ⟩ and ⟨ð⟩ are so damn picky.
That they’re allophonographically so damn tricky,
Annoys me so much that with open arms
I welcome ⟨th⟩ and its digraph charms.
So that’s why ⟨th⟩ is welcome here
I think that’s worthwhile mouthing there.
(Did you see what I did in the second line?
Nearly every word had a ⟨th⟩ within!)
So thank you, ⟨th⟩, for thwarting that duo
It’s eternal gratitude that we to you owe.
As an honorary monograph, come in, sit down.
We’ve booked you the best hotel in town!
It’s time to end this ⟨þ⟩-y verse
Wh-⟨ð⟩-er you found it tidy or terse,
It’s time to conclude, there’s no more to say
On this OE orthography idiocy.
A final comment in these final lines:
‘You’ve annoyed me a þusand, ðusand times,
Thorn and eth! You both turn me off!
You’re a ⟨þ⟩ in my side. Now please, ⟨ð⟩ off!’