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More on the Yogh

You’d be amazed at how hard it is to find information about the yogh. First, I’ve managed to learn that Unicode 4.0 Latin Extended B does indeed have both an upper and a lower case yogh, a yogh is that not an ezh. Take a look, if your browser supports Unicode 4.0 characters: an uppercase yogh Ȝ or U+021C and a lower case yogh ȝ or U+021D. And there are even Mac OS X fonts that support yogh as part of the Unicode character set (I particularly like Junicode). That’s the good news.

The problem is that the only word processor (versus text editor) for Mac OS X that supports the complete Unicode character set, and by “supports” I mean I can use Insert from the Character Palette, or hex encode the character, is Nisus Writer Express. Microsoft Word X does not, since the character is a Unicode character; neither MarinerWrite nor AppleWorks 6.x support Unicode only characters. The problem with Nisus Writer Express is that it doesn’t support footnotes, and the more esoteric formatting dissertations require. Mellel looks promising though, and I have hopes for true Unicode support in Microsoft Word 11. My ultimate plan is to create a custom keyboard layout, so I can easily access the characters I need. But I’m still going to check out LaTex.

I want my Yogh

There is a glyph in Middle English called the yogh.You can see a manuscript version of a yogh here. The yogh was used almost exclusively for Middle English in England, but it lingered through the eighteenth century in Scotland. The yogh, along with the thorn, another of the four special medieval English characters, is used in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Sir Orfeo, two core texts for my dissertation.

Unfortunately, there is no yogh in Unicode. There should be; the other Medieval English characters are represented in Unicode. I’m not sure why there isn’t yogh, but there’s a very good discussion of why there should be a yogh in Unicode by Michael Everson.

I’m not alone in my desperate craving for a proper Unicode yogh; you can see some of the efforts others dealing with manuscripts on the web have had to make in order to substitute for the yogh. Here’s a scholar trying to present an edition of the Ormulum, and here’s the wonderful online edition and facsimile of the Auchinleck manuscript. Both of these examples (and I could give many more) are substituting other characters for the yogh. This sort of substitution is really not a long-term solution.

We need a yogh, in Unicode.

Phallic Poultry in Middle English, for the Price of a Song

Excited by the news that Apple today added 1,000 new Classical albums to the iTunes Store, and the fact that I’ve a $20.00 iTunes gift certificate, I spent some time browsing in the store. I found new versions of King Orfeo and Tam Lin, both of which I’m writing about in the dreaded dissertation, and then I spotted this:

I Have a Gentil C**K.

I was a little amused by the **; the song, based on the fifteenth century Middle English lyric from British Library MS Sloane 2393, is, after all, about a rooster. Even though people with Middle English and dirty minds (like me) will read it as something quite other, the poem ostensibly describes a medieval English rooster, complete with blue legs. You can hear a .wav sample of the song here, though you will likely regret it, unless you’re a true fan of “authentic” medieval music. The song is from the album The Chaucer Songbook: Celtic Music and Early Music for Harp and Voice (the album is halfway down the linked page), from Carol Wood et al.

Why Apple felt the two ** were necessary is beyond me. The poem is quite short so you can read it yourself, and take advantage of the helpful annotations by Eve Salisbury
here (scroll all the way to the bottom of the page; it’s the last poem). Personally, I’m pretty sure Chaucer had the lyric in mind when he had the Nun’s Priest describe Chantecleer; the effictio is specific enough that antique poultry afficienados have identified the breed of chicken. But, yes, it’s a very phallic sort of rooster, what with him being all night “in my lady’s chamber,” and all.

But it’s not worth two asterisks. Really. Dare I hope that a new generation of medievalists will download the song, then learn Middle English in order to understand the bawdy joke, consequently developing a life-long love of Chaucer?

If you’re curious, you can get iTunes yourself, Mac OS X or Windows, the software’s free. Download iTunes