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Is the problem Phonetic
Many words were written phonetically, and this is particularly true of personal names and place names. This explains why names of people and places are spelt in a variety of ways, sometimes in the same document. Sometimes it’s worth trying to imagine the word pronounced in a Scots accent or particular Scottish dialect. A poor register from the 1860s notes a woman’s husband as being ‘in chail’. The register is from the Highlands so saying the phrase in a Highland accent reveals that the husband is ‘in jail’.
It is a common anachronism to say that 'spelling was bad' in such and
such a time. Instead the palaeographer must imagine himself or herself
back in a time of phonetic spelling: of clerks spelling unfamiliar words
as they heard them.
The word above has often been misread in palaeography classes. Students reading too quickly and relying too much on intuition have sometimes misread it as figure. Only by looking more carefully do they realise that then word begins with a long-s and is actually the word signe. Perfectly straightforward words can confuse readers because they are written in a way which appears odd.
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