J.L. Merrow Guest Post: Blow Down

Gay Book Reviews is thrilled to welcome J.L. Merrow to the blog today, chatting about her newest Plumber’s Mate book Blow Down.

You’ve Got to Have a Y in it

Hi, I’m JL Merrow and I’m delighted to be here as part of the Blow Down blog tour. Today I’d like to talk to you about Ye Olde Englishe Spellynge.

“And she’s roped me into her Harvest Fayre, whatever that is,” I went on. “Has it got a ‘y’ in it? I bet it has. You’ve got to have a ‘y’ in it, or people start expecting fairground rides and dodgy hoopla stalls.” – Blow Down

Of course, what many of us think of as Old English is in fact Early Modern English: this was the language of Shakespeare, for example. Actual Old English looks more like this:

Her swutelað seo gecwydrædnes ðe *

It shows one of the lost letters of the English alphabet – the letter eth, ð. The other was the letter thorn, þ, and both were used to show a “th” sound. They can still be found in modern Icelandic—and were still around in Shakespeare’s day.

In that cunningly illegible font, Blackletter, a þ looked a lot like a y (and if you ask me, they both look quite a lot like the other 24 letters as well). So “the” was written þe, sometimes with a þ and sometimes with a y, often with the e perched jauntily on top.

Not surprisingly, this began to be read as “Ye,” possibly because of the confusion with the pronoun “ye” (you), as in Oh ye of little faith.

As for the rest… Well, back in Will Shakespeare’s time, spelling was very much a matter of personal taste. Even the Bard’s own name was spelled at least six different ways, and that was just by its owner. But there were a few common features, as illustrated by the following passage from mathematician Robert Recorde’s The Whetstone of Witte (1557): silent e’s at the ends of words, such as, aptly enough, the word woorde; y used in place of i, as in thynges, and doubled letters, as in bee, equalle and of course, witte.


It’s not surprising that people wanting to evoke the spirit of an earlier, simpler age, when idylls were all rural and communities rallied together in common cause (when they weren’t busy dying of the Black Death, of course, or being hastened into an early grave by the harsh conditions of serfdom) might seize upon these apparent rules of archaic spelling.

Which is why you’ve got to have a y in it.

*This apparently means “Here the covenant is revealed to you,” and is from a tenth century church. But I’m sure you knew that anyway. 😉

Question: Readers, do you cringe when you see mis-spellings? Or do you think it’s all fine as long as the writer can be understood?

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Blow Down
Title: Blow Down (The Plumber’s Mate #4)
Author: JL Merrow
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Release Date: July 12, 2016
Genre(s): Contemporary, Murder/Mystery
Page Count: 249
Reviewed by: Crabbypatty
Heat Level: 3 flames out of 5
Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

Death is what happens while you’re making other plans.

The last thing newly engaged plumber Tom Paretski needs is to stumble over another dead body. He’s got enough on his mind already as the reality of his impending marriage sinks in. Not only is his family situation complicated, his heroism at a pub fire made him a local celebrity. Now everyone and their uncle wants a piece of his psychic talents.

Hired to find a missing necklace, Tom and his fiancé, private investigator Phil Morrison, wind up trying to unmask a killer—and there’s no shortage of suspects, up to and including the local bishop himself.

As Tom and Phil try to uncover the truth, they find themselves pulled in all directions by the conflicting pressures of their families and their own desires. But the murderer they’re up against is a ruthless schemer who won’t hesitate to kill again. If Tom and Phil aren’t careful, their love—and all their plans for the future—could be blown down like a house of straw.

Warning: Contains a bishop of questionable Christian charity, a necklace of questionable taste, and a plumber of questionable nationality who may be running out of time.

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The Plumber’s Mate Series

About J.L.

JL Merrow is that rare beast, an English person who refuses to drink tea. She read Natural Sciences at Cambridge, where she learned many things, chief amongst which was that she never wanted to see the inside of a lab ever again. Her one regret is that she never mastered the ability of punting one-handed whilst holding a glass of champagne.

She writes across genres, with a preference for contemporary gay romance and mysteries, and is frequently accused of humour. Her novel Slam! won the 2013 Rainbow Award for Best LGBT Romantic Comedy, and her novella Muscling Through and novel Relief Valve were both EPIC Awards finalists.

JL Merrow is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, International Thriller Writers, Verulam Writers’ Circle and the UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet organising team.

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  • I do tend to hate misspellings, though they don’t bother me as much as bad spellcheck-induced homonym errors. The English language is definitely arbitrary, and those old-school fonts throw me off. (I still get a kick out that old Stan Freberg skit about the Declaration of Independence’s “purfuit of happineff”…

  • If it’s a professionally published book, or something to be taken seriously, yeah, I cringe. Unfortunately, the likelihood of me actually finding a misspelling is rare, my eyes just pass over them. If the misspelling is in a text or a web comment then I usually take it as it is.

  • By the way, did anyone struggle through Mr Recorde’s just-failed-to-be-Elizabethan essay? That was him inventing the equals sign.

    *pause for geeky fangirling* 😀

  • Coming from a non English speaking country, it’s probably pretty snobbish of me to cringe for any mis-spellings or editing issues. Or *new* name for same character (it happened! probably the author loose track of what they name the supporting characters or even the main ones). But …yeah, I don’t like it. Usually jot down self note on my e-reader whenever I found it. Just because. 😀

    • I’d argue that as a non native English speaker, you have even *more* right to be annoyed by mis-spellings and editing issues: it’s hard enough reading in a foreign language without mistakes getting in the way and confusing you!

      And yeah… characters changing name. Well, these things happen, often for good reason eg an author has noticed two characters have names that are too similar. And sometimes the author doesn’t make all the changes they thought they had. But that’s why we have editors!


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