Ye olde hurricane analysis

The above is an excerpt from the entry on hurricanes in A New and Complete Dictionary of Arts and Sciences, published in 1763 by the delightfully named "A Society of Gentlemen".

The entry contains information on how natives of the Caribbean were said to be able to predict hurricanes — portents that center around the color of the sky and the phases of the Moon. I'm curious whether any meteorology fans and experts out there can offer insight on that. Read the full entry. (It's short.) And let me know. Does this sound like stuff that would line up with what we know about hurricanes today?

Also: Helpful tip. "F" is pronounced "S" here.

I got this from someone on Twitter, but managed to lose my notation of who during today's ridiculous airport runaround. So, anyway, thank you! If this is you, let me know and I'll get your name on it.


  1. it’s not so much that f’s are pronounced like s, but that the old-timey way to write the “long s” looks quite a bit like an f (but not exactly the same).

  2. The long s or cursive s was used at the beginning and middle of words, while the short s was used at the ends of words. The integral sign used in calculus is another form of the long s. The printed form of the long s looked much like an f, but it was nevertheless an s and was pronounced as such. The use of the long s died out around 1800.

    1. With some exceptions – there are a few Norwegian newspapers with blackletter logos; Aftenposten and Adresseavisen are two examples. They are written Aftenpoſten and Adresſeavisen. Sometimes humorously pronounced “Aftenpoften” and “Urdesfeabisen”.

    1. That’s not an “f” it’s an “s” you ftupid fhithead!

      Or Robert Graves, from years earlier:

      It’s an old story—f’s for s’s—
      But good enough for them, the suckers.

  3. I came here to comment about a long-s was not an f, and found that two other people had already made this correction before me.  Good show.  

  4. Interestingly, it used to be possible to look at the prevalence of long s through different eras in Google’s Ngram Viewer, as a long s is almost always seen by OCR as an f, but looking now, it seems many of them are being correctly recognized!?

  5. Here’s hoping that the mods delete EVERY. SINGLE. COMMENT. about the “s” that looks like an “f.” Maggie asked a specific questions (“I’m curious whether any meteorology fans and experts out there can offer insight on that.”) and Maggie’s posts are actually helpful and thoughtful, so maybe someone can actually address the question instead of showing off their ability to look at Wikipedia.

    1. Hey, I didn’t sit through several hours of a history of linguistics course in college just to miss out on one of the few opportunities to be pedantic about a subject matter that most other people don’t find as interesting as I do (though apparently there are several of those people who do who read Boing Boing… This reminds me that I’m in the right place).

      1. Wait till they start on “ye olde”.

        That’s been a thorn in the flesh of pedants for about four centuries.

  6. Maybe it’s just really late, but putting “ye olde” in front of anything makes me laugh uncontrollably. Like Wil Wheaton says: Being easily amused. A gift! 

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