Monday, December 15, 2008

Question from Nikki - Spellings of names

Why are the names of Anne and Katherine spelled differently now? I've seen Anne's name spelled Boleyn and Bullen. Katherine's name is spelled with a C and sometimes a K. Katharine is over her tomb, but that was put up around 300 years after her death.

[Ed note - This has partially been addressed in the thread below]


Tracey said...

Bullen...the 'common' English way of spelling.

Boleyn...thought to be more elegant as it was in the French style.

kb said...

There were no English spelling rules at the time. People who could write for themselves frequently spelled phonetically. I have seen letters where the author spelled his or her name differently on different documents and even within the same letter.

PhD Historian said...

I agree with KB ... spelling was not yet standardized in the 16th century. Personal names, place names, even verbs and adjectives, were all spelled phonetically. And even then the phonetics depended on regional accents. Standardized spelling was not introduced until the end of the Tudor period, beginning with Edmund Coote's The English Schoole-maister, an early form of dictionary. Historians continue to debate the "how-and-why" of standardized spelling, but vastly increased use of printed books in the 17th century is often credited with bringing about standardized spelling of English.

And yes, exactly as KB notes, people did often spell their own names, especially poly-syllabic names, differently at different times in their lives or in different circusmtances ... sometimes even within the same document. A notable exception is Katherine Parr. She always spelled her first name "Kateryn."