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"ph" vs. "f"

"ph" vs. "f"

"ph" vs. "f"

This is outside the realm of engineering writing. Does any one know how the "ph" became a substitute for the letter "f". Does it have anything to with the fact that Old English and Old French texts used the letter "f" for "s"?

RE: "ph" vs. "f"

Never seen it spelled as "fosforus".

Looks kinda phunny too.

Mike McCann, PE, SE (WA)

RE: "ph" vs. "f"

I don't know the definitive answer, but for an amusing discussion on "ph" vs "f", take a look at the comments on this discussion thread:

As for the "f / s" confusion in Old English texts - the "long s" (looks like an f without the cross-bar) was a distinct character, but looks like an "f" to our eyes.
And for an amusing take on confusion of "f / s", take a look at this, where Alice the Verger is reading from an old Bible:
(from "The Vicar of Dibley")


RE: "ph" vs. "f"

"Ph" when pronounced a "f" here in Thailand is a problem, especially for the holiday location Phuket - you would be surprised how many westerners get it so wrong :)

It is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts. (Sherlock Holmes - A Scandal in Bohemia.)

RE: "ph" vs. "f"

They don't get it wrong, they just think they are being funny.

RE: "ph" vs. "f"

Sure, some do it on purpose to highlight one of the attractions while others know no better😈

It is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts. (Sherlock Holmes - A Scandal in Bohemia.)

RE: "ph" vs. "f"

Interesting about the long "s" resembling "f" in both old English and old French texts.

RE: "ph" vs. "f"

I'll take a wild punt and suggest that the ph came in with words whose forebears were written in Greek or Cyrillic alphabets, while f has its origins in the Latin alphabet.


RE: "ph" vs. "f"

I've long believed the distinction is what Zeusfaber says: "ph" words come from the Greek (letter phi). It wouldn't surprise me if there was at least a subtle pronunciation difference that got lost over time.

RE: "ph" vs. "f"

One subtle pronunciation difference is the alternative spelling of my given name.

ph in Stephen is "v" these days, but clearly came from "f". What before then though?


RE: "ph" vs. "f"

Pardon me, but I have to go phi.

Mike McCann, PE, SE (WA)

RE: "ph" vs. "f"

Before Greek and Latin there was the Hebrew alphabet where p and f are the same letter

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