I’ve lately been immersed in the minutiae of load files while trying to complete a primer on forms of production and craft a load file exercise for the workbook students will use in the upcoming Georgetown E-Discovery Training Academy.

By the way, there’s still time to register for the ultimate e-discovery master class cum boot camp—a week in Washington, D.C. studying electronic discovery with a dedicated faculty, getting down and dirty with data.  You promised you were going to get your arms around the e-stuff; now is the time, and the Georgetown Academy is the place.  June 1-6, 2014.  I’ll sweeten the pot: Use the code EDTAREFERRAL when registering and take $300.00 off the price.

While sojourning in load file hell, I stumbled upon a tidbit of information I thought other e-discovery groupies might find mildly diverting.

Our Sesame Street words for today are Thorn and Pilcrow.

I refer, of course to the two symbols that serve as familiar field delimiters in Concordance load files; those persnickety text files that carry metadata and other information into e-discovery review tools.  In order for tabular data to be discretely searchable, it has to be set off (“fielded”) from other data by a separator.  On paper, we do this with vertical and horizontal lines, drawing rows and columns.  We literally delineate the fields of data so first names don’t wander into, say, last names or street names.  To accomplish the same end with digital data in load files, we use delimiters, such as commas, tabs or, in the case of Concordance load files, thorns and pilcrows.

A Thorn looks like this: þ and a Pilcrow looks like this: ¶
When seen in a load file, they look like this:

load file

If you’re like me, you’ve been happily calling pilcrows “paragraph symbols” for quite some time, and had no idea that very pregnant capital “I” was called a thorn.

But here’s the cool part: Thorns were very nearly a part of our modern English alphabet.  No kidding.  Apart from our boundless delight communing with thorns in load files, we nearly see a thorn every time we come across some cheesy shop that calls itself “Ye Olde This or That.”  The thorn was once a character standing in for the letter combination “TH” and pronounced the same way.   So, many signs in jolly ol’ England once read “þe” pronounced “the.”

Over time, what with old English scripts and fading paint and such, the thorn morphed into the letter “Y” and all those “þe Olde Curiosity Shoppes” became “Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppes.”  Another explanation is that, with the advent of the printing press, countries like Germany and Italy who exported typefaces didn’t use the thorn in their languages; so, they didn’t make thorn type.  Accordingly, those who thought the letter Y served as a reasonable facsimile started using it in lieu of the thorn.

When you see a thorn in a load file, smile.  We very nearly lost her forever.

Hat tip to http://mentalfloss.com/article/31904/12-letters-didnt-make-alphabet