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Krista Murchison in History Today on medieval pen-twisters

Minims are letters that are made up of short, vertical pen strokes, such as 'm', 'i', 'n' and 'u'. In Gothic script, there is often little distinction between letters composed of minims. Assistant professor of medieval literature Krista Murchison has written an article in History Today on the hidden meanings of one particular sentence containing minims found in a medieval text.

The mock sentence mimi numinum niuium minimi munium nimium uini muniminum imminui uiui minimum uolunt ('The very short mimes of the gods of snow do not at all wish that during their lifetime the very great burden of (distributing) the wine of the walls to be lightened.') is made up of almost exclusively minims. This sentence was found in a medieval personal miscellany, a collection of lyrics, lines of poetry and pithy sentences extracted from various sources. According to Murchison, the booklet was the work of one individual, who seems to have copied down interesting, fun, or useful material from a range of different sources. The contents might seem random, but she argues that this was actually an acurate reflection of the variety of topics covered by the medieval university curriculum. Taking this into consideration, the sentence seems less like an illustration of the tedium of medieval life. Murchison states: 'Nestled as it is among snippets of satire, triviality and fun, the sentence becomes a riddle that revels in the ambiguities of Gothic scripts. Much like the ‘quick brown fox’ sentence copied by students today for containing all the letters of the alphabet, the minim sentence highlights the remarkable possibilities of language.'.

Find out more!

Read the entitre article with Krista Murchison on the website of History Today.

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