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Ye Olde English 101 - What were Jewse-Harpes?

Updated: Feb 7, 2020

The difference in language and terminology between us and our English ancestors is surprising, considering it's the same language. Much old English is either illegible or incomprehensible to modern readers. It can be a hindrance and challenge in learning about our ancestors' past.

For example, in researching my ancestor, Richard Seymour, I came across several unfamiliar terms. In the deed for the purchase of Norwalk, Connecticut, from the native Indians, one of the items in the trade was "ten jewse-harpse".

I don't know if it's just me, or if anyone else would heed to the little voice inside wondering what on earth these jewse-harpse were. I have to know these things, so with a little searching, I found it was referring to a musical instrument called the Jew's Harp (or Jaw Harp). This is interesting as it was the only musical instrument mentioned in the 1640 deed, so it seems to have been a popular form of entertainment during that period, or perhaps it was the only one the Indians were interested in.

With that, I spent the last half hour watching YouTube videos about what a Jew's Harp is and how melodies are made from the boingy sounds they produce. It's reminds me of bluegrass music. If you want to learn about it, I recommend this video: (Not my video)

You can find a Jew's Harp

at a low price on Amazon or on eBay.


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