The international day of the letter Þ (pronounced “th” as in “thing”) will be celebrated for the 18th time today, commemorating the day the letter was recognized as part of the Latin alphabet under the Unicode standard in 1994.
An ancient Icelandic manuscript. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.
Baldur Sigurðsson, associate professor in the Icelandic language at the University of Iceland, served as Iceland’s representative on the taskforce of the European council which had the letter recognized at the time.
He told Morgunblaðið that the milestone was very meaningful for Icelanders, who had had to accept that letters like Ð and Æ were only recognized as variations of D and A.
With the recognition of Þ as an independent letter of Unicode, the making of Icelandic software, for example, became much easier, Baldur explained.
He is especially thankful to the Irish representative on the taskforce, Michael Everson, who is very enthusiastic about special letters, among other projects. The two of them have celebrated the Day of Þ every year since 1994.
Baldur recollects that not everyone on the taskforce agreed that Þ should be an independent letter, suggesting it be subcategorized under T; the Danish representative was the letter’s strongest opponent, which Baldur considered odd.
“Denmark is probably the only nation beside us who must recognize the Þ because their national leader is called Margrethe Þórhildur,” he said.
The Queen of Denmark, who was born in 1940, was given the Icelandic name Þórhildur because Denmark ruled Iceland at the time.
Baldur will give a presentation (in Icelandic) on the letter Þ in Árnagarður at the University of Iceland today at 6 pm. Admission is free and all are welcome.
The Day of Þ is by coincidence the last day of a conference on Icelandic grammar and therefore Baldur was asked to speak at the occasion.