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For an answer on the RPG Stack, I’m trying to read some entries in Medicinisch-Chymisch und Alchemistisches Oraculum, a 1755 German work whose entries are in Latin. I’m stuck on these two entries:

  1. “Acetum ſ. vinum mortuum” next to a cross shape on page 1

  2. “Vinum mortuum, ſ. acetum” next to three symbols separated by commas on page 33

My first thought here was “Latin word order doesn’t matter,” so no matter what “ſ.” means, this is the same four words and mean the same thing. Then someone pointed out that “ſ.” might be short for sine, in which case it would matter. I can’t for the life of me find any examples of “ſine,” much less abbreviated to “ſ.,” but it seems plausible. This is backed up by other entries of “Aurum, sol,” and “Sol, ſ. aurum,” where the expected symbol for both gold and the Sun (enshrined in Unicode as U+2609 ☉) is found (among others) under “Aurum, sol,” and “Sol, ſ. aurum” has more unusual symbols (that I guess refer only to the Sun and not to gold).

So is “ſ.” understood here to mean “sine”?

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If you look closely, you will note that the 's' is in blackletter script. According to long-standing German printing tradition, German words are in blackletter, Latin words in Antiqua.

The German word that 's' stands for, as in virtually every German lexicon or reference work, is "siehe," which means "see" (like 'cf' in English). In other words, it is a pointer to another entry, which the reader is encouraged to also read. It does not generally suggest that the words mean the same.

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  • 1
    By the way, in other entries, "siehe" is written out. Nov 22 '21 at 18:47
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    @KRyan He translates both as "Essig" (vinegar), so probably his opinion is that they mean the same. Nov 22 '21 at 18:56
  • 1
    I just noticed that, indeed. Bizarre choice then. Even if you were including duplicate entries for the sake of someone who looked up either term, you’d think you’d include the complete list in each place, particularly considering it’s only 4 symbols (1 line) total.
    – KRyan
    Nov 22 '21 at 18:58
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    Not Latin at all then! Incredible.
    – cmw
    Nov 22 '21 at 20:06
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    Although, interestingly enough, if they're both translated as Essig, than the German siehe here could have been substituted with sive with no real change in meaning.
    – cmw
    Nov 22 '21 at 20:08
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The "long s" is an abbreviation for "sive" ("or"). The author is giving two alternative names for "vinegar".

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  • 4
    "Sine" would be followed by a noun in the ablative case. "Acetum" and "vinum" are in the nominative.
    – fdb
    Nov 22 '21 at 15:09
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    @KRyan Cf. this thread and its comments. It's a very standard abbreviation.
    – cmw
    Nov 22 '21 at 16:03
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    @KRyan, it's arguably not just two separate entries for the same thing if they're synonyms and the editor expects the user/reader to look for either form in a glossary. FWIW it also makes perfect sense to me the sive reading. Moreover, dead wine, and fermented/expired wine (i.e., vinegar) look very close in meaning.
    – Rafael
    Nov 22 '21 at 18:09
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    @Rafael If the two entries were the same aside from the ordering/alphabetizing, yes, it would make sense. But the author lists different symbols under each version, implying that “acetum ſ. vinum mortuum” and “vinum mortuum, ſ. acetum” refer to different things in the author’s mind. Perhaps the author just made a mistake, but I still find that very hard to believe since one would expect that if he had forgotten that he’d already done “acetum ſ. vinum mortuum,” he would include (at least some of) the same symbols under “vinum mortuum, ſ. acetum.” There is no overlap.
    – KRyan
    Nov 22 '21 at 18:20
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    @KRyan But note that in both cases the German equivalent is Essig (i.e., vinegar). I still find plausible that the lack of overlapping is simply due to a pre-scientific accuracy standard for the text.
    – Rafael
    Nov 22 '21 at 20:21

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