Friday, June 02, 2006

Ye Olde Curiosity

I am not a big fan of RenFaire Speak. The few times I encountered someone at a fair attempting to speak to me using "the" and "thou" I wanted to strangle them, or at least tell them to stop. Having been in the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) I can say that people who are serious about the "modern middle ages" usually dispense with "the" and "thou," knowing how painful it is to discerning ears when not done with absolute perfection and confidence.

While trying to find actual proper usage of "the" and "thou" I came across this interesting tidbit in A Dictionary of Modern English Usage by H.W.Fowler (1937):
ye. The pronunciation of this is the, not ye, the y being not our letter, but a representation of the obsolete single letter (called thorn) now replaced by th. [italics mine-AC]
Well, I never knew that. It often seemed to be used as a replacement for "the" but I never really knew why. I think many of us assumed it also meant "you." There you go.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Seth said...

Knowing that it is hardly a definitive authority and knowing that appeal to authority isn't usually something to be done:

http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Ye

Etymology of "ye" includes both uses mentioned.

1:05 PM  
Blogger Thomas McAllister said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:57 PM  
Blogger Thomas McAllister said...

To pursue the issue further: the Wikipedia definition was worded strangely, and I'm not sure everything it says is correct.

As I understand it, thou (subject) and thee (object) were the second-person singular pronouns, with ye (subject) and you (object) in the second person plural. But this web page I found, in contrast to the Wikinition, says nothing about ye ever being used for both subject and object.

http://www.askoxford.com/asktheexperts/faq/aboutspelling/ye?view=uk

10:05 PM  

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