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"Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing." ~ Benjamin Franklin

Friday, June 26, 2015

To Thee or Not to Thee


When we consider the everyday use of the Old English "thee" we are primarily thinking of the Middle Ages. The last remnants of common usage "thee" and "thou" had completely disappeared by the middle of the 1600s. At about that same time, the Quaker religion was founded by George Fox.

Research doesn't agree on exactly when the Quakers resurrected the pronoun "thee" and declared it the preferred term for plain speech, but certainly by the 1800s, it was commonplace.

Tweet this: Quakers used "thee" and "thou" but not like traditional Old English #history #amwriting

In the Old English, "thee" was the singular pronoun, equal to he or she. "Thou" was the plural pronoun, equal to they. Most research - but not all - supports the notion that the Quakers dropped the use of "thou" because they saw it as prideful. As modern day language recognizes "you" as both singular and plural, the Quakers used "thee" as both.

"Thee is well-read on this subject."

"Thee are a happy lot."

"Is that all thee has to do?"

"No matter what thee have, 'tis enough."

All are correct, if you're a Quaker in the 19th Century.



Pegg Thomas - Writing historical fiction with a touch of humor.




4 comments:

  1. I remember reading a Quaker book and thinking their use of thee sounded a bit off. So when the author gave the history of the word at the end of the book I was grateful, and then it made sense.
    Thanks for this article.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome! I vaguely knew they used it differently, but had to do a lot of research on this to get it - hopefully - correct. As always, research doesn't 100% agree!

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