Friday, August 24, 2012

why we say 'you' instead of 'thou'

'you' was originally a plural pronoun; the ordinary singular pronoun was 'thou' or 'thee.' but to show greater respect to another person, the plural 'you' was often used in 17th century England. Quakers, as a radical sect opposed to 'worldly forms' such as honorifics, rejected status distinctions in their 'plain speech.' in their view, all were equal before God, and so such distinctions were false. the fact that they raised the ire of non-Quakers was accepted as part of the suffering necessary to prove that one was following the Truth for the right reasons (ie, not to curry favor with other people). one ultimate result of Quakers insisting on the familiar 'thou' was many non-Quakers, in order to distance themselves from the sect, insisting on using 'you' exclusively.

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