How wouldst thou vote in our “Thou v. You” poll?

Maybe we could have a petition…. "What if we just said ‘Thee’?" …  How wouldst thou vote?



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Oneros says:

    The support for this goes to show, the new translation is dead on arrival anyway. It’s coming just as, likely, we’re going to start seeing things like the Anglican Missal approved for use within the next few years. And once that’s out of the bag…

  2. Emilio III says:

    As long as the USCCB has the copyright to the deplorable NAB and allows nothing else in the liturgy, we won’t see much improvement in the US.

  3. jamie r says:

    Thee and Thou are supposed to suggest familiarity, parallel to French “Tu” or German “Du.” “You” used to suggest either infamiliarity or plurality, like “Vous” or “Sie” and “Ihr.” Unfortunately, modern English doesn’t preserve this distinction. “Thee” sounds formal and infamiliar, and “you” no longer suggests infamiliarity. Unless we start using “Thee” and “Thou” in every day usage, bring back the letter thorn, and spell participles with a yod in front of them, it’s a little silly to use thee and thou in the liturgy, since the words no longer mean or connote what they initially did.

    (I am, in fact, in favor of bringing back thorn and yod), as well as restoring the “thee” – “you” distinction)

  4. Will D. says:

    I figure I’m in the minority of the minority, but I can take either thee or you, and thou or your. I just want the translations to assume a higher than third-grade reading level.

  5. Geoffrey says:

    I don’t think “thee” and “thou”, etc., is a good idea. I know many a person who were afraid to pick up a Bible thinking they were all like this. To many, archaic English is like another language. If we’re going to have another language, let it be Latin!

    However, I am all for capitalizing You, Your, He, Him, etc., when referring to the Holy Trinity. Why did this vanish?

  6. Frank H says:


    Amen to capitalization!

  7. “sigh” You can not engineer a language. It just can not be done. You can teach a language but you can not put clamps on how other people use the language.

    When we take a look at the Latin we do not see a lot of archaic Latin. We see normal, everyday Latin.

    There is a big difference between using a word like ineffible which is just a big word that you might have to look up and using a simple word linked to grammar that most people do not know.

    Most English speakers today do not know the difference between Thou, Thy, Thee, and Thine. I like the idea of using them to more closely match the Latin distinction of Tu and to be very clear the we are addressing a singular diety but it does kind of miss the point of a vernacular translation.

    Modern English is to the point now where You is singular most of the time and we use a variety of different plural forms, only sometimes using a true You in the plural. Sure you can not yet look up “you all” or “yous” or “y`allins” in the dictionary but we say these things and in less than a hundred years they will be the standard way to use the second person plural.

    This also happened in Latin, where the older second person singular shifted to the third person and so a prunuciation change was percipitated to correct the ambiguity. Then we see the same thing happen a few centuries later in Greek only in reverse where the pronunciation change to the third person and the second person made them sound the same so new words had to be thought up.

    Languages do not sit still, they move and change. There is no way to slow it down or stop it or predict beyond a few years what will happen. While it seems that Japanese is one the road to becoming grammatically identical to Latin in a few centuries, that is no guarantee and any sort of change in society or demographics could alter their path.

    Thou, thy, thee and thine are gone. I for one do not miss them.

    The fact that it is protestant is not the only reason I do not read the KJV. It if filled with this kind of Germanic English that I just do not understand, and no modern English speaker who is not bilingual in German would.

    This brings us back to Latin as it is used by the Church. It is an international second language that is immune to linguistic change because every generation of new speakers has to learn it as a second language. They all have to start from scratch. Native speakers drive change in their language, second language speakers only push the language to a pidgin or creole which are technically new languages not changes to the first. With everyone learning Latin, and learning the same Latin when they first start, we have a way to have a language that we can use that will not change since there are not native speakers to push change. Second language learners never master a language to the level of a native speaker and this is important to prevent change to the language.

    English changes too much, too often and has too many speakers in isolated locals to be an international second language. Besides that, English has sounds that many people around the world can not produce. English grammar is difficult with too many rules and too many acceptions to those rules. English is a poor choice for an international language and an even poorer choice for Mass. An English language Mass could never be a Latin language Mass or a Syriac language Mass. An English Mass will always suffer from being just good enough but never really good.

    Just in case you are wondering why I would say that, just remember that English does not even have a real future tense, but a paraphrastic.

  8. gloriainexcelsis says:

    People afraid to pick up a Bible for fear there would be thees and thous? Perhaps it’s because I grew up with thee and thou and wouldst and shouldst (and ineffable)that “you” does not fall trippingly from my tongue. I want my liturgy special – elevated. My daily prayers might have “you,” when I’m being spontaneous; but formal prayers, such as the Little Office, need formal language. For the same reason, I cannot abide chanting in English. It sounds so – so – foreign, not to mention clumsy. I wonder how the Church Triumphant communicates? Did you ever wonder? Surely we won’t be speaking a thousand tongues, even though we would, no doubt, understand them all. If we are singing God’s praises together in Heaven, what language will we use? Latin? Greek? I know this is really straying, but I’ve often wondered. Is there a heavenly language? I’m sure everyone will have perfect grammar and speak (if there is speech as we know it)in the most eloquent way, with a vocabulary like William Buckley’s. I can’t picture “dese” and “dose” and “youse.” But then, what do I know? What came before the Tower of Babel?

  9. Oneros says:

    I disagree, quomodocumque. Strongly. The English of Shakespeare, the KJV, or if you prefer, the Douay…is now set apart, sacred, while still giving people ENOUGH of an understanding that they wont feel totally left out. There’ll be enough of a veil and formal feeling to make it Sacred, a dream-world separate from profane daily realty (as the liturgy is supposed to be) but still comprehensible enough to follow the major concepts.

    Hierartic vernacular is the wave of the future for both the Old and New rites.

    “It if filled with this kind of Germanic English that I just do not understand, and no modern English speaker who is not bilingual in German would.”

    Simply not true. The King James and Douay are not Old English, nor even Middle. They are Modern. If you can read Shakespeare, you can read them. We should want our Catholics exposed to high culture like that, and hieratic English is the door to a lot of that cultural tradition.

    Somehow, the Orthodox manage to understand using Elizabethan type English.

    A translation that doesnt make me feel like I’m in a remedial third grade classroom will be marginally better…but I dont want to just feel like I’m at some business seminar either.

    I’m all for vernacular (though I’d really prefer a Latin Ordinary)…but it should be a hieratic one.

  10. Ogard says:

    Liturgy is not an ordinary event, and the street language is not suitable for it. The “Thee” and “Thou” give it a sense of something solemn and special.

  11. Hans says:

    Oh, how hard would it be to explain that thou is the second-person singular familiar form of you, while thee is the object form, thy and thine are possessive forms. And, it should be noted, that it seems to be increasingly important to stress the singular nature of God with the growth of new age polytheism and pantheism.

    I’m confident that if they’re printed in the missals and used properly, and archaic verb forms (which would be more abstruse) aren’t used, that people will get used to the idea fairly quickly after only a little grumbling. After all, they got used to the crass Current Translation™ to the extent that I’ve heard people defend it who are otherwise quite fussy about language use.

    Finally, anyone who thinks that the late-sixteenth and early-seventeenth century early modern English in the KJV, D-R, or Shakespeare is more Germanic (probably thinking ‘more German’) should be disabused of that notion. They are, if anything, less Germanic, each having a share of Latinate ‘inkhorn terms’ that have not survived into later modern English. If you want an example of ‘more Germanic’ English speech, try some of Churchill’s wartime speeches, especially those broadcast on radio to mass audiences. Those speeches are especially effective because they are so Germanic (but not German). English is, fundamentally, a Germanic language; besides, now that Benedict XVI is Pope, it’s cool to be German again.

  12. Sieber says:

    Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…..or Our Father who is in heaven, holy is your name…..

    Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women…or Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with you. Favored are you among women…

    Which falls trippingly from the tongue?

  13. Geremia says:

    Thou and thee are singular subjective and objective pronouns, respectively, for “you.” Plural “you” is simply “you.” Languages like Spanish and Italian, e.g., maintain the distinction between plural and singular “you” for formal and informal speech; that English has deprecated “thou” and “thee” means it has become, in a sense, a ruder and more impolite language. Or maybe it is always formal and polite…

  14. Geremia says:

    “Our Father who art in heaven…” would strictly become “Our Father who you are in heaven…” (yes I know it is grammatically clumsy) because art is 2nd person singular of the verb “to be.”

  15. geoff jones says:

    I for one think that if anything, using an archaic style of English would be an easier style for foreign language speakers to pick up.

    Having distinct pronouns (ie, you/thou) is always simpler than looking at context, and indeed, most other languages still use a singular and a plural second-person pronoun. I suspect that ouside of western Europe no one has dispensed with the universal second-singular. (someone correct me if I’m wrong) and they would find it a strange and odd innovation.

    Also, archaic language won’t have the clumsy and complicated singular continuous. So, “the prince of this world cometh” would be more comprehensible to a foreign language speaker than “The prince of this world is coming.”

    Indeed, it also raises the tone of the language without totally shutting people off from its meaning. The KJV may need a little effort to understand, but the Vulgate requires quite a different order of effort.

  16. Sieber says:

    I was moved to that construction by the “Presider” at today’s Mass who has decided to say “The Lord is with” rather than “the Lord be with you’ and was lauded by the deacon homilist for this profound distinction.

  17. Joan M says:

    I do not understand those who are against using “thou”, “thy”, “thine”, etc. Do none of you say the Our Father or the Hail Mary? …. “Thy kingdom come”, Thy Will be done…”; “The Lord is with thee, blessed art thou …..”

    It would be extremely difficult for me to get my tongue around you and your in these prayers. I am aware that some use the “you” and “your” – in most of the cases I have heard, those that use them also use “PC” language, (which makes me cringe”.

  18. Quodcumque is wrong to say that the Latin of the Mass is ordinary everyday Latin. Cicero himself said that “quaesumus” was archaic. The standard Roman Collects are highly stylised and the language of the canon is anything but “everyday”. For everyday Latin we can look at Plautus, for example, or the letters of Cicero ad Familiares (though he would probably sound to most Romans of the 4th century as Dickens or Newman sound to us today.) Fr Uwe Michael Lang has written on the question of liturgical Latin and shown that it was not simply the taking up of a vernacular usage.

  19. Jon says:

    Hey, how did Bishop Trautman manage to vote 259 times?

  20. An American Mother says:

    quomodocumque, I disagree completely. The average educated 16th and 17th century Englishman wrote the purest, most resonant, most masculine English prose ever seen.

    First of all, the 16th c. (o.k., barely 17th c.) English of the Douay-Rheims and KJV is NOT Germanic. (Now Beowulf and The Pearl – THAT’s Germanic, or Anglo-Saxon if you prefer) 17th c. English is much too recent for that, and barring changes in meaning in a few common words it’s modern English. The Douay is a bit more Latinate than the KJV, because it was translated from the Vulgate and because King James’s committee made something of a deliberate effort to trend towards “English English”.

    Second of all (and I’ve said this before), if my semi-literate Alabama dirt farmer ancestors could read and understand the Bible, which was often the only book in their houses, exactly what is the problem here?

    Finally, if you have read any English or American literature of the last 200 years, you have absorbed great quantities of the KJV and even the Prayer Book without realizing it, at second hand. You already know it. You shouldn’t just give it up without a fight.

    If you want to see beautiful English in devoted service to God, pick up Cranmer’s prayer book, most of which survives in the American 1928 or English 1662 Book of Common Prayer for the Episcopalian/Anglicans.

  21. Christina says:

    “Thee and Thou” vs. “You and Your?” To be honest, I’m having trouble taking the question seriously. It’s a bit besides the point. Although it’s true that “thee” adds the distinction of familiarity, I think it’s a bit dishonest to claim that it adds any denotative meaning to the modern speaking (the way “ineffable” would). As far as connotations are concerned, the familiarity of the word “thou” hits me about as much as the familiarity of the word “Abba”–which is not at all. Is it loftier language to the modern ear? Arguably so, but not enough to argue over. “Ineffable” and “gibbet” are a different argument than “thee” and “thou.”

    As a side, I think for us, the use of “Thee” and “Thou” in memorized prayers is an issue of practice and memorization for us, plain and simple. Of course swapping words sounds “wrong” to us, but that’s just because it’s not what we memorized.

  22. Precentrix says:

    ‘Our Father, Who is in heaven, let Your name be considered holy..?’

    Can we at least be consistent, whichever we do? The French have this wonderful translation which addressed the priest-celebrant as ‘vous’ (formal) but the Lord Himself as ‘tu’ (familiar). Puhleease. He may be my Father, He may be my love, but He is also the Lord and Creator of Heaven and Earth.

    English doesn’t have the formal/informal distinction in the same way… and likewise I don’t see the Spanish using ‘Usted’.

  23. Thomas in MD says:

    I am for the ‘Thees’ and ‘Thous, and all for capitalization, but I don’t go for the ‘doths’ and ‘thinkeths’ Archaic forms of the 2nd person, get on my nerves, although using ‘art’ is fine. The verb ‘to be’ is always marches to a different drummer…

  24. I yearn for the day when the language of the Mass is that of the people. This would mean using “you” for the second person singular. The second person plural would have four varieties, each of which would be optional depending on the given region of the United States where the Mass is celebrated, and the wishes of the pastor in consultation with his parish council: “you,” “y’all,” “yous,” or “yins.”

  25. JARay says:

    I grew up in England where people used Thou, Thee, Thy and Thine in everyday speech. I also know a little bit of both Latin and Greek.
    I am fully aware that Thomas Cranmer is the person who translated the Latin “Pater Noster….” into “Our Father WHICH art in heaven….Thy will be done IN earth as it is in heaven….and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive THEM THAT trespass…etc”. The full text can be read in the very first edition of The Book of Common Prayer which can be Googled and is online.
    I WANT a language of prayer.
    I do not want “Hey Dude up in the sky!”
    I am sure that most people can understand and also relate to a prayerful, dignified language even if it is not everyday, common street slang.

  26. MrsHall says:

    The poster above mentioned the singular aspect of “Thee” and “Thou” and the plural of “you” and “ye” (as in, y’all). Here we see “you” and “thee” used in the same passage in the old King James:

    From Luke 22
    31And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have _you,_ that he may sift _you_ as wheat:

    32But I have prayed for _thee,_ that _thy_ faith fail not: and when _thou_ art converted, strengthen _thy_ brethren.

    Satan wanted them all, but Jesus was relying on Peter to shepherd the flock. (Whoo-hoo, I just used the KJB to show the primacy of Peter!)

  27. Sam Schmitt says:

    “The support for this goes to show, the new translation is dead on arrival anyway.”

    I wish. This may be true for the miniscule subset of Catholics that frequent this blog, but please, let’s get back to earth. And this is from someone who voted for “thee” and “thou” in the poll.

  28. irishgirl says:

    I voted for ‘Thee’ and ‘Thou’. Liturgy should have a ‘special’ language, not the everyday speech of the streets!

    Yes-I wonder what the language of Heaven is?

  29. Roland de Chanson says:

    I am of two minds about this. The Our Father and Hail Mary have the archaic style – many other prayers have the modern. But I am a great booster of inculturation. So I have translated the Hail Mary into Boston dialect and hope that ICEL will take heed:

    Hiya Mary, fulla grace. The Lawd is witchya. Blessed are ya among women and Blessed is the froota ya woom, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mothera Gawd, pray frus sinnahs, now and at the owav ah death, Amen.

    Actually, I voted for thou and thee.

    P.S. In reading the translation over, I cannot get the voice of His Eminence, Richard Cardinal Cushing, out of my head. Another great servant of the Church. Lux perpetua.

  30. crnugent says:

    Methinks we dost protest to much!

  31. servusmariaen says:

    So the use in the Episcopal Book of Common prayer of traditional language collects and “RITE 1” which retains the traditional Thees Thous etc is unintelligible to the average Episcopalian? (Along with the use of the KJV)? or are Episcopalians/Anglicans some how more capable of understanding such “archaic” language? The Book of Common Prayer contains both modern and traditional language. Why is this such an issue for us Catholics to have both? Again Im confused..

  32. FrPhillips says:

    This is already a Catholic liturgical language, since it is the language of the liturgy in the Anglican Use, and will continue as the liturgical language of the Ordinariates when they are erected.

    It can’t be all that difficult, since even our children use it every day. I have no doubt that if they were to be asked what they prayed, they would be able to give a fairly accurate rendition in contemporary English.

  33. aladextra says:


    You make good points, but you don’t listen to your own advice about the changing nature of English. The question is what do “thee” and “thine” mean _today_? Today, they connote something set apart, an otherworldliness and a tie to the past. The reasons these words have this meaning _today_ is easy to see.

    This is the reason that the Confraternity translation (sadly only completed for the Gospels) is my favorite translation of the Bible. It is a modern translation that retains the archaic forms when referring to persons of great respect.

    To second the “Alabama dirt farmer” descendant, my father (West Virginia holler born) until his conversion to the faith prayed in Elizabethan English (ad lib) before dinner every night. (E.g., Heavenly Father, we pray that thou wouldst deign to visit thy graces upon Greg that he might soon find employment, etc.) He learned this from his father, etc. I would note that nowadays as a good Catholic he offers extemporaneous prayers in the pedestrian language of ICEL more or less.

    The fact is that Elizabethan English has become a dialect of English that is set apart, but that is very easily learned and understandable by the masses. That’s why I favor it as the sole available translation into English. At this point, it’s somewhat equivalent to the old scholarly Chinese dialect the Jesuits wanted to translate the Mass a few hundred years. We didn’t build it for that purpose (neither did we Latin, etc.) but it seems remarkably appropriate to use it this way. Even natural.

  34. An American Mother says:


    Yes! I have heard similar prayers offered by my Methodist minister grandfather-in-law . . . may God rest his soul, what a loving and godly man. He was a beekeeper too (I have never met a beekeeper who wasn’t a good man. One of Kipling’s characters says that bees won’t stay in a house where there’s hating. Sort of like dogs as Vocation Detectors. Or elephants as instruments of God’s vengeance.)


    If any of the Episcopalians remaining in that church actually ever cracked the prayer book at page 323 instead of page 355, they might get the benefit of Rite I. Although our former diocese is considered rather “low”, for several years before we converted we had not seen Rite I in use anywhere, except in a country parish (and they gave it up when they called a new rector). Rite I fans tended to be the more traditionalist Episcopalians, and they are almost all gone now.

  35. Re: ‘wonderful French translation’

    Uh… the Trinity is always addressed familiarly in Indo-European languages. “Du” in German, “Tu” in French or Spanish.

    “Dogs, children, the ones you love, and God” is the usual rule. And goodness, it’s not as if He’s a stranger. Giving Him a name at all is an awfully informal form of address, by pre-Christian standards.

    Whereas being informal with the priest would be impolite. :)

  36. Roland de Chanson says:

    In French, we are on familiar terms with le Bon Dieu: que ton nom soit sanctifié whereas we are reserved with la Sainte Vierge: Vous êtes bénie entre toutes les femmes.

    German and Russian use the familiar (du, ty) for both.

    To be precise, God gave himself a name when Moses asked. “I am Who am”. Not even the royal “we” as used by popes until recently (still used by the Patriarch of Moscow.) There’s gotta be a lesson in there somewhere.

  37. Grabski says:

    So…who says it’s ‘archaic’? Nearer my love to thee, etc…

  38. Tom A. says:

    Thee, thous, or thines. I am not a fan of any English at Mass. Contemporary or archaic.

  39. thereseb says:

    From the trial of Raleigh in 1603

    ‘Raleigh. I do not hear yet that you have spoken one word against me; here is no treason of mine done. If my Lord Cobham be a traitor, what is that to me?

    Coke. All that he did was by thy instigation, thou viper; for I thou thee, thou traitor.

    Raleigh. It becometh not a man of quality and virtue to call me so: but I take comfort in it, it is all you can do.

    (So in 1603 – in the same decade as the KJV use of “thee” was considered inappropriate and demeaning in formal situations between equals). However, later in the same century, Fox wrote in his journal “When the Lord sent forth in the world…I was required to “thee” and “thou” all men and women…” This was seen as worthy of comment. So the 17th Century holds the key – and it is possile that the KJV itself re-aligned the meaning of the word – most anglo-protestants then learned to read from the bible – but learned to speak from their contemporaries – and the written and spoken versions of English began to diverge ….

  40. Sieber says:

    T’was not ere long ago at my uncle’s wedding that he said,”I plight thee my troth.”

  41. Hans says:

    Uh… the Trinity is always addressed familiarly in Indo-European languages. “Du” in German, “Tu” in French or Spanish.

    More to the point, these (with thou, etc.) are second person singular forms, so-used because there is one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

    ‘You’ is at best indeterminate and started as plural (in Old English as éow in the dative and accusative cases). Over time it became the formal or polite plural form in the nominative case also, and eventually the singular. It became dominant especially in the late 16th century (per O.E.D.*) when addressing those not particularly familiar to you too familiarly or informally could be seen as insulting and so dangerous. I’ve never seen any research showing a direct connection between these situations, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there were one.

    * From the O.E.D. on ‘you’:
    Originally the accusative and dative plural of the second personal pronoun […]. Between 1300 and 1400 it began to be used also for the nominative YE, which it had replaced in general use by about 1600. During the 14th century it also appears as a substitute for the singular obj. THEE and nom. THOU, being originally used in token of respect in addressing a superior, but later also to an equal, and ultimately generally[.]”

  42. tioedong says:

    FYI: In Tagalog, they use the singular “YOU” to address God, not the formal (pleural):

    Bigyan mo kami ngayon ng aming kakanin sa araw-araw

    And for “Daily bread” they translate bread “our daily meals”…because the daily meal is rice…but when they explicitly refer to the blessed sacrament, they do you “tinapay” i.e. bread.

    In the Shona dialect (Zimbabwe) however, we used “Baba vedu muri kudenga” using the singular “Muri” for “you are”…however, This older translation used “Vari” which is the honorific plural.
    They also use “kudya” (Food) instead of daily bread in the Our Father,but I don’t remember how it is translated in the Mass prayers.

    If you think you have problems, imagine trying to translate into non IndoEuropean languages!

    OH yes: In Africa, when you receive a gift, you make two small claps (“for “thank you”) and then reach out to receive the gift reverently with both hands cupped. That is how we received the Eucharist.

  43. mike cliffson says:

    O reader of mine all-but-ghostly counsellor!
    Wert but older, hadst but lived in the ald palatinate of Durham, shouldst theetha me as I would theetha thee! Misen, I theethaed in childhood, seldom since, and when we die, who shall survive us?
    For I used to say, tha, not thou, and tha, not thy, and thisen, not thyself, as in:
    Don’t tha theetha me, theetha thisen.
    (Meaning, dont you talk to me (overfamiliarly) in second person singular, talk to yourself that way.)
    Moreover, we’d use the moderrn third person singular verb forms when tha was subject, as a general rule.

    Happy would I be to see a general comeback of the form.All over.

    And I’m unhappy about its omission in liturgical language (latin….et cum spiritu tuo = And with yo? and with y’all? Antwih yersp irit? Obviously, mass is being concelebrated)
    Just feeling, sorry. No reasoning, no theology, no knowledge of liturgical practice…
    God bless…thee/you/ye/whoever/fry-me/fritter-my-wig/candle-ends/or thingamajig to thy/tha/thine/your/yer/yourn enemies

  44. Nathan says:

    Roland de Chanson: “In French, we are on familiar terms with le Bon Dieu: que ton nom soit sanctifié whereas we are reserved with la Sainte Vierge: Vous êtes bénie entre toutes les femmes.”

    Vive la belle France! I think that’s a beautiful distinction, and entirely consistent with the Church’s teaching.

    In Christ,

  45. catholicmidwest says:

    I agree with Will D. I don’t care whether we use thee, thou or you, as long as it doesn’t sound like a copy of Dick, Jane and Sally visit the Farm (which it does now).

  46. catholicmidwest says:

    The KJV is quite understandable. It’s more than that: it’s beautiful.

    The world is now full of philistines who think that they can grunt, wave a finger, mumble one of the 500 words in their meager vocabulary, and that’s communication enough. Pity them: the limits of one’s ability to express an idea usually reveal the limits of one’s ability to think an idea.

  47. An American Mother says:


    The problem between Coke and Raleigh is that Coke was the Attorney General and not yet a Law Lord, and Raleigh (however much under a cloud at the moment) was a knight and Coke’s superior in rank. So they were not equals, and Coke’s theeing of Raleigh was a deliberate insult.

    The KJV simply reflects the social conventions of the time in writing and speaking — ‘you’ to superiors, equals not close friends – ‘thou’ to intimates, those under ones supervision (children, servants), and God.

    Because ‘thou’ survived into our time only as formal address to God (with exceptions noted above for the environs of Durham :-D and also in Sussex, as noted by Kipling) the convention has been turned on its head and ‘thou’ is now seen as excessively formal . . . when that used to be very much a relative matter!

  48. An American Mother says:


    It’s pleasant to see the old forms surviving.

    When a friend of mine with a Belgian father and a Peruvian mother journeyed into the wilds of North Georgia from time to time, she took me along as an interpreter. “Y’all ain’t from around here, is you?”

    Mysen, I’m a bit of a chameleon and take on the linguistic coloration of my surroundings, and my lucky husband has perfect pitch. When we had been in England 2 weeks, people were aware that we weren’t exactly local, but they tended to peg us as being from elsewhere in Britain . . . there were some wild guesses made (but never Durham).

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