let's use "thou" together...

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Robert_Hope, Feb 29, 2008.

  1. Robert_Hope Banned

    West Midlands UK/London/Paris
    (British) English
    Hi all

    I'm curious. Although now longer used, if I understand it correctly "thou" used to be used amongst friends (to mean "you") and "you" was the more formal form?

    If so, was there a word or a phrase used when two people decided that their relationship would now allow them to use the more informal "thou" form of address?

    In other foreign languages, such as French and German, they have a word which means "to use the informal you". Is there such a word in English?


  2. domangelo Senior Member

    United States English
    An interesting question. Since no one in English has had any use for such a conversation in quite a long time, (centuries, in fact). I think you would have to look for examples in theater plays from Shakespeare's time and earlier.
  3. out2lnch Senior Member

    Ottawa, Canada
    I can't answer any of your questions, but my understanding (not too great admittedly), is that 'thou' was used frequently at one point, maybe for all relationships. I've seen in novels (so who knows how accurate the authors were) this use. I think it was more formal at any rate. In works taking place in other (later?) times, I've seen 'thou' used as you say, especially between lovers. Sorry I can't help, but I'm also interested in what others may know about this.
  4. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    This septic isle!
    NW Englandish English
    Yes, I'd be interested too.
    It's not at all the same thing but I have heard stuff like this before:
    I couldn't understand a word of that play ~ they were all theeing and thouing each other.
    Perhaps people just asked Can I thou you?

    EDIT (after doing a bit of research): The OED gives this for the verb thou:

    To use the pronoun ‘thou’ to a person: familiarly, to an inferior, in contempt or insult, or as done (formerly universally, now less frequently) on principle by Quakers: cf. note to THOU pers. pron. 1. Often in phr. to thou and thee, to thee and thou: cf. also THEE v.2 a. trans. b. intr. (or absol.). Hence thouing vbl. n. (Cf. THOWT(E) v.)

    and this for the obsolete verb thowt(e):

    trans. To address with the singular pronoun thou, to thou. Hence thowting vbl. n.
  5. xebonyx

    xebonyx Senior Member

    I can only speak as a native AE speaker, but you will only hear "thou" jokingly on the streets nowadays.

    To the best of my knowledge, it's still used in some parts of England.
  6. Cagey post mod

    English - US
    (The following is speculation, not expertise.)

    The use of thou may have had more to do with rank than familiarity, and thus there would not be a social occasion for changing from one form of address to the other. The early Friends (Quakers) were jailed for addressing those above them as "thou" rather than "you/ ye". They held to the principle that they were subordinate only to God, not to any human being.

    Edit: The above was in response to this question in the original post:
    (I see that Ewie has found a nifty verb for the activity itself.)
  7. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    Before anyone else chirps up with a comment about how thou is used, please notice that
    this was not the thread question.

  8. xebonyx

    xebonyx Senior Member

    Well, "ya" is a colloquial word used in place of you in English-- I think I'd categorize it as a schwa. I wouldn't say it at an interview, haha. So in that sense it's restricted to informal usage.

    But then again, I do say it to those older than me, strangers or not, teachers, and so forth. So it's not restricted to formal usage.

    What do others think about my example?
  9. Angelo di fuoco Senior Member

    Russian & German (GER) bilingual
    I'm not sure about the actual use in English, but some nineteenth-century writers like Dickens or Hardy use the "thou" form (with according conjugation) in direct speech in some of their novels like "Hard times" or "Tess of the d'Urbervilles". However, there it is limited to the speech of some people who didn't receive any school (or domestic, as it was often the case) education and spoke the dialect of their place. Those characters who have received education and speak literary English don't use the "thou" form.
  10. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    British English
    I tell thee, cuchu, I thought that Ewie answered t' question in post #4
  11. Cagey post mod

    English - US
    Well said, Andygc,

    All ye who wish to speak thy piece on the use of thee and thou,
    hie ye over to this thread:*This thread concerns the words we use to come to an agreement on addressing one another with the familiar forms.

    *My sentence is no doubt full of blunders in the usage of ye and thy when addressing a plural crowd.

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