You/thou (was Re: Old Norse)
|From:||Marcus Smith <smithma@...>|
|Date:||Saturday, June 17, 2000, 22:27|
Nik Taylor wrote:
>"Thomas R. Wier" wrote:
>> No, actually, what he said is right. "Thou" was always the standard
>> singular second person pronoun, until sometime around Shakespeare's
>Are you sure it was that late in time? I thought it was earlier in the
>Middle English period.
Chaucer certainly makes use of the formal "you" in the Canterbury Tales: the
Host talks to the Clerk using "you" but to the drunken Miller with "thou".
Likewise, if you read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight we also see the
distinction: Gawain speaks to King Arthur and the Lady using "you" but the
(trying to seduce him) uses "thou". Also, the Green Knight calls Arthur
as a sign of disrespect.
Fast forward to Shakespeare, and the common usage of the day is pretty clearly
shown in "Henry V". King Henry (disguised as a commoner) meets up with a
common soldier. They immediately begin talking to each other using "you".
conversation becomes heated and they make a duel, and at that time they switch
from "you" to "thou". So the ordinary way of speaking is to use "you" but
"thou" still exists as a less polite (perhaps even derogatory) form.