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05/01/2005 Entry: "Thou/You"

"Singular you is first cited around 1350. By 1550, the thou/you contrast was in full bloom. And in 1648, something happened that would eventually expunge thou from the language and leave English the only major European language without a singular or a familiar second-person pronoun: George Fox founded the Society of Friends. The Quaker insistence on addressing all folk by the familiar singular was a revolutionary act, an outright refusal to observe the forms of worldly power structures. As a backlash, you was embraced so completely that it became the default, and within a century thou was in a sharp decline, soon to vanish entirely from most English dialects (though, as with so many other features of early English, it held on much longer in the North.)"
English for Time Travelers, part 1: The Past, by Evelyn Browne, Reflection's Edge, May 2005

Oh, well, that explains everything.

 

 

 

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