Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thy Language Needs Thee

Sexist language.
Back in college, first term of Freshmyn year, we had a whole session on the idea that the English language is sexist.  "To each his own."  Why 'his'?  Why not 'her'?

We debated about it for quite some time, as you might imagine.

Not that it didn't come up in the discussions then... and not that it will solve all problems contained therein, but I think we need to bring back some of the archaic words.  Namely:  thee & thy

It certainly fixes the above statement.  "To each thy own." So why aren't we doing it?   It also avoids the space-hogging & awkward "his/her" or "his or her."  And moreover, why is "his" usually written first?

Changing "you" to "thee" would provide just the jolt needed to stop moments like "Bless you" (when someone sneezes) from seeming so common.  In other words, we hear it so often that it has lost its impact.  We damn well expect it.  Would you expect "Bless thee"?  Nope.  Hence, it would draw attention to what's being said and thus re-instate the sentiment lost by over-usage.

Thee is also useful in fun moments such as this passage in Peter and Wendy:

“Proud and insolent youth,” said Hook, “prepare to meet thy doom.”
“Dark and sinister man,” Peter answered, “have at thee.”

It's kind of weird... words go out of usage and then never seem to return.  Why do archaic terms cease to be used once they fall from favor?  Especially when they could be handy once again!  Can they not be resumed in conversation?

I, for one, am going to try and incorporate THY and THEE into my utterings.  (Not necessarily in my writing - only if it's warranted there...or if I wind up with a character who feels just as strongly about it.)

So go about thy way and I hope the sheer sense of resurrecting these words will hit thee.


ZZOzturk said...

Let's not forget "thou." Lots of languages have a "formal" way of speaking that we don't in English. Thou could be used like that.

Anon said...

Technically "thee", "thou", and "thy" are NOT formal, but are second person singular and IN-formal. We just think of them as "formal" in this day and age because we don't use them anymore (we use "you" for ALL second person speech), and so they sound "archaic" to us, and we think of that archaic flavor as "formal".

ZZOzturk said...

Hmm, I didn't know if "thou" was formal or not but it could be used that way today. I think it would be fun.

Erik said...

The use of "thou', 'thee' and 'thy' is alive and well in conversation in the North of England and parts of the Midlands, particularly Yorkshire, Lancashire and Derbyshire. Nothing unusual and taken for granted up there. It's only overseas visitors who find it odd - as they've probably been tought in school this use of pronouns is archaic!