Thou & You in 1713

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Wed Jan 26 17:45:38 UTC 2005

The following exchange was imagined in 18th C. York. It well exemplifies the days when plural or honorific "you" was replacing singular "thou" in daily speech. (Actually, there's something this paragraph for just about everyone!)

"Passing over Foss-Bridge, a couple of Brawny brawling Shrews, well match'd in a Tongue-Duel, out-did all the Bells in the Parish, or Bull-baitings in Christendom, for unmannerly Noise and Barbarity; their jangling Clappers were enough to turn all the Drink in the Neighbourhood, and sour the very Society of the World. Why, says one, thou lyest [sic] like a Punk, a Thief, and a Witch. Well, but you Bitch, you, says the other, You lie [sic] like an Almanack-maker, that lies every Hour of the Day, and all the Year long.  No, you Jade, you out-do the famous Bully P----tridge, and the infamous Dr. O--ts in Lying; and are as well known throughout the Town, amongst Men, Women, and Children, as the Church Catechism, or Practice of Piety, amongst the Religious."
                           -------"Captain Bland," The New Atalantis; or The York Spy (1713), p. 52.

"Bland"'s satirical little book seems to have been inspired by those of Edward Ward, "The London-Spy."  The above selection well typifies its still entertaining contents.


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