Second person singular

Seán Fitzpatrick grendel.jjf at VERIZON.NET
Sat Jun 28 07:29:30 UTC 2008

What English pretty much abandoned is the second person *familiar*, singular
and plural.  I suppose most of the male readers have had a young lady say to
him "Du magst mir 'du' sagen", or the equivalent in French, etc.  My answer
the first time it happened points to the questioner's guess:  I said thanks,
I would, but it was easier to use the "Sie" form.
The democratization of plural/formal "You" undercut and made conservatives
out of those fiery radicals, the plain people, or Quakers, who "would say
'You' to no Manne", nor doff their hats.

Seán Fitzpatrick
The ends had better justify the means.

A correspondent on another list asks:
>Are there any really good in-depth studies or explanations of why
>the second person singular went out of use in English in
>this  period? [That is, the 18th century.]
>It remained in use in most other languages, so the explanataion must
>be peculiar to English speakers.
>Was it just that the second person plural is shorter and has fewer
>consonants e.g. "you know " rather than "thou knowest" - or is there
>a better explanation?


The American Dialect Society -

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