View Full Version : Quaker Plain Speech

07-15-2014, 11:44 PM
Hi guys--I have a secondary character in my WIP who is a Quaker. Because the story takes place in 1800 and Quakers still used plain speech then, my character uses "thee, "thou", "thy" instead of "you."

I'm revising the scenes this character is in and the sources I looked up to figure out how "thee/thou" was used were kind of contradictory, so I'm wondering now if a sentence like, "Thy said thy wouldn't" is incorrect, as a beta pointed out and it should be, "Thee said thee wouldn't."

Anybody have any ideas?

07-15-2014, 11:58 PM
Thou is the nominative form (thanks, Latin!), used as the subject of a sentence.
Thee had best hurry. Thee is too kind.

Thy is possessive, equivalent to your.
Get thy elbows off the table. Thy eyes shine like stars.

Thee is the objective form--the object of both verbs and prepositions, as well as indirect object.
The Lord is watching thee. I'll strike thee down! (direct object)
Which of thee should I choose? I'll go with thee. (prepositional object)
He'll give thee five cents. She'll do thee a favor. (indirect object)

Maryn, who's been to a meeting and enjoyed it very much

07-16-2014, 12:09 AM
I'm not a linguist, but I did grow up reading the King James Bible!

"Thy" is used like "your". Your book = thy book. Your name = thy name.

Thee and thou is a little harder, but if you read enough you start to develop an ear for it. For example, in a prepositional phrase, "thee" is the word to use.

I would highly recommend reading through the KJV version of Psalms and Proverbs to get a feel for what words are used in which contexts.

ETA: Maryn explained thee and thou so much better than I did, but my rec still stands. :tongue

07-16-2014, 12:13 AM
I'll add that the possessive thy is typically altered to thine whenever the following noun begins with a vowel.

Thine eyes doth offend me, varlet! Cast thy gaze elsewhere this instant!

Siri Kirpal
07-16-2014, 03:52 AM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Colorado Guy is a Quaker if you need help.


Siri Kirpal

07-16-2014, 05:07 AM
In formal grammar, "thou" is the nominative form of the pronoun and "thee" is the objective. So: "Thou couldst walk all the way, but I might give thee a ride."

Thy, of course, is the possessive. Thy:thine :: my:mine

Thou/thee mostly fell out of common use before 1700. Only Quakers kept it. And I understand common Quaker "plain speech" mostly only kept "thee" for both subject and object, and "thou" pretty much disappeared. (I guess "thou" was too pretentious, not plain enough.) I'm not sure what verb form was used with it, though. Not, I expect, the old-fashioned 2nd person singular, which would have been just as fancy as thou.

07-16-2014, 07:06 AM
Try this google search (https://www.google.com/search?as_q=quaker+biography&as_epq=&as_oq=&as_eq=&as_nlo=&as_nhi=&lr=&cr=&as_qdr=all&as_sitesearch=archive.org&as_occt=any&safe=images&tbs=&as_filetype=&as_rights=&gws_rd=ssl) for Quaker biographies on Archive.org.

That may help with language.

07-16-2014, 08:25 AM
Thank you so much to all of you! And special thanks to you, Maryn. Now I have a nice table to help me figure this all out.

He's only in a few scenes, but I don't want to cringe every time I need to replace a "you," you know?

Benbenberi--that's kind of where some of my confusion came from, in that what I'd looked up told me that Quaker "plain speech" in the 1700s was mostly confined to thee/thy and that American Quakers, which my character is, then only used either thee or thy with everything.