This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Ye: a rant.

Okay, spot the difference between these words: ye and ye.

What? Oh, come on, the word has at least four completely different meanings.

For a start, ye is an ancient Korean kingdom. It's also the country code for Yemen.

There are two English ye s, too. Okay, they're both a bit out of date, but everyone knows what they mean. Ye can mean you (well, it can when there are two or more of you, anyway. Otherwise it should be thou, unless you happen to be speaking Early Modern English (as one does) when it is politer to use ye even to a single person).

All right so far. But then there's the other English ye. As in Ye Olde Worlde Tea/Antique/Computer Shoppe.
This ye means the, of course. And that's how you say it. The. With a th.
It's spelt with a y because when printing started up the printers couldn't be bothered to carve the special letter that ye used to begin with - it was called a thorn, and looked like this - Þ or þ - and so they lazily used a y instead.

Yes, it was dead sloppy of them, and, look, they're still causing trouble half a millennium on.

The trouble is that now no one knows how to say ye. The might be the right pronunciation, but you won't half look an idiot if you try saying it.

Unless the people you're talking to are know-alls, when you'll look a right idiot if you say it as spelled.

So let's just use the, shall we? Spelled the. After all, it's been established as a word for hundreds and hundreds of years.

PS. You don't say the extra es on the ends of words like olde, either.

No, not even if you're desperate to look quaint.
Word To Use Today: ye. This word has been around in various forms more or less forever. There are Old Saxon, Frisian and Gothic forms, but it's all so complicated that I'm quite pleased that we can now all say you and not have to bother our heads.

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