Why do Quakers say “Thee” and “Thou”?

Quakers thee Thou
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Why do Quakers say “Thee” and “Thou”?

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Some conservative Quakers still engage in this use of 2nd person pronouns, and many times they were taught this from birth. At North Main Friends we don’t use plain speech, but there’s actually a very good historical reason for this practice. In the same way that Spanish has an informal “tu” and a formal “usted” for the second person pronoun, English had a similar practice a few centuries ago. And in many cases, the formal “you” was used for people who were considered superior, while the informal “thee” was sometimes used to address those who were considered inferior. George Fox felt a very strong calling to dismiss any such practices, and proclaim the equality of everyone. Therefore early Friends kept the plain and informal “thee and thou”.

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Some conservative Quakers still engage in this use of 2nd person pronouns, and many times they were taught this from birth. At Foothills Fellowship we don’t use plain speech, but there’s actually a very good historical reason for this practice. In the same way that Spanish has an informal “tu” and a formal “usted” for the second person pronoun, English had a similar practice a few centuries ago. And in many cases, the formal “you” was used for people who were considered superior, while the informal “thee” was sometimes used to address those who were considered inferior. George Fox felt a very strong calling to dismiss any such practices, and proclaim the equality of everyone. Therefore early Friends kept the plain and informal “thee and thou”.

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