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Showing posts from June, 2018

It's not personal

Today I'm going to talk about you, and how woefully inadequate it is.

Other languages have better options. The embarrassingly small handful of 'foreign words' I learned in school included the French tu (informal singular) and vous (formal singular, formal or informal plural), and the Spanish tĂș (informal singular), usted (formal singular), vosotros (informal plural) and ustedes (formal plural).

Olden-times English disambiguated too: thou and thee for (subject, object) singular, and you and ye for (subject, object) plural. The latter could also be used in the formal singular case, just to confuse things (if anything we think of thee and thou as highfalutin now, at least in the south of the UK). But somewhere along the line we decided that we had suffered under the tyranny of common sense grammar rules for long enough and broke away from our European neighbours.

The consequence being that second person subtleties are lost in modern English rendering, with interpretation now…