A word about The King’s English
By a British Street-preaching Friend of the 1600s!
In the journal of George Fox (1624-1691), the founder of the Quakers recounts a time when he was in prison at Lancaster Castle. While in prison, there was a book published called the Battledore. The purpose of the book was to show that in every language “Thou and Thee is the proper and usual form of speech to a single person; and You to more than one.” George Fox goes on to quote: “This was set forth in examples or instances taken from the Scriptures, and books of teaching, in about thirty languages.” After the compiling of this book Battledore was finished, copies were given to the King and his Council, also to the Bishops of Canterbury and London, and then one each to the two universities. Not only that, but there were many others which bought this book.
Here is how George Fox recounts this matter: “The King said it was the proper language of all nations; and the Bishop of Canterbury, being asked what he thought of it, was at a stand, and could not tell what to say to it. For it did so inform and convince the people, that few afterwards were so rugged toward us for saying Thou and Thee to a single person, for which before they were exceedingly fierce against us.”
To men such as the Bishop of Canterbury, the words “Thou and Thee was a sore cut to proud flesh and those that sought self-honour”, Mr. Fox stated. “Though they would say it [Thee and Thou] to God and Christ, [they] could not endure to have it said to themselves.” Continuing on, he says “We were often beaten and abused, and sometimes in danger of our lives, for using those words to some proud men who would say ‘What! You ill-bred clown, do you Thou me?’ As though Christian breeding consisted in saying You to one [singular]; which is contrary to all their grammars and teaching books, by which they instructed their youth.”
Footnoted in his journal is the title page to the book Battledore (which George Fox claimed to be very rare and very valuable to collectors, even back in the mid 1600’s). The title page reads like this:
“A Battle-Door for Teachers & Professors to learn Singular and Plural; You to Many, and Thou to One: Singular One, Thou; Plural Many, You. Wherein is shewed forth by Grammar, or Scripture Examples, how several Nations and People have made a distinction between Singular and Plural, And First. In the former part of this Book, Called the English Battle-Door, may be seen how several People have spoken Singular and Plural, As the Apharsathkites, The Tarpelites, The Apharsites, The Archevites, The Babylonians, The Susanchites, The Dehavites, The Elamites, The Temanites, The Naomites, The Shuites, The Buzites, The Moabites, The Hevites, The Edomites, The Philistines, The Amalekites, The Sodomites, The Hittites, The Midianites, &c. Also, in this Book is set forth Examples of the Singular and Plural About Thou, and You in several Languages divided into distinct Battle-Doors, or Forms, or Examples; English, Latine, Italian, Greek, Hebrew, Caldec, Syriack, Arabick, Persiack, Ethiopick, Samaritan, Coptick, or Egyptick, Armenian, Saxon, Welch, Mence, Cornish, French, Spanish, Portugal, High Dutch, Low Dutch, Danish, Bohemian, Slavonian, and how Emperors and others have used the Singular Word to One; and how the Word You (to one) came first from the Pope.[!!!] Likewise some examples, in the Polonian, Lithvanian, Irish and East-Indian, Together with the Singular and Plural Words thou and you, in Swedish, Turkish, Muscovian and Curlandian tongues, – In the latter part of this Book are contained several bad unsavoury words gathered first for certain School Books, which have been taught Boyes in England, which is a Rod and a Whip to the School Masters in England and eslewhere who teach such Books. Geo. Fox, Jno. Stubbs, Benjamin Furley.
“London: Printed for Robt. Wilson, and are to be sold at his Shop at the Signe of the Black-Spread-Eagle and Wind-Mil in Martins le Grand 1660.”
More evidence of the beauty, accuracy, and superiority of the Authorized King James 1611 Version of the Bible!
Those Thee’s and Thou’s
by Henry M. Morris
“And thou shalt speak unto him, and put words in his mouth; and I will be with thy mouth, and with his mouth, and will teach you what ye shall do.” Exodus 4:15
These words of God, spoken to Moses concerning the mission he and his brother Aaron were to undertake at Pharaoh’s palace are one of numerous examples in Scripture where the King James translation uses several different forms of the second-person pronoun. In this one verse, we see the words “thou,” “thy,” “you,” and “ye,” all fulfilling this function. Most modern translations would translate this sentence. “You shall speak to him . . . and I will be with your mouth . . . and will teach you what you shall do.” Why would the King James translators use four different forms of the pronoun when only “you” and “your” are used in modern versions?
The fact is that the Elizabethan-age English was able to make much finer distinctions than modern English. That is, “thou,” “thee,” “thy,” and “thine,” were used for the second person singular, whereas “ye,” “you,” “your,” and “yours” were the corresponding words for the plural. Different words also were used for subject, object and possessive modifiers, as is still true for first and third-person pronouns.
In our text, God was telling Moses that He (Moses) was to speak to Aaron, and that He (God) would teach both of them, not just Moses, what they were to do. This distinction is clear in the King James English, but not in modern English. This is one of the numerous examples where such fine points in the King James language are lost in modern translations.
In the Lord’s Prayer, for example, “Yours is the kingdom” could suggest that many will possess the kingdom, where “thine is the kingdom” clearly recognizes one God alone.
Clear words are important for clear meanings, and Jesus said, “My words shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:35).
Ec 8:4 “Where the word of a king is, there is power: and who may say unto him, What doest thou?”
De 17:18-20 “And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them: That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel.”
Ps 12:6-7 “The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.”