I am writing this about one of my (many) language pet peeves. I have a lot of them, yes, because I have had centuries to cultivate various linguistic dislikes.
Tonight, we will turn our attention to one of my major pet peeves of Old English. Use of the word “ye” in anything meant to be spoken, whether aloud, or in historical fiction/nonfiction written today. You all know the word “ye,” I hope. Such as in the phrase, “ye olde,” or “ye fawning flimsy-nosed flap-dragon.”
“Ye” was the product of lazy English. Imagine it as a sort of early modern short hand. Rather than write out the entire word “the,” writers would use a symbol known as the thorn. Which looked like this:
In its early stages, the thorn looked like an elaborate letter “p” though its sound was similar to the “th” sound like in English word “this.” Over time, as scribes copied documents using the thorn as an easy substitute to the “th,” the shape of it changed such that it began to be written in a form similar to the English “y.” But it was never pronounced with a “y” sound. It was always pronounced as a “th.” The word “ye” was never spoken as “ye” with a “y” sound. Even though it was written “ye,” it was still pronounced as the word “the.”