Friday, December 10, 2010

How Is Heroine Mercy Gabriel Different?



Though the artist has made my heroine, Mercy Gabriel, look like an Amish woman on the cover. She's really a Quaker. I have always been intrigued by the Quakers, another Plain group of religious dissidents who came to America for religious freedom just as the Amish were. There are still Society of Friends churches, but they don't wear the distinctive clothing they did in the past and they don't have the distinctive "Thee and thy" speech, called Plain Speech.

Here's the explanation I gave my editor so they would understand Quaker Plain Speech:

Loss of the thou/thee distinction in Quaker speech.

As the singular/plural or familiar/polite distinction died out in most of English, a change within the Quaker usage began to take hold. The accusative "thee" form began to supplant the nominative "thou". This change is said to have been most complete in America.

Interestingly, the change is parallel to the development in general English usage, where the accusative "you" eventually supplanted the nominative "ye".

Change of the inflection on the verb to third singular. As it finally evolved, much Quaker plain speech began to use the third person singular verb forms with "thee". So, instead of "thou art", "thou hast", we find "thee is", "thee has" I know of no research on this phenomenon. This, too, is said to be a peculiarly American phenomenon.

Okay, I know that reads like a grammar textbook. Here's the short form: the Quakers began in the mid-1600's in England. They did not stop using "Thee" and "Thou" which are so common in the King James Bible and begin using "you." However, as you can see, American Quakers or Friends had to be different! They dropped "Thou" and used "Thee" instead.

Do you know much about what made Quakers different besides their speech? Did you ever see the classic movie, Friendly Persuasion, with Gary Cooper about a Quaker family during the Civil War?

Drop by my blog and read what I wrote on Tuesday. I'm doing something different there!


4 comments:

Maryrose said...

I am also fascinated by the Quakers and I love reading books that have them and their lifestyles.

Loves 2 Read Romance - Laura said...

I have always enjoyed reading about different people groups and how people lived in different times. I think that is why I love reading historical fiction!!

Lyn Cote said...

Thanks, ladies. I agree. I love learning about different cultures and then throwing them all together in a story!

Anonymous said...

Just so you know many conservative quakers still dress Plain, although there is no community standard and one person's style of Plain dress can be quite different from another's. Some still use Plain speech- thee instead of you and thy instead of your. Many who use Plain speech only use it amongst other Friends.