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Trivia: Yes and You

Y is the letter for this week's ABC Wednesday. So, here is a bit of trivia about two words we use a lot.

A long time ago, when you answered "Yes" to a negative question, you were really saying "No."  For example, if someone asked, "You don't want to die, do you?" The other person replied, "Yes!" To reply affirmatively to a question, one said "Yea."  How very confusing, no?

The word you comes from Old English. Back then, people had a singular and plural form for you. When addressing a specific person, they used thou, as "Thou sings well." When talking to more than one person, out came the you: "You (all) sing well."

As  Old English moved forward into modern English times, people began to use you as a form of respect for talking to strangers and for those they considered socially higher than them. The use of thou, contrary to how we think of it today, was for familiar use. "Hey, thou! How's it going?"

Yawn. . . . I wonder how that word came to be. Could it somehow be related to the word yon?

To read other Y posts by ABC Wednesday participants, click here. But, wouldn't you like to check out the George Harrison song, "You," first?


  1. Ah, the oddities of the English language and ourselves, its speakers!
    HelenMac, ABC team

  2. I linked to that Harrison song too!
    Ah, the double negative - treacherous linguistically.
    ROG, ABC Wednesday team

  3. I often don't not let myself speak too muchly in different bitses of englishly ... too confusing!

  4. It's strange how odd common words sound when repeated and how little we consider their origins and usage.
    By the way, I think carroty-red would be a superb colour for you :-)

  5. Just shows that English is very much a living language, doesn't it? And it's still moving along ...

  6. Helen, that's for sure!

    Roger, it makes me wonder what came first: coming up with the double negative in language or multiplying two negatives to equal a positive. Both confusing!

    widdershins, hahahahahahaha...

    jabblog, carroty-red, huh? Okay! :-)

    Jay, yes, indeed!

  7. Wow, I had no idea. Where did you learn all this?

  8. Alice, from various etymology web sites. I was also going to comment on "year" but that got too complicated to explain.


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Thanks for the good cheer. :-)

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