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  Quaker Plain Speech

Once, Quakers used thou, thy, and thee in addressing a person. But kings began to refer to themselves in the plural — "we shall proceed to Coventry" or "our royal household" — and courtiers said "your majesty." Gradually you and your became general for all the elect, and only social inferiors used the second person singular pronouns. Early Quakers, therefore, used the "plain language," as they called it, as a mark of democracy, a denial of caste in human relationships. Nor did their desire to wear "plain dress" come from a desire to be different. All they did was simplify the apparel of the period by removing the ornamentation. Today, the old Quaker garb has become nothing more than a Quaker costume, to be used for pageants or to be placed in museums, and some Quakers use thee and thy–thou has never been common among Friends in America–mostly among themselves, especially within the family. A practice that was clung to in order to further inclusiveness with all God's children has become a harmless peculiarity, a rather charming anachronism, even, with the irony of time, a mark of exclusiveness.


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