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H.L. Mencken (1880–1956). The American Language. 1921.

Page 294

of the second person plural, it exhibits no more than an effort to give clarity to the logical difference between the true plural and the mere polite plural. In several other dialects of English the same desire has given rise to cognate forms, and there are even secondary devices in American. In the South, for example, the true plural is commonly indicated by you-all, which, despite a Northern belief to the contrary, is seldom used in the singular by any save the most ignorant. 76You-all, like yous, simply means you-jointly as opposed to the you that means thou. Again, there is the form observed in “you can all of you go to hell”—another plain effort to differentiate between singular and plural. The substitution of you for thou goes back to the end of the thirteenth century. It appeared in late Latin and in the other Continental languages as well as in English, and at about the same time. In these languages the true singular survives alongside the transplanted plural, but English has dropped it entirely, save in its poetical and liturgical forms and in a few dialects. It passed out of ordinary polite speech before Elizabeth’s day. By that time, indeed, its use had acquired an air of the offensive, such as it has today, save between intimates or to children, in Germany. Thus, at the trial of Sir Walter Raleigh in 1603, Sir Edward Coke, then attorney-general, displayed his animosity to Raleigh by addressing him as thou, and finally burst into the contemptuous “I thou thee, thou traitor!” And in “Twelfth Night” Sir Toby Belch urges Sir Andrew Aguecheek to provoke the disguised Viola to combat by thouing her. In our own time, with thou passed out entirely, even as a pronoun of contempt, the confusion between you in the plural and you in the singular presents plain difficulties to a man of limited linguistic resources. He gets around them by setting up a distinction that is well supported by logic and analogy. “I seen yous” is clearly separated from “I seen you.” And in the conjoint position “yous guys” is separated from “you liar.”
  Let us now glance at the demonstrative and relative pronouns. Of the former there are but two in English, this and that, with