Quaker Culture: Plain Speech

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At the time when Quakerism began in the seventeenth century, the expression “plain speech” had a particular meaning for Friends. The plural form of the second person in English (you) was used to address someone of distinction or higher social status. The singular form (thee) was used to address one’s peers. George Fox and his Quaker followers chose to use the singular form to address everyone, reflecting a firm belief that all are equal in the eyes of God. The grammatical distinction has long since fallen into disuse, even among Quakers who continued the practice well into the twentieth century. The underlying belief, however, remains intact.