Confusing words

Confusing words: Y

Ye Olde Worlde Shoppe

There isn’t really such a thing as “ye olde” anything.

Or at least the phrase shouldn’t be pronounced “ye oldë”.

Ye has two meanings: it’s an old word for “you” in the plural (as in “abandon hope, all ye who enter here”) and an abbreviation of the word “the”, in which case it is written “ye” but should be pronounced “the”. The use of “ye” to mean “the” derives from Early Modern English, originally as an incorrect transcription of the Old English runic letter thorn, þ. The usage was perpetuated by early printers and “y” came to be used as an abbreviation for “th” to save space in a line of print.

“Ye” nowadays sometimes appears as a pseudo–Early Modern English usage to evoke a connection with Merry England or make something seem long-established and venerable, as in Ye Olde Sweet Shoppe and the like.

(Here endeth ye 25th entry in the alphabetical series of misused words.)