i’ve griped about this before, but it has surfaced again, so here’s another…
“ye olde” stuff, and people who yell “hear ye” are NOT using the same word, and it all has to do with three, but primarily two obsolete letters; ƿ which is called “wynn”, þ which is called “thorn”, and ȝ which is called “yogh”.
ƿ is pronounced like “w”. þ is pronounced as a voiceless “th”. ȝ is pronounced like “y”.
it also has to do with the fact that the letter “y”, itself, is a relatively recent innovation, and it wasn’t really decided exactly what the letter “y” was going to “do” until the late 1800s or early 1900s. prior to that time, the letters ƿ, þ, and ȝ were in reasonably common use, and people used “y” for wildly different reasons, depending on what flavour of proto-modern-english they were speaking.
“þe olde” is pronounced “the old”. when we were in the process of figuring out what “y” did, some enterprising printers got it into their heads that “y” could be used as a substitute for þ, and then things got out of hand.
again, while we were in the process of figuring out what “y” was supposed to do, the letter ȝ was falling out of fashion. “ye” — which was originally spelled “ȝe” — is the nominative case of the second person plural pronoun, which, in modern times, is “you”, and some other enterprising printers figured that they could use this new fangled “y” thingy as a substitute for ȝ, and, thus, instead of “hear ȝe”, we now have “hear ye”, even though the letter ȝ is actually more closely related to the modern letter “g”.
and then there’s ƿ, which sort of looks like “y”, if you squint — and, considering that corrective lenses were still a curiosity, there must have been A LOT of printers who couldn’t see very well. but the fact that it is pronounced like “w” means that it can only come down to stupid printers who didn’t know, or couldn’t see the difference, and mistakenly set ƿ as “y” as a typographical error.
and the fact that people don’t just KNOW this stuff is something i find very frustrating. 😒