Sunday, August 17, 2014

"Thee" and "vouchsafe"

Again, my pet peeve: how so many hymns and prayers have been revised to omit those "offensive" words like "Thee," "Thou" and "Thy" to substitute the egalitarian, familiar and nondescript "You" and "Your." [I know this is an absolute non-issue for many of my readers, and they needn't read on.]

Sometimes it's almost comical. Like many of you, doubtless, I make use of those lovely prayers by St. Thomas Aquinas before and after Holy Communion. I have a little card in my Missal with these prayers, which doubles as a bookmark.

The comical part is that all the offending "Thees" and "Thous" have been removed, substituting "You" and "Your," even though ALL OF US continue to use the older form of address in the Our Father and Hail Mary ...

... AND here's the kicker: they still retain the word "VOUCHSAFE"! [There are other even worse translations.]
Therefore, I implore the abundance of YOUR measureless bounty that YOU would VOUCHSAFE to heal my infirmity ..."
... and again
I give You thanks, holy Lord, Father almighty, everlasting God, that YOU have VOUCHSAFED to feed me, a sinner, YOUR unworthy servant, for no merits of my own ..."
Is this not hysterical?? They keep a word like "vouchsafe," which probably only one in a dozen people understands today, but dump "Thou," "Thee," "Thy" and "Thine"!

Don't get me wrong, "vouchsafe" is a perfectly noble word meaning to "graciously grant" something. My own sense of the language of the prayers in English translation is that it would be much better served by retaining the older forms in toto, rather than trying to modernize them and throwing a philistine indignity like "YOU" in amidst the dignified references to "almighty" and "everlasting" and "imploring" God's "measureless bounty."

Keep "YOU" for the ordinary language of today. Keep the language of prayer noble, elevated, respectful, and dignified. "Hallowed by THY name. THY kingdom come. THY will be done ... Blessed art THOU among women, and blessed is the fruit of THY womb, Jesus."

Related: David Mills, "Lewis & Orwell on Language" (Patheos, July 9, 2014).


PG said...

I have heard that in earlier English, "thee" and "thy" were actually the familiar forms of "you", the formal form being "you", "ye", etc.

Tradical said...

I always cringe (at least internally) when I hear or read those words at Mass or in prayers.

Pertinacious Papist said...

PG, I'm well acquainted with that claim. True or not, it's not how the terms are used now. Peace, PP.

Ralph Roister-Doister said...

It's very simple. Is prayer an ordinary or a elevated form of language? Is talking to God the same thing as talking to your father-in-law, or to Joe the Bartender?

No? Then should not the language used reflect that difference, that elevation?

Yes? Then its all good. Talk your talk with the Big Homey.

JM said...

The entire emphasis since Vatican II has been away from any conception of God as anything but Our Friend. That's why the idea of sacrifice, so uncomfortably situated at the center of revelation, is unavoidably de-emphasized. It really doesn't "fit" with modern Catholic theology. Not does any suggestion of God as "King." If the whole point is Man, the Fall doesn't quite make sense, since it makes man a problem, not simply the object of God's unadulterated Hallmark card affection. "Thee" and "Thou" makes God "Other," whereas our leaders are busy making God as convenient as Distance Ed: you can be Catholic without really disrupting your life or changing your own plans, since he will go out of His way to make Himself accessible to everyone, no matter what!