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They Vs Thay, What Spelling Should Be Used When Writing?

They Vs Thay, What Spelling Should Be Used When Writing?

There are many terms we use today that didn’t exist three or four centuries ago. Additionally, there are words that were used back then, but we do not know they exist. This “change” is the case for the term “thay” as it was used in those days as we use “they” today.

The spelling that should be used when writing would be “They.” The term “Thay” is an obsolete spelling of the word “They.” 

Even though the term “Thay” did have the same meaning as the term “They” a couple of centuries ago, it is good to know the word “thay” can be used in another context that goes hand in hand with “Eye Dialog.” It would be something like an “excuse” for misspelling words. In this article, we will cover basic definitions and examples for “eye dialects,” which is fundamental for this article. Additionally, this article explains the differences between the two terms via essential explanations, examples, and the origin of these words.

they spelled on wooden blocks


Meaning Of “They”

The term “they” is used to refer to a group of people in a general way or in a not specified way.

Etymology Of “They”

Originally used in the 13th century, it originates from Middle English to Old Norse. “Their,” originally a masculine plural demonstrative pronoun, by 1400 was commonly used to mention “anonymous people in authority.”

They VS Them

“They” and “them” are pronouns often confused because they are always used in place of plural nouns or noun groups in the third person. The principal difference is that “They” is a subject pronoun, while “Them” is an object pronoun.

The term “they” portrays the “doers” of the activity described by the verb, for example:

  • “The musicians were friendly. They played a song for me.”

The term “them” portrays the group of people or things that have “experienced” the action described by the verb, for example:

  • “I’ve learned some new songs. I’ll play them for you.”

How To Use “They” In A Sentence?

  • They were talking seriously when they gave me the keys.
  • You don’t know if they will be here when you come back.
  • When they saw the dogs, they began to run fast.
  • Why are they leaving the country?
  • It may be unclear whether they will be in their home by nine o clock.
  • They always eat all the food.
  • Mark won’t go, but they certainly will.
  • This may be the best car they have ever bought.
  • They are too young to be married.
  • They were glad to see Mrs. Williams after all these years.
  • I think it won’t make any difference if they come or not.
  • We were waiting for their visit, but they didn’t even call or text.
  • I don’t know if we will win. I think they may be the fastest team ever.
  • They went shopping even though they said they didn’t have any money.
  • She said she would be focusing more on her work while they do the research.


Meaning And Etymology Of The Term “Thay”

Some experts mention the term “thay” is just an obsolete way to refer to “they.” It is unknown when people began to use the word “thay” for the first time, but we can find it in some writings from 1566 and 1838:

  • It was used in John Knox’s “The works of John Knox, Vol. 1 (of 6)” in 1566 when he wrote:

“But potent is he against whome thei faught; for when “thay” wicked war in greatast securitie, then begane God to schaw his anger.”

In this paragraph, we can see how many of the words used at that time (including “thay”) are different from how we use them today.

  • The word “thay” was also used by William Makepeace Thackeray’s “Memoirs of Mr. Charles J. Yellowplush” in 1838.

Definitions Of “Thay”

Although the word “thay” may not be grammatically correct to refer to “they” today, it has some definitions that people tend to use in slang or dialects, particularly the “Eye Dialect.”

  • Eye dialect spelling of “say.” This indicates a speaker with a speech impediment, such as a lisp.
  • Eye dialect spelling of: “They, That, The.”

Since most meanings of the word “Thay” found are “eye dialect” terms, we will share the definition and some examples for them.

eye dialect smiley

What Is Eye Dialect?

“Eye dialect” is to misspell a word deliberately, to emphasize how it’s being pronounced. The first use or reference for an “eye dialect” term was in 1925 by George Philip Krapp in his “The English language in America” book. He wrote, “is one of the eyes, not of the ear,” referring to the dialect being read rather than heard.

Influential authors of bestsellers have used this form of writing; some of the names are:

  • Charles Dickens
  • J.K Rowling
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • John Betjeman
  • Maya Angelou

Examples Of Paragraphs With “Eye Dialect”

J.K Rowling used eye dialects constantly in her Harry Potter books, especially when the half-giant, Rubeus Hagrid, was speaking, for example:

  • “What’s this? Feelin’ sorry for me? Reckon I’m lonely or Summat?”
  • “They won’ grow inter nuthin’,” said Hagrid. “I got ’em ter feed ter Aragog.”
  • “Its … Aragog. … I think he’s dyin’. ., He got ill over the summer, an’ he’s not getting’ better… I don’ know what I’ll do if he … if he … We’ve bin tergether so long.”

“Taken from “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Rowling 2005:216-217).”

Another example of J.K Rowling’s eye dialects was when the foreign character called Fleur Delacour was talking. Rowling used eye dialect to make sure the reader knew Fleur wasn’t a native English speaker character, example:

  • “Yes, and zat eez all very good,” snapped Fleur, “but still eet does not explain ‘ow zey know we were moving ‘Arry tonight, does eet? Somebody must ‘ave been careless.”

“Taken from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Rowling 2007:71).”

This way of writing is commonly used when the author wants to emphasize that the character has lisps, difficulty talking, when the character is foreign, etc.

That’s why the word “Thay” is often used in writings as an “eye dialect” to refer to:

  • They
  • Say
  • That
  • The

How To Use “Thay” In A Sentence?

Taking into consideration the information about “eye dialects” and how some authors use this term in their works to emphasize and let the reader know about the character’s origin or capacity to talk, we will share a few examples of how it could be used as an “eye dialect:”

  • He said, “thay” used to read every night. (They)
  • Can we “thay” goodbye before leaving? (Say)
  • Thay was when they decided to go home. (That)
  • Thay temple was built before the English came to this island. (That)
  • Please, thay hello to your brother and sister for me. (Say)
  • Thay might come back next summer. You just need to be patient. (They)
  • We will be waiting for “thay” next bus. (The)
  • This could be thay best example for it. (The)
  • Thay said that I’ll be doing all the work next week. (They)
  • I can “thay” we were dating. (Say)
  • Mark said thay may be his last cigarette. (That)
  • I will be waiting for thay train. (The)

Final Thoughts

Grammar can often be tricky when we meet and see words whose only difference is a letter. Sometimes words can “evolve” through time and change their spelling and meaning. This “evolution is certainly the case for words such as “thay,” which had a different use in the 1400s. We should always aim to keep developing and keeping up with the change and progression of words and terms.