Ye

“In an attempt to seem quaint or old-fashioned, many store signs such as ‘Ye Olde Coffee Shoppe’ use spellings that are no longer current. The word ye in such signs looks identical to the archaic second plural pronoun ye, but it is in fact not the same word. Ye in ‘Ye Olde Coffee Shoppe’ is just an older spelling of the definite article the. The y in this ye was never pronounced (y) but was rather the result of improvisation by early printers. In Old English and early Middle English, the sound (th) was represented by the letter thorn (þ). When printing presses were first set up in England in the 1470s, the type and the typesetters all came from Continental Europe, where this letter was not in use. The letter y was used instead because in the handwriting of the day the thorn was very similar to y. Thus we see such spellings as ye for the, yt or yat for that, and so on well into the 19th century. However, the modern revival of the archaic spelling of the has not been accompanied by a revival of the knowledge of how it was pronounced, with the result that (y) is the usual pronunciation today.”

Dictionary.com

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