Role Playing 101 – How to Speak Britannian

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Role Playing 101
First steps in role playing | How to Speak Britannian | Begin to Build Your Character | Interacting With Others | Character Development Strategies
Lesson 2: Start Talking Like a True Britannian; by Galdrog, Edited
by Xena Dragon
This is optional for the role player, but you may want to read it over if you don’t understand some of the things that other role players may say in game.  I find myself looking over this page still, even after 5 months of roleplaying in Ultima Online.  This is a must read for any role player that wishes to speak ‘forsoothly’.
Britain speak is sort of, kind of like an adapted Elizabethan English.here are some basic translations and usage’s. 

  • Aye: yes
  • Nay: no
  • Hail: hello
  • Well met: response to Hail

If you keep practicing with these simple (and very limited) variations over what you would usually type, eventually you will pick up new words and usage’s as you use them. Just practice! You might sound like an idiot for a few days, but I personally am impressed by those that can carry on a full conversation without ever sounding anything other than a Britainnian citizen. Hell, if you get good enough, some of the other PC’s might think that you are an NPC.  Elawyn of Yew has written many stories and posts, where she has actually fooled other players that she was, in fact an NPC.Joseph’s the scholar has written a great essay on the subject, I find it most useful. You may read it if you wish, but I highly recommend that you do. It is VERY well written.

A Guide to Conversational Britannian,
with Simplified Grammar and Handy Phrasebook

By: Josephus the Scholar
Introduction * Disclaimer * Basic Grammar * Vocabulary * Contractions * Addressing Others * Dialects * Phrasebook

When you travel to Madrid or Paris or Florence or Amsterdam or Bandar Seri Begawan or any city where you don’t speak the native tongue, you might bring a phrase book or take a quick lesson in how to speak the language “conversationally.” This guide is intended to serve that purpose for those players of Ultima Online who are interested in speaking as the natives do.

Hardly a day goes by in the Ultima Online world when I’m not asked by someone I’ve encountered, “Hey, are you an NPC?” More often than not, the person who asks is a newbie, who has not yet figured out that the comma between the name and profession in a character’s paper doll is a dead giveaway that the character is a PC, but a few times a confused veteran has asked.

They ask, not because I walk around randomly and wait for people to talk to me, nor because I turn to face them instantly when they call my name, but because of my speech. Most of the characters in the Ultima games have traditionally spoken with something akin to the Elizabethan language Shakespeare used, and I choose to do the same. (There are, of course, regional dialects in Ultima Online, adding a richness I’ve not seen in other games; more on that later.)

This certainly adds something to the game for me, and I hope it does the same for those with whom I speak.

Of course, I’ve noticed that many people choose not to speak that way, and although I will occasionally comment in game that “I am having difficulty understand thee, friend,” I really don’t object. People should play the game as they please, and if that means dotting their speech with dudes and bite mes and the like, who am I to object?

I suspect, though, that there are some who would prefer to speak as the natives of Britannia do. Also, there are people who make a good effort, but do not fully understand the grammar—after all, Elizabethan English is the ancestral tongue of English speakers, not the mother tongue.

I invite comments and criticism, rants and raves, follow-ups and corrections, and any other words people care to throw at me.

Disclaimer

I am not a scholar of Elizabethan English, so anything here could be wrong. In one sense, I’m putting this out there so that people of greater learning can correct and teach me. If anyone spots errors, please let me know right away and I’ll fix them.Also, as I’ve stated in the introduction, I don’t think anyone should be required to speak this way. This document is intended to serve those who wish to.

That is all.

Basic Grammar

Britannian is very similar to English, so there’s really not a lot to learn. The greatest differences between the two languages are in pronouns and verb forms, so this grammar will focus on those areas.

Pronouns

Most people know the pronouns that Britannians use that we speakers of modern English rarely do. However, somewhat fewer know how to use the pronouns correctly.In particular, thee and thou are misused. This is easy to understand. In modern English, we do not distinguish between the subject and object case of the second person. In other words, it doesn’t make a difference whether the you is doing something or having something done to him or her. Only the second person has lost this distinction, having been replaced with a simplified version of the second person plural. There are also some niceties of the use of possessives that do not appear in modern English but are common in Britannian.

What follows is a list of guidelines for using pronouns properly. (Don’t worry about the verb forms yet; they’re discussed in the next section.) At the end of the list is a table which formally outlines pronoun usage, a useful quick reference for grammarians.

  • Thou is the Britannian pronoun used for the person to whom you are speaking when that person is the subject of your sentence.
    • Example: Thou art a knave and a lout, and thou shouldst not anger me.
    • Incorrect: I see thou hiding behind that tree!
  • You cannot use thou as the object of a sentence. It may help to think of thou as the second-person equivalent of I.

  • Thee is the Britannian pronoun used when the person you are speaking to is the object of the verb of your sentence.
    • Example: Whilst thy head was turned, the dragon did attack thee.
    • Incorrect: Thee smellest as foul as a sewer doth smell!
  • You cannot use thee as the subject of a sentence. It may help to think of thee as the second-person equivalent of me.Note: There are some dialects in which thee serves as both the object and subject case of the second person pronoun. In the real world, the old-style Quakers spoke this way—particularly to one another. I don’t know if I’ve ever met a Britannian who used thee as a subject, but there may be a region in which people speak that way. If so, let me know! More on dialect later.

  • Ye is a tricky word, and should be used with caution. In the most formal Britannian, it is used as the second-person plural subject pronoun (the second-person equivalent of we). However, most Britannians do not use the word, instead preferring to use you for both the subject and object second-person plural.
    • Example: [When speaking to a group.] Ye adventurers are heading toward Britain and did miss the turn for Skara Brae. Hear ye! Hear ye!
  • Ye can also be used as the singular second-person subject pronoun, but usually only in extremely formal (that is, Biblical) speech.Ye and you are also somtimes used as “polite” second-person subject and object pronouns in some dialects. Thus, you can use thee and thou when you would use tu in Spanish or French, and ye and you as you would the Spanish Usted or French vous. (It is from this usage that Quakers adopted using thee, the familiar, when addressing everybody—to show that they held all in equal esteem.)

    Ye is also used in some dialects rather loosely, as you in both singular and plural, subject and object. This usage has more to do with accent than grammar; imagine pirates who just say ye when we would say you.

    Finally, a note on the word ye in the phrase “Ye Olde Weapons Shoppe.” In this case, it does not mean “Your Old Weapons Shop.” The thorn, þ (a letter which is not part of our modern alphabet), represents the letters th. The word “the” was often abbreviated “þe” on signs, and was later corrupted to “ye.” Ye in this case has nothing to do with pronouns.

    • Possessives in Britannian are pretty much the same as possessives
      in modern English, with the addition of thy and thine for
      the second-person singular (to go along with thee and thou).

      • Examples: My sword
        is sharp, but thy dagger is sharper. Thou dost make my
        [or mine, depending on your accent] heart beat with passion,
        for thy smile doth affect me as strong drink.
      • Examples: The gold in this
        ettin’s pack is mine ; but the bread and ale are thine.
      • Examples: With mine arrows
        I slew a wretched orc. To thine own self be true.
    •  

      My and thy indicate that the following noun belongs
      to me or you respectively.

      Mine and thine serve as possessive pronouns, referring
      to that which belongs to me (in the case of mine) or you (in
      the case of thine), used without a following noun as a pronoun.

      Mine and thine are also used whenever the following word
      starts with a vowel (or the letter h, if you speak in a dialect
      in which the h is not pronounced, as most Britannians do).

    • First person: Pretty much exactly the same as in modern
      English. There are some peculiar Britannian constructions—for example,
      “I needs must improve mine ability to craft bows”—but such
      constructions are more a matter of vocabulary and diction than grammar.

      • Examples: I want gold.
        I walk to Despise. I plan to kill many harpies and
        ettins.
      • Incorrect: I wantest gold.
        I walketh to Despise. I planst to kill many harpies
        and ettins.
    • You should not add funny endings to first person verbs
      in any tense. This is one of the most common mistakes. Just remember,
      when you’re talking about something you did, the verb in Britainnian
      is the same as in Modern English.

    • Second person: Here’s where most of the trouble arises.
      Fortunately, it only really arises in the present tense, and only
      for second-person singular subject. Unfortunately, most conversation
      takes place in the present tense in Britannia, and almost always involves
      the second-person singular to some degree, so you have to learn to
      do it right.

      • Examples: Thou eatest
        as a pig eats, knave. Seest thou that city yonder? Whither
        walkest thou? And whence comest?
    • With regular verbs in the present tense, add -est or -st
      to the end of the root to make it agree with a second-person singular
      subject. Add the -est if the root ends in a consonant; add
      the -st if the root ends in a vowel.

      Remember, you don’t need to do this for second-person plural subjects.
      And be sure to use the second-person endings (-est and -st),
      not the third-person endings.

    • Third Person: When speaking very formally, with regular
      verbs in the present tense, you must add -eth or -th to
      the root (depending on whether the root ends in a consonant or a vowel)
      to make it agree with third-person singular subjects. This is often
      very cumbersome, and was one of the first things to go as English
      got modernized, so you needn’t worry about it too much. You will certainly
      be understood by any Britannian if you ignore the “ething,”
      but if you have the time, you might want to give it a try.

      • Example: She that walketh
        in stealth findeth safety.
    • Because this is so cumbersome, other constructions are often used. Thus,
      the above example might more likely be rendered, “She that doth walk
      in stealth shall find safety.” One would also more likely say, “Thou
      didst have much wealth,” rather than, “Thou hadst much
      wealth.”

      Remember, you don’t need to do this for third-person plural subjects.

       

    • The imperative mood in Britannian is identical to that of
      modern English.
    • Lord/Lady Term for addressing people of
      greater rank than yourself. People of equal nobility, while expecting
      a Lord or Lady from the lesser classes, will probably talk about each
      other without such honorifics except on officious occasions. Thus,
      Lord British might say “We shall wait until Blackthorn gets here,”
      but a peasant on the street will never fail to speak of “Lord British.”
      Technically, Lord and Lady should be saved for people of actual noble
      rank, not just people whom you see as your social betters.
    • Milord/Milady When speaking directly
      to someone who deserves the honor of a Lord or Lady , you can address
      them as Milord or Milady without using their names.
    • Sir/Lady Traditionally the
      terms used to address those who are considered knights of the king,
      they are used by Britannians when speaking to people who deserve respect,
      but are not of truly noble rank. In other words, if you want to show
      respect, but you don’t think the person quite qualifies for Lord or
      Lady , use Sir or Lady.
      That’s right, there’s no distinction between forms of address for women
      deserving of respect and truly noble women. Sure, there are female Britannians
      in all professions, but the language doesn’t accommodate this.

       

    • Leige Someone who has the right to command
      another. When you address someone as “my liege,” you imply that she
      has the right to tell you what to do, that she is your commander.
    • Maiden You’re better off not using this
      term unless invited to do so. It is impolite to assume anything about
      a woman’s sexual history in Britannia.
    • Sirrah A polite form of address that does
      not imply anything about the relative ranks of the speaker and the
      one he is addressing.
    • Your Highness A term of utmost respect,
      to be used for people whose high rank is widely recognized, like a
      prince or a king.
    • Your Majesty A term reserved exclusively
      for the reigning sovereign of a kingdom. In Britannia, the only person
      worthy of this title is Lord British himself.
  •  

     

    Britannian Pronouns
    Person Number Subject Pronoun Object Pronoun Possessive Adjective Possessive Pronoun Reflexive Pronoun
    First singular
     
    I me
     
    my/mine mine
     
    myself
     

    plural

    we  

    us

    our  

    ours

    ourselves
    Second singular thou
     
    thee thy/thine
     
    thine thyself
     
    plural  

    you/ye

    you  

    your

    yours  

    yourselves

    Third singular
     
    he/she/it him/her/it
     
    his/hers/its his/hers/its
     
    himself/herself/itself
     

    plural

    they  

    them

    their  

    theirs

    themselves

     
     

    Verb Forms

    Verb forms are trickier still than pronouns, mostly because there are
    countless irregular verbs in English. What follows is a very simplified
    discussion of how to get your regular verbs to agree with their subjects.
    Following that, a few useful irregular verbs are conjugated.

    Here are the conjugations of three extraordinarily useful irregular
    verbs: be, have, and do.

     

    to be
    Person Present Tense Past Tense Future Tense Present Perfect Past Perfect
     

    I

    am  

    was

    shall be  

    have been

    had been
    thou art
     
    wert wilt be
     
    hast been hadst been
     
    he/she/it  

    is

    was  

    will be

    has been  

    had been

    we are were shall be have been had been
    you (ye)
     
    are were
     
    will be have been
     
    had been
     

    they

    are  

    were

    will be  

    have been

    had been

     
     

     

     

    to have
    Person Present Tense Past Tense Future Tense Present Perfect Past Perfect
    I have
     
    had shall have
     
    have had had had
     
    thou  

    hast

    hadst  

    wilt have

    hast had  

    hadst had

    he/she/it hath had will have has had had had
    we
     
    have have
     
    shall have have had
     
    had had
     

    you (ye)

    have  

    have

    will have  

    have had

    had had
    they have
     
    have will have
     
    have had had had
     

     
     

     

     

    to do
    Person Present Tense Past Tense Future Tense Present Perfect Past Perfect
    I  

    do

    did  

    shall do

    have done  

    had done

    thou dost didst wilt do hast done hadst done
    he/she/it
     
    doth did
     
    will do has done
     
    had done
     

    we

    do  

    did

    shall do  

    have done

    had done
    you (ye) do
     
    did will do
     
    have done had done
     
    they  

    do

    did  

    will do

    have done  

    had done

     

     

    Vocabulary

    Although Britannian is, indeed, akin to modern English, there are some
    words which are far more common in Britannian. In order to blend in well,
    use following terms instead of their modern equivalents. Some of these
    terms predate the Elizabethan era, but they all lend a rich feeling to
    Britannian. [I’d really like to expand this section. Any suggestions?]

    I’ve included a few insulting terms in the table, although there are
    many that don’t fit the scope of this section. In the section on addressing
    others, below, is a fuller discussion of insults, as well as a link
    to a web site with a veritable wealth of insulting terms.

     

     

     

    Britannian  

    Modern English

    addlepated muddle-headed
    an
     
    if (especially at the beginnings of sentences)
     

    anon

    soon or immediately
    aroint away
     
    aught any, anything, or anyone
     
    aye, yea  

    yes

    e’en even or evening
     

    enow

    enough
    fare-thee-well, farewell good-bye
     
    fie  

    a swear word

    forsooth honestly
    grammarcy
     
    thank you
     

    hence

    from here
    hie hurry, go quickly
    hight called, named
     
    hither  

    to here

    leman lover
    knave
     
    deceitful, tricky one (an insult)
     

    mayhap, perchance, belike

    maybe
    mettle strength, stamina, courage
     
    morrow  

    morning or day

    nay
     
    no
     

    ne’r

    never
    oft often
     
    prithee, pray  

    please

    runion testicle
    Sblood or God’s Blood
     
    a swear word
     

    Steeth or God’s Teeth

    a swear word
    thence from there
     
    thither  

    to there

    verily truly
    wend
     
    walk, go
    whence
     
    from where
     

    wherefore

    why (not where)
    whither to where
     
    yclepped called, named
     
    Zounds or Zwounds  

    a swear word meaing

    God’s Wounds

     

    Contractions

    Contractions are common in Britannia, and you’ll find it pretty easy to
    get the hang of them. You do, however, need to be sure you know where
    the apostrophe goes. As in modern English, the Britannians put the apostrophe
    where something is left out (unless what’s left out is a space). Thus,
    an apostrophe appears where the i should be in contractions involving
    it, not after the t, but before’t.

    Thus, be sure to write ’twas instead of t’was, and ’tis
    instead of t’is. Thou’rt is a very common and useful
    contraction, meaning “you are.”

    Addressing Others

    In addition to speaking properly, one must know how to speak politely.
    And, of course, one must be ready with insults and taunts for those who
    deserve no better.

    How you address others is based on your relative positions in Britannian
    society. Social structures in Britannia differ from those in our world,
    so it can be difficult to judge exactly where you fit in. Of course,
    if you’ve decided that your character is a noble, then so she is. If
    you’ve decided that your character is a ranger who remains largely outside
    the social structures, then so he is. That’s entirely up to you to decide.

    The trick comes in judging how you relate to others. Once you’ve decided
    that you’re a lesser noble, you have to decide if the person you’re
    talking to is your equal, your “better,” or your “inferior”—and you
    have to decide how you feel about that.

    You can use notoriety, if you want. If someone is a Great Lord, and
    you consider yourself of good alignment, then you should probably treat
    that person as your better (unless you, yourself have earned the title,
    in which case you still may want to show respect). If someone is Dishonorable,
    and you’re neutral, you may want to treat the person politely . . .
    but warily.

    Clothing can also be an indication of rank. Someone bedecked in finery
    should be considered of substantial rank—even if he’s a fisherman. Someone
    clad in rags—be she the greatest swordswoman who ever lived—is but a
    knave to those who seem themselves as nobility (though maybe a knave
    deserving of pity).

    Obviously, you just have to roleplay as you see fit. Using titles and
    proper address, though, will enhance the roleplaying. Here are some
    titles and how to use them appropriately:

    Insults are important. The taunting bard, the disgruntled warrior, the
    angry shopkeeper all use them, and use them often.

    Britannians won’t know what you mean if you use words like [email protected]#k
    and s^%t (although such words did exist in Shakespeare’s
    day), so s^%head and [email protected]#k you won’t go over very well.
    Instead, swear and insult as the Britannians do.

    Instead of cursing at someone, really curse them. That is, wish
    aloud for evil things to happen to them. “A pox on thee and thy family”
    is a common curse. You can get really creative, too. For example, if
    you’re really angry, you might say, “Knave! May thy hair fall out and
    thy teeth all rot; and may thy well-known ugliness be visited upon thy
    children, and their children, unto the tenth generation; and mayst thou
    find that the purses of the beast thou dost slay are empty; and, most
    of all, may orcs and lizardmen always look upon thee with lust in their
    eyes!”

    Rather than plagiarize an already excellent source, I refer you to
    the insults
    page
    maintained by some people who put on Renaissance Faires. The
    curses and insults found there were the inspiration for Xena Dragon
    to create the UO
    Curse Tool
    .

     

    Dialects

    There are many dialects in use by Britannians. The language outlined here
    is the formal tongue spoken by Britannia’s educated and noble classes.
    Of course, a lot of the land’s citizens are very well educated, so you’ll
    find many people speaking this way. However, not only will you find characters
    who choose to speak in a different dialect, but you may wish for your
    character to speak with an accent as well.

    The most important thing to remember when speaking in a dialect is
    to be consistent. If you use “ye” in one sentence, “you” in the next,
    and “thou” in a third, you won’t sound convincing. You can learn something
    of the common Britannian dialects by finding NPCs who speak that way
    and engaging them in conversation. Or you can make up your own. Just
    be consistent.

    Also, if you’re making up your own, try to avoid anachronisms. A dialect
    in Britannia will be a sort of variation on the language outlined in
    this document, not a mysterious transplant of modern English into Britannia.

    Of course, you’ll encounter many who do speak in a tongue that greatly
    resembles our own, although the second-person pronoun has been shortened
    to u, the words to and for are represented numerically as 2
    and 4 [I do think that such abbreviations can be useful in
    combat situations where you have to talk fast], and the speech is rife
    with insults and swear words which make your ears burn. When someone
    addresses you thus, you can smile, and nod, and maybe they’ll go away.
    Or you can chide them and try to correct them. Or you can do your best
    to understand their speech and ignore their strange dialects.

    Or you can adopt it yourself. As I said, I speak as I please, and I
    hope you all will do the same.

     

    Phrasebook

    In the form of conversations illustrating different diction and grammar
    issues. Pronouns and verb forms are demonstrated throughout.

     

    Coming and Going (Prepositions)
    Well met, milord. Whither wendest thou?
    I came hither from Britain, Lady, and am making for Covetous
    this very minute.
    Wherefore goest thou thither?
    For to rid the labrynth’s twisting passages of the evil that
    doth lurk therein.
    And when thou returnest thence?
    I shall again to fair Britain, the bounty of mine hunt for
    to leave in the bank there.
    Well and good then, milord. Hie thee hence! Hie thee hence!
    And may the Virtues smile upon thee.
    And on thee, milady, and may thou not be troubled overly by
    mongbats.

     

     

    The Rapier Wit (Insults)
    Begone, vile knave!
    Thou callest me a knave? Why, thou’rt a bastard and a yellow
    coward.
    An I’m a bastard, thou’rt the abominable spawn of a lizardman
    and a gazer.
    Poor lad, that thou’rt so addlepated. If thy wit were but a
    wee bit quicker, thou wouldst mayhap have the sense to stay indoor
    so as not to inflict thy face on the rest of us.
    Zounds! but thou’rt rude, Oh Leman-of-a-Liche. Prithee tell
    me, wherefore thinkest thou that aught but thine own abhorrent
    self doth care to listen to thee. Or hast thou again mistaken
    the size of thy sword for the measure of thine importance.
    Thou’rt a sewer-slurping vandal!
    And thou a harpy-loving hot-head. Have at thee!

     

     

    I Love and Have My Love Regarded

    (Courtly Forms of Address)

    Good morrow, Lady Ygraine. Thy father, my liege lord, did
    tell me that thou art melencholy.
    Alas, ’tis no good morrow for me!
    Wherefore, milady? What grief doth assail thee, and is there
    aught I can do to aid thee?
    I fear not, sirrah, for ’tis only mine heart that is breaking,
    and for all thy mettle and might, thou’rt not well equipped to
    battle with lost love.
    Who is the knave who hath grieved thee? Give me but his name,
    and I will bring thee his heart, an he not give it thee
    willingly!
    Oh harm! Thou needs must not! Faith, I love him, though he doth
    not know, and ‘twould grieve me sorer still to hear that he did
    suffer the least wound, than to know that he loved me not.
    And doth he love thee not?
    I’truth, Garrick, I know not. I dare not tell him of the longing
    in my heart, for fear that it is not returned.
    Prithee pardon, but if thou dost keep so close with thy feelings,
    they can never be regarded.
    But an he not love me . . .
    His name, Ygraine. Tell it me.
    Very well, sweet Garrick. I see thou’rt a true friend as well
    as a noble retainer to my father. Garrick, verily, ’tis thee that
    I love.

     

     

     

     

    Highway Robbery (Dialect in Action)
    Halt!
    Wherefore, lady?
    Gimme yer money er taste mi blade!
    By the virtues! A thief!
    Aye, a thief I be, and ye my victim are. Now drop yer gold
    and if’n ye wants ta live.
    But I have nothing. I’m just a simple peasant.
    A lying peasant, at that, I reckon. I heard the sweet jingle
    of coins as ye approached.
    Oh harm, milady! Spare me. I have worked so long as a tailor
    for these few coins. Prithee, leave them to me, or I’ll have no
    food.
    I be a workin’ man miself, lad. Think ye that this is easy?
    … Hey! Stop! Run and you die!
    Oh woe! Thou hast wounded me sore!
    Yer money, lad, and now.
    Here, scoundrel. Take it. And may thine ill-gotten wealth buy
    thee nothing but misery.
    If it buys me a mug of good ale, that’ll suit me full well.
    No get ye from me, lad, afore I decide to take yer tunic, too,
    and send ye barebacked into town.

     

Last modified: April 9, 2011

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