The Three WEs in the English Language

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At 11:15 AM 09/30/2008, you wrote: >When did “we” start speaking like Gollum of Lord of the Rings??

Dear Jennifer,

So far, you are the only one who has acknowledged this.

As you should have learned in high school, there were three “WEs” in the English language. These are the editorial WE, the Royal WE and the Papal WE. In journal articles, the author never uses the word “I” to refer to himself, he always uses “WE”. This is the editorial WE.

If you notice all of the communications from the Queens and Kings of England, and probably other countries, they always refer to themselves in the plural. This is because when they speak, they speak for the entire country. You can find this in the Queen’s present speech and in documents and movies from the past. There are several instances of it in the movie “Elizabeth I” where she writes to her sister Mary that, “you have offended US for the last time.” This is the Royal WE.

The Catholics stole the Royal WE and incorporated it into their organization. This is because they wanted to elevate themselves to the level of royalty so they could communicate with the royalty on equal terms, pun intended. So if you noticed that when J2P2 died a couple of years ago, they referred to the bishops who would elect the new pope as the “princes of the church”. This, BTW, was the first time I had ever heard of the bishops being referred to as princes. So this is the papal WE.

Since then, they (we actually) have added two more WEs to the language. The first one is the schizophrenic WE that became popular when The Lord of the Rings movies and books recently became more popular. This would, of course, be the reference to Gollum that you made above.

Then there is the NASCAR WE. Many years ago, all of the drivers would go into interviews and say “I did this” and “I did that”. Well, this made all of the teams mad because they were being neglected so all of the drivers started using WE instead of I. And then, a couple of years ago in an interview (it was actually an Indy car driver rather than a NASCAR driver) the guy said, ”....and when WE broke OUR leg…..” and we knew that we had ‘em.

So now we are up to five WEs. We thought of another one a few weeks ago but for some reason we forgot it. And then there is “ennui”. We still haven’t figured out how to incorporate this into the language properly. It’s going to be really hard, actually, but we aren’t going to dedicate too much time to it right now as we have more important things to think about and do.

So that’s the story. BTW, you might check some of the speeches and writings of the leaders of the church of England (which we believe is your church). He may be using the papal WE because that is, after all, the origin of the church of England. They just copied everything from that Catholics during the time of Henry I (so that he could marry Anne Bolyne – the mother of Elizabeth I) and put the head of the church in Canterbury so that Henry wouldn’t have to answer to the pope. And if you read any of the writings of Henry and/or Elizabeth, they always speak and write in the plural.

And at this point in time, we are using the royal WE. But we do alternate occasionally to be fair. And we are trying to be more consistent in using it.

Alex Haas,

The Lord of the Wings

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By JJ Reyes 10/11/2008 06:48 PM

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