Speaking Britannian

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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.


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.


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
  • 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

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.