Role Playing 101
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.
    You cannot use thou as the object of a sentence.
    • Incorrect: I see thou hiding behind that tree!
    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.
    You cannot use thee as the subject of a sentence.
    • Incorrect: Thee smellest as foul as a sewer doth smell!
    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).

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

    • 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.
    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.
    • Examples: The gold in this ettin's pack is mine ; but the bread and ale are thine.
    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).
    • Examples: With mine arrows I slew a wretched orc. To thine own self be true.
Britannian Pronouns
Person Number Subject Pronoun Object Pronoun Possessive Adjective Possessive Pronoun Reflexive Pronoun
First
singular 
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.
  • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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.
  • 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.

  • 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.

    • Examples: Thou eatest as a pig eats, knave. Seest thou that city yonder? Whither walkest thou? And whence comest?
    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.

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
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
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
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:

  • 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.
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.