Bring back “ken” and other archaic words

The English language has lost (or neglected) several words, which are still current in other European languages.  For example, we only use one word for you, whether we mean one or more people.  “Thou” meaning you singular, has lapsed into disuse except in some dialects.  This makes it more difficult to distinguish how many people are being spoken to or asked about.  We need constructions such as, “How are you all?”

In French there is tu as well as vous.  German has du and Sie.

Another word we have lost (except in dialect) is ken.  Many people will be familiar with the song, which begins, “Do you ken John Peel?”  Ken means to know a person.  Again there is a distinction in French with connaître and savoir and in German – kennen and wissen.  In each case the former is about knowing a person and the latter about knowing information or facts.

At Bible study this week we women were discussing Philippians 3:1-11.  The phrase “to know Christ” was one, which particularly interested me.  The mission statement of our parish church (and many others) is “To know Christ and to make him better known”.

There is a distinction between knowing about something and knowing a person.  We are able to know Jesus Christ.  Many people consider that Jesus was a good man or a teacher, who lived about 2000 years ago.  Because he rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, he is alive for evermore.  He has issued an invitation to know Him.

In his prayer the night before his crucifixion, Jesus described eternal life as knowing God and Jesus Christ.  The whole prayer is John 17: 1-26

Dost thou ken Jesus Christ?


4 thoughts on “Bring back “ken” and other archaic words

  1. Hi Sue, I love the way the Lord’s Prayer is in the ‘Du’ form in German 🙂 It’s more meaningful to German children than ‘thou’ is to English-speaking children. I feel sad about the loss of the familiar form in English.


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