THE FORESOOTH FILE

One of the first things that was handed to me when I started as an editor in the Book Department of TSR in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, was a copy of what then managing editor Barb Young called “The Foresooth File.” I don’t remember who actually wrote it, but it was most likely drawn up by one, two, or all three of the following TSR editors: Barb Young, Bill Larson, and/or Marlys Heeszel. With thanks to all three of them, I’ve been using this ever since, even while advising authors time and time again just not to go there in the first place.

But sometimes it makes sense, in a fantasy novel, that a character or two talk like this. It can make them sound more aristocratic, or maybe they come from the “old country” . . . whatever the reason, if you’re going to do it, you should do it right.

Here we go:

art

2nd person singular of “be,” present tense.

“Thou art a fool, McFoolio.”

canst

2nd person singular of “can,” present tense.

“Thou canst not have any of my Junior Mints.”

couldst

2nd person singular of “can,” past tense.

“Thou couldst have had some, hadst thou been nicer to me.”

didst

2nd person singular of “do,” past tense.

“Didst thou bring thine own candy?”

dost

2nd person singular of “do,” present tense.

“What dost thou have there, some Junior Mints?”

hadst

2nd person singular of “have,” past tense.

“Thou hadst some Junior Mints, but thou ate them all.”

hast

2nd person singular of “have,” present tense.

“Thou hast more Junior Mints in thine cupboard.”

mayest

2nd person singular of “may,” present tense.

“Thou mayest have some Junior Mints now.”

mightest

2nd person singular of “may,” past tense.

“Thou mightest have eaten them all, hadst I not stopped thee.”

shalt

2nd person singular of “shall,” present tense.

“Thou shalt not eat Junior Mints for breakfast.”

shouldst

2nd person singular of “can,” past tense.

“Thou shouldst have brought thine own Junior Mints.”

wast

2nd person singular of “be,” past tense.

“Wast thou the person who ate all the Junior Mints?”

wilt

2nd person singular of “will,” present tense.

“Wilt thou go buy more Junior Mints?”

wouldst

2nd person singular of “will,” past tense.

“Thou wouldst not be so fat, hadst thou eaten fewer Junior Mints.”

* * *

Second Person Pronouns

Nominative (Subject): (singular) thou, (plural) ye.

Genitive (Possessive): (singular) thy, thine, (plural) your.

Accusative/Dative (Object): (singular) thee, (plural) you.

* * *

Yes, I enjoy Junior Mints.

And one more bonus bit of wisdom, this one from former TSR editor Bill Larson, the final say on lie, lay, lain, and laid:

PRESENT TENSE (nontransitive): lie, (transitive—requires an object): lay.

I lie down for a nap every day after lunch. I lay the book down beside the lamp.

PAST TENSE (nontransitive): lay, (transitive): laid.

Last night I lay many hours before sleep finally came. They laid the body in the coffin.

PAST PARTICIPLE (nontransitive): lain, (transitive): laid.

I have lain here a long time. She has laid her troubles to rest.

This stuff, almost no one gets right anymore, including me. But I guess now I have to, having gone public with the fact that I at least have it written down someplace.

—Philip Athans

About Philip Athans

Philip Athans is the New York Times best-selling author of Annihilation and a dozen other books including The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, and the recently-released How to Start Your Own Religion and Devils of the Endless Deep. His blog, Fantasy Author’s Handbook, (https://fantasyhandbook.wordpress.com/) is updated every Tuesday, and you can follow him on Twitter @PhilAthans.
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2 Responses to THE FORESOOTH FILE

  1. Nubriema says:

    Hi,

    I gotta say, this is really helpful – I actually stumbled across your blog searching for an advice on capitalization in fantasy novels (found it, and that was pretty much of use to me, too), and now I got stuck with your posts.

    Actually, I have to thank you for this article above – I always searched for such a plain list of these old forms but couldn’t find one, and since I’m German, I haven’t really a clue I can work from.
    This saves me a whole lot of researching via Google, not to mention that your other entries seem interesting enough for me, too.

    So, thanks for doing this – you’ve got a new subscriber.🙂

    Regards,
    Nubriema

  2. Pingback: SELF-PUBLISHED E-BOOKS ARE LOSING READERS DUE TO BAD EDITING | Fantasy Author's Handbook

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