Pluralis auctoris

For the song by Silversun Pickups, see The Royal We.

The majestic plural (pluralis maiestatis in Latin, literally, "the plural of majesty"), is the use of a plural pronoun to refer to a single person holding a high office, such as a monarch, bishop, or pope. It is also called the royal pronoun, the royal "we" or the Victorian "we". The more general word for the use of we to refer to oneself is nosism. However the use as majestic plural (to denote the excellence, power, and dignity of the person who speaks or writes) is the most common one.

In pluralis maiestatis a speaker refers to himself or herself using a grammatical number other than the singular (i.e., in plural or dual form). For example, the Basic Law of the Sultanate of Oman opens thus:

On the Issue of the Basic Law of the State We, Qaboos bin Said, Sultan of Oman...[1]

Western usage

It is commonly employed by a person of high office, such as a monarch, earl, or pope. It is also used in certain formal contexts by bishops and university rectors. William Longchamp is credited with its introduction to England in the late 12th century, following the practice of the papal chancery.[2] Its first recorded use was in 1169 when King Henry II, hard pressed by his barons over the Investiture Controversy, assumed the common theory of "divine right of kings", that the monarch acted conjointly with the deity. Hence, he used "we", meaning "God and I...". [3]

In the public situations in which it is used, the monarch or other dignitary is typically speaking not only in his personal capacity but also in his official capacity as leader of a nation or institution. The habit of referring to a leader in the plural has further influenced the grammar of several languages, in which plural forms tend to be perceived as deferential and more polite than singular forms. This grammatical feature is common in languages that have the T-V distinction, including those, such as English, which used to have a T-V distinction in the past, but lost it.

Popes have used the we as part of their formal speech with certain recent exceptions. The English translations of the documents of John Paul II dispensed with this practice, using the singular "I", even though the Latin original usually continued to use the first person plural "We".[4][full citation needed]

British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was widely criticised and met with considerable disdain in the press for using the 'royal we', particularly when announcing news that she had become a grandmother in 1989. [5]

Non-Western usage

Several prominent epithets of the Bible describe the Jewish God in plural terms: Elohim, Adonai, and El Shaddai. Some scholars take these names to represent an early stage in Jewish religion when God was still seen as a council or family of deities; others note that the present Biblical text always employs grammatically singular verb forms and argue that they represent a majestic plural.[6] Similarly, the God of the Qur‘an employs the Arabic pronoun nahnu ("We") or its associated verb suffix in many verses.[7] Some grammarians distinguish this divine usage as a pluralis excellentiae rather than a majestic plural.

In China and every monarchy within its cultural orbit (including Japan, Korea, and Vietnam), the majestic imperial pronoun was expressed by the character (Old Chinese*lrəmʔ). This was in fact the former Chinese first-person singular pronoun (i.e., "I") but Template:Ndash following his unification of China the emperor Shi Huangdi arrogated it entirely for his personal use. All other speakers and writers were obliged to choose some appropriate epithet (such as , "This Foolish One") instead of using the former pronoun. While this practice did not need to impact the non-Chinese countries as much since their variants of were generally imported loanwords, the polite avoidance of pronouns is still observed throughout East Asia.[8] Mainland China, following the May Fourth Movement and the Communist victory in its civil war, is now the exception, its present first-person singular having gradually been adopted from a common epithet expressing "This [Worthless] Body".[9]

The Mughal emperors and Sultans of Banu Abbas and Banu Umayyah used the majestic plural. Arabic Template:Ndash particularly Egyptian Arabic Template:Ndash continues to employ the form in diplomatic language: for instance, the proper form of address towards the President of Egypt is فخامتكم (Fakhāmatakum, "Your Excellencies").

This use is also popular among speakers of the Batangan dialect of Tagalog. Some actors and politicians, including Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, have been known to use the Tagalog exclusive form in giving interviews.

In Turkish, one may also refer to himself as biz ("we") or one of its many variants.

See also


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