to mark it as a distinct word and avoid misreading in handwritten manuscripts.
"The reason for writing I is ... the orthographic habit in the middle ages of using a 'long i' (that is, j or I) whenever the letter was isolated or formed the last letter of a group; the numeral 'one' was written j or I (and three iij, etc.), just as much as the pronoun." [Otto Jespersen, "Growth and Structure of the English Language," p.233]
The form ich or ik, especially before vowels, lingered in northern England until c.1400 and survived in southern dialects until 18c. The dot on the "small" letter -i- began to appear in 11c. L. manuscripts, to distinguish the letter from the stroke of another letter (such as -m- or -n-). Originally a diacritic, it was reduced to a dot with the introduction of Roman type fonts. The basic word for "I" in Japanese is watakushi, but it is not much used. Words that boys usually use are boku (polite) or ore (OH-ray), a rougher word, which can be rude depending on the situation. Girls usually use atashi (a feminine-sounding word) or the neutral watashi, but a tomboy might use boku like boys do.
O.E. us (cognate with O.S., O.Fris. us, O.N., Swed. oss), accusative and dative pl. of we
, from PIE *ns- (cf. Skt. nas, Avestan na, Hittite nash "us;" Gk. no "we two;" L. nos "we, us;" O.C.S. ny "us," nasu "our;" O.Ir. ni, Welsh ni "we, us"). The -n- is preserved in Gmc. in Du. ons, Ger. uns.
O.E. we, from P.Gmc. *wiz (cf. O.S. wi, O.N. ver, Dan. vi, O.Fris. wi, Du. wij, O.H.G., Ger. wir, Goth. weis "we"), from PIE *wei- (cf. Skt. vayam, O.Pers. vayam, Hitt. wesh "we," O.C.S. ve "we two," Lith. vedu "we two"). The "royal we" (use of plural pronoun to denote oneself) is at least as old as
"Beowulf" (c.725); use by writers to establish an impersonal style is also from O.E.; it was especially common 19c. in unsigned editorials, to suggest staff consensus, and was lampooned as such since at least 1853 (cf. also wegotism
for historical evolution, see V
. Used punningly for you
by 1588 ["Love's Labour's Lost," V.i.60], not long after the pronunciation shift that made the vowel a homonym of the pronoun. As a simple shorthand (without intentional word-play), it is recorded
from 1862. Common in business abbreviations since 1923 (e.g. U-Haul, attested from 1951).
abbreviation for United States, attested from 1834.