Does English use the word thou in situations nowadays? For example, to humiliate an opponent by being overly familiar?
The Only thing I can think of is if a suitor were being extremely formal in a proposal of marriage: Wouldst thou do me the honor....
It might also be used in a light teasing manner, pretending to be formal. For instance, asking someone to dance. Pretty much all personal instances I can think of using thou have been teasing or joking. Example, shouting 'Thou hast brought dishonor upon this family!' at your brother for spilling the orange juice.
Thou/thee/thy/thine still exist in some dialects in British English. However, unless you are one of those who speak the dialect, it is not used in general spoken and written English.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thou The word thou (/ðaʊ/) is a second-person singular pronoun in English. It is now largely archaic, having been replaced in most contexts by you. It is used in parts of Northern England and in Scots (/ðu/), and also in rural parts of Newfoundland, albeit as a recessive feature.
[...] In standard modern English, thou continues to be used in formal religious contexts, in literature that seeks to reproduce archaic language, and in certain fixed phrases such as "fare thee well". For this reason, many associate the pronoun with solemnity or formality.
To the great majority of English speakers, 'thou' only sounds like quasi-theatrical, Shakespearean, or Biblical speech. Currently, it is not recognized grammatically as anything other than an archaic version of 'you'. It was falling out of favor in late Middle English, and used only as a deliberate archaism by the early Romantic poets (Coleridge, Shelley, etc). Sure, some small communities may use it (northern England, Quakers), and sometimes in Christian study when addressing God. But this is well outside the mainstream.
To your direct question, there is no connotation of familiarity, informality, or subordination to 'thou' at all, and therefore no possible inferred humiliation. If used in an adversarial situation, it would be laughed at as prissy affectation. (I don't know what the connotation might be in parts of Northern England).
Regarding the idea of using thou to, as you put it, humiliate an opponent by being overly familiar, that would not work in English because most English speakers don't know that thou used to be the informal, familiar form of you. They just think (correctly) that it's old fashioned.
Incidentally, in the past Quakers always used thou because they wanted to treat everyone equally, but what ended up happening instead over time is that everyone else started treating everyone equally (at least in terms of the second person pronoun) by using you all the time.
It has been in the title of a movie, released in 2000. O brother, where art thou
As @Greybeard says, it does still exist in some dialects, though in Yorkshire (where I live) I've generally heard it pronounced thi (i.e. with a shorter vowel), and thou has become tha. It isn't that unusual to hear it among friends - "is tha coming down t'pub?". There is a phrase I have come across (though never heard used) which uses it in a more hostile way, however: "Don't thee thou me, thee," i.e. "you are being overfamiliar".
You may sometimes use thou to translate something from another language that does have a distinction between informal and formal pronouns, where you want to make that explicit. For example in a translation by H. T. Lowe-Porter of Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain:
She heard it, and retorted by calling him a turkey-cock and bidding him keep his filthy jokes to himself. With the licence of the season she addressed him, Herr Settembrini, with the thou. But indeed this familiarity had become quite general during the meal.
My "Concise Oxford Dictionary" 1992 edition has
thou (thee, thy, thine): Second person singular pronoun, now replaced by you except in some formal, liturgical, dialect, and poetic uses.
Obviously the word will be used today when reading or quoting extant works where the word was used originally, but other than that:
- Liturgical: I.e. in Churches and religeous ceremonies
- Dialect: As others have noted, there are still places where the distinction between the informal "thou" vs. formal "you" is still maintained.
- Poetic, and literary: When writing historical literature, it's necessary to use "thou" because that's how people spoke then. If writing fantasy, or when wanting to invoke that sort of distant and ancient atmosphere, the writer will do the same.
But could you start calling someone "thou" and expect them to understand you were being deliberately rude?
Not unless they were a professor of English Literature.
In a very specific technical usage, yes. "thou" is a jargon abbreviation for "one thousandth of an inch" and crops up in machining. Also, automotive industry has to measure fine tolerances, so older petrol engines may have their spark plug gaps measured in inches and be stated as "50 thou" or similar, and pistons may have tolerances in thou.
Any workshop engineer using lathes and fitting parts together closely would be familiar with this term even in metric countries. Modern CNC workshops are much more likely to work in metric. The exception would be Americans who end up working in both measurement systems.
Aside, in this context "tenth" means "tenth of a thousandth of an inch" and not "tenth of an inch" It is never said as "ten-thousandth of an inch" because that could be misheard for "ten x thousandths of an inch" (ie a hundredth of an inch) in a noisy machine workshop.
The metric equivalent would be microns or micrometres, where "1 thou equals 25.4 microns equals 25.4 micrometres"