A construction in Dutch whose origin I've often comteplated is te verb + ze construction. This construction is a sort of 'wishing succes' imperative. When I were to say to someone:
ik ga bloggen "I'm going to blog"
They could reply with:
blog ze! "go blog (and have succes doing it)!" litt.: "blog them!"
ze is the unaccented form of the 3rd plural pronoun both in the nominative and oblique case. Due to the position of the word it feels like an oblique case (which is marked with hen in unaccented form). But who is this ze in this sentence it surely isn't "them" as there is no "them" involved with the action, it's almost like a dummy object. bloggen is an intransitive verb, to have a dummy direct object is very strange.
Verbs that are transitive do not have any different formation, eet ze! (go eat!) has no other implication, it doesn't feel to me, as a native speaker, that ze is referring to the food I'll eat.
So that makes you wonder, if this ze is actually a personal pronoun at all, rather than some original element which is reduced to a point that it became homophonous with ze the personal pronoun.
So what could ze possible be a reduction of? Sadly the answer is just about everything. The <e> in ze is a [ə] which can be the reduced form of every vowel in unaccented position. But let's look at some of the options:
zij, homophonous to the personal pronoun zij, this is one of the few remaining optative forms in the Dutch language, though mostly unused in normal speech. It's the optative of zijn 'to be'.
zo cognate to English so with the meaning 'in such a way'. 'In such a way' is probably a too specific translation, it says something about the manner, or the resultant state. It's hard to put into words properly.
zou I'm not sure if this can be reduced to ze, it's the past tense of zullen which is a auxiliary verb that marks the future. The resulting meaning is therefore a subjunctive meaning.
zie Imperative form of 'to see'.
zei Past tense of 'to say'.
There's obviously more words that can be made of z+vowel but these are some of the more likelier (I can see no reason why 'eat sea' would mean 'go eat (and have succes doing it)!'). Of the five options listed above I think the first three are the most likely.
eet zo 'eat in such a way!' may definitely develop into a meaning 'eat!' with a wish of succes in it's meaning. Especially if you think about this 'resultant state' meaning which seems to be connected to it.
eet zij maybe be in meaning 'may it be that you eat!' But the word order is strange, and so is the conjugation of eet you'd expect eet to be the infinitive eten if there is an auxiliary that is already conjugated.
eet zou actually has the exact same problems as zij.
It's hard to tell if eet zo is indeed the origin, as this construction is mostly oral, it's hard to imagine that it entered any form of written speech before the vowel was reduced to [ə], so we may never know. If anyone has heard of another explanation, or knows something about a historical origin of this construction, I would be very interested to hear it.
Always nice when you find something you blog about and it agrees with your points without having read it beforehand.
I'll give a loose translation:
Q: What does the ze refer to in 'werk ze!'?
A: It doesn't refer to anything. According to Algemene Nationale Spraakkunst (ANS) such an imperative is used to wish a succesful result of the action. The ANS mentions that this use is informal and more common in the Netherlands than in Flemmish Belgium. It is unlikely that this ze was ever a pronoun as this construction is more commonly used with intransitive verbs.