MISCELLANY.

1) Here’s an example of why what I think of as the American use of should, exclusively to mean ‘ought to,’ is preferable to the traditional/U.K. use, in which it is also used in counterfactuals, the equivalent of American would. The first paragraph of Timothy Garton Ash’s NYRB review of several recent Günter Grass books begins:

Granted: he was a member of the Waffen-SS. But suppose that revelation had not overshadowed last year’s publication of Günter Grass’s memoir, like a mushroom cloud. What should we have made of Peeling the Onion? We should, I believe, have said that this is a wonderful book, a return to classic Grass territory and style, after long years of disappointing, wooden, and sometimes insufferably hectoring works from his tireless pen, and a perfect pendant to his great “Danzig trilogy” of novels, starting with The Tin Drum. That is what we should still say, first and last.

I’m reading along, mentally translating “What should we have made” to “What would we have made” and “We should, I believe, have said” to “We would, I believe, have said.” Then I get to the last sentence: “That is what we should still say, first and last.” I think this means “That is what we ought to say [even in present circumstances],” but after that barrage of counterfactual “should” it pulls the reader up short and forces a quick reanalysis. And I’m still not absolutely sure, thanks to that damnable ambiguity.
2) Naked Translations has an interesting post about the word artichoke, which goes back to Arabic al-ḫaršuf. Céline adds a remark about “the French expression avoir un cœur d’artichaut (to have an artichoke heart), which describes someone who falls in love with everything in sight” and adds the question “Am I right in thinking that a similarly colourful English equivalent doesn’t exist?” I think she is.
3) Anatol Stefanowitsch in Bremer Sprachblog has a post about an exhibition in Linz that the artist, Folke Tegetthoff, calls, in English, “Six Tales of Time”; Tegetthoff (an odd-looking name, by the way—I wonder where the stress goes?) explains: “An sich bin ich gegen Anglizismen und gegen die Verhunzung unserer sehr schönen, poetischen Sprache, aber ‚Sechs Geschichten über die Zeit‘ klingt technischer und holpriger” ['I'm against anglicisms and the butchering of our very beautiful and poetic language, but "Sechs Geschichten über die Zeit" sounds technical and rough']. Anatol provides a nice chart matching English legend/tale/story/history against German Legende/Sage/Märchen/Erzählung/Geschichte.
And now I must get back to packing…

Comments

  1. Nice chart on the link, but what about “saga” in English? (I assume it’s cognate with German “Sage”)

  2. On the first point, I could go either way–a) a better writer can avoid the ambiguity by semantic alterations (eg. using ‘ought to’ in the last case), or b) What’s wrong with a little pregnant ambiguity?

  3. dearieme says:

    A prescriptivist like me can reasonably urge abandonment of the ambiguous English “should”, but how can a descriptivist like you?

  4. (Cue pointed remarks about the difference between [dogmatic] prescriptivism and mere personal prejudice, or reasoned assessment of semantic ambiguity…)

  5. A minor quibble: technischer and holpriger are in the comparative. So Tegetthoff is not saying that the German sounds technical and rough, just that it sounds more T and R than the English would (or should?).
    As a German only familiar with the name in its written form, I’d pronounce Tegetthoff with the accent on the first syllable, with a long E. It’s a pattern in German that seems totally counterintuitive to English speakers. I know some Americans who have lived in Erlangen and still can’t get themselves to accent the first syllable.

  6. Artichokes fall in love easily?

  7. michael farris says:

    “Artichokes fall in love easily?”
    Oh yeah, the sluts….

  8. A prescriptivist like me can reasonably urge abandonment of the ambiguous English “should”, but how can a descriptivist like you?
    Descriptivism does not entail maintaining that this is the best of all possible (linguistic) worlds. Descriptivists can (as Conrad says) have both personal prejudices and ideas about better (in this case, less ambiguous) forms of speech; they simply do not pretend that their own prejudices are eternal truths, nor do they imagine that by propaganda and ignoring facts they can make actual usage go away. I do not like the use of disinterested to mean ‘uninterested,’ but there’s nothing I can do about it, any more than I can do anything about the Crimean War, and if I were teaching someone English I would give them ‘uninterested’ as the primary meaning of the word, explaining that it used to mean ‘unbiased.’
    A minor quibble: technischer and holpriger are in the comparative.
    OK, but I take that as a peculiarity of German style not to be reproduced in English, because “tales of time” is not in any sense technical and rough—it is quite the contrary—so it seems to me that the complaint is quite simply that the German is not used because it has those qualities.

  9. Saga only exists in English as a modern borrowing from Old Norse, so technically it is not a cognate, even though the OED says some of the senses are transferred from Sage.

  10. “but I take that as a peculiarity of German style not to be reproduced in English”
    It’s true that English style would turn the comparison around, since English has available a comparative with less: …because the English phrase sounds less like a technical term and is less likely to cause the hearer to stumble.

  11. Cryptic Ned says:

    “Artichoke” by Cibo Matto (a Japanese-born duo active in New York City)

  12. Noetica says:

    In Australian usage adeontic should generally sounds pretentious and excessively British, and most Australians would join you, LH, in deploring that “damnable ambiguity” you mention.
    But it depends on the kind of discourse we are concerned with. Should goes with shall, as would goes with will. In some careful and formal prose, I use and recommend shall and (adeontic) should in the first person, and will and would in the second and third persons. But I do so circumspectly. It would be neat to avoid shall altogether, perhaps, as many already do. Then there would be no pressure to use adeontic should at all. Obviously, though, we must often work with the language as we find it, and make ad hoc compromises the best way we can.

  13. Cum grano salis says:

    I could use should but I would not, as I will be called over the coals, then I will be black and blue and I shall not like that, but I could try, then that would be nonsense. I should not do this but……..

  14. marie-lucie says:

    “un coeur d’artichaut” : Personally, I would never say Il/Elle A un coeur d’artichaut (“has a heart like an artichoke”) but, talking about a certain person, C’EST un coeur d’artichaut (“he/she is an artichoke heart”).
    I don’t know about England, but artichokes (big round ones) are much more popular in France than in North America, where artichokes are much smaller as well as pointy, and not a part of standard fare. Tons of artichokes are grown along the coast of Brittany, across from Cornwall, and they are a very early growing vegetable, cheap and popular with families.
    To eat an artichoke (or rather, half of one (cut lengthwise), as they are so big), after boiling or steaming it you tear off a “leaf” by hand, dip the fleshy bottom in oil and vinegar, and put that part in your mouth in order to scrape off the flesh between your teeth as you pull on the leaf. Repeat until you have dealt with all the leaves: as soon as you have finished with one, you go on to the next one. Similarly some people cannot settle in one relationship but keep falling in love with one person after another.
    Eating artichokes is not a very elegant procedure, and you end up eventually with a big messy pile of scraped-out leaves covering your plate or even falling off it. After you have scraped off the edible part from all the leaves, the middle part or “heart” looks somewhat like a wide and squat shaving brush: you remove the hairs (called in French “le foin” – the hay), cut off the stringy remnant of the stem from the bottom of the artichoke, and can now cut up and eat the artichoke heart with fork and knife, dipped in the leftover oil and vinegar. In restaurants or for special occasions, only artichoke hearts are eaten – perhaps other people content themselves with the leaves in private – the flesh tastes the same whether in the heart or at the bottom of the leaves.
    The flighty lover types are not called after the true artichoke hearts or centers, but according to the process of eating from one “leaf” after another.

  15. Wow. The internets are full of the rather implausible Arabic ارضي شوكي ardi shauki, of which Skeat said 125 years ago,

    The pretended Arab. ar‘ḍī shaukī, cited by Diez, is a mere modern corruption of the Italian.

    The dictionary gives a slightly different explanation from marie-lucie, but agrees that it’s the leaves and not the vegetable heart. The Proust quotation they choose to illustrate is translated by Moncrieff as heartless.

  16. …a serial lover, maybe? Akin to a serial convict, who cyclical goes from one offense to the next of the same kind.
    I’ve heard it in my native Australia. Other suggestions include “relationship addict”, and “romantic glutton”.

  17. mollymooly says:

    My outsider’s understanding of the Queen’s English would/should distinction is that, like will/shall, the w- form is used for the 2nd and 3rd persons in those senses where the sh- form is used for the 1st person, and vice versa. Thus, British “we should” is not ambiguous between U.S. “we would” and U.S. “we should”; rather, British “we should” is equivalent to U.S. “we would”, and British “we would” is equivalent to U.S. “we should”. The problem is that few people consistently follow this ridiculous prescription; this is how ambiguity arises.

  18. mollymooly says:

    Worth noting that artichaut is the globe artichoke; the Jerusalem artichoke is topinambour

  19. The Proust quotation they choose to illustrate is translated by Moncrieff as heartless.
    Good lord, I just read that section to my wife the other night! But since I was reading it in English, I had no idea the French was «Je vois que vous avez un coeur d’artichaut. » Thanks for alerting me!
    Also, we had artichokes for dinner last night, but we dipped them in mayonnaise rather than oil and vinegar. I apologize to the entire French nation.

  20. @Gary and Language Hat: Interesting point about the comparative. I think Language Hat is right here — this is something that probably shouldn’t be translated at all. Tegetthoff (whose name I would also stress on the first syllable, incidentally) presumably just means that one sounds technical and rough and the other doesn’t. He may be using the comparative here to indicate that the German title sounds just a *little bit* technical and rough.
    @phil and John Cowan: “saga” is just one of many words that simply weren’t in the dictionary and so they didn’t make it into the chart. Out of curiosity, I redrew the chart using a bigger dictionary — the result can be found here: http://www-user.uni-bremen.de/~anatol/temp/tales-big.png
    I’ll leave it to future generations to judge whether bigger is better in this case…

  21. the Jerusalem artichoke is topinambour
    Named after the Tupinambá (generally just referred to as Tupi-Guaraní in English), a group of whom were kidnapped to the court of Louis XIII, where the word then meant the vogue for all things bizarre from the New World.
    The other major contender for naming Helianthus tuberosus was pomme de terre. For that, more here.

  22. dearieme says:

    mollymooly, as long as you remember that the Scots practically never use “should” as the first person “would” and rarely use “shall”, but when they do they tend to use “shall” and “will” in the opposite sense to the English. I suspect that the Irish side with the Scots on this. But someone here will know.

  23. marie-lucie says:

    LH: eating artichokes with mayonnaise: I forgive you! you don’t need to apologize, but you might be careful of the effect on your waistline and cholesterol level! you could pick up quite a lot of mayonnaise when going through a French artichoke (not so much with a California artichoke, which is much smaller).
    “topinambour”: this is the tuber, looking like a small gray potato, while the plant itself looks like a small sunflower plant (“Jerusalem” in the English title being from Italian “girasole”, the equivalent of French “tournesol”, both referring to the sunflower, which turns towards the sun).
    Topinambours were one of the few foods French people had to eat in the German-occupied zone during WW2 (all the good stuff went to Germany). They tasted horrible (especially since there was no butter or oil available to cook them with). Nobody eats them now.
    (MMcM, great post on the potato and related tubers. There was also an extensive discussion of the (sweet) potato on this very site, about a year ago).

  24. Erlangen is stressed on the first syllable, but when the train enters Erlangen, the announcement ‘In wenigen Minuten erreichen wir Erlangen’ stresses the second. And what about Effeltrich, stressed on the second?

  25. Noetica says:

    Conditionals with should complicate the story with shall, will, and associates:
    1.  If you should find one, buy it.
    Or the if-less type:
    2.  Should you find one, buy it.
    Only adeontic should is used in these: never would. (I can’t abide if-less conditionals, myself. I never use them.)
    And also:
    3.  Shall we dance?
    4.  We shall see!
    Would Americans ever use will in these, with the same sense? Would [sic] we Australians, ever? Should we, for consistency?
    Whence one’s circumspection.

  26. John Emerson says:

    “We’ll see” is what I hear. Occasionally “We shall see”. More often “We will see”.
    “Shall we dance?” strikes me as a coined phrase that brings its grammar along, like “Froggy did a-wooing go”. It has the effect of a quotation used for effect. “Let’s dance” or various other phrases can be substituted.

  27. Noetica:
    1. “If you find one, buy it.”
    2. “If you find one, buy it.”
    3. “Would you like to dance?” “May I have this dance?” “Let’s dance”
    4. “We’ll see!”

  28. I do not like the use of disinterested to mean ‘uninterested,’ but there’s nothing I can do about it, any more than I can do anything about the Crimean War, and if I were teaching someone English I would give them ‘uninterested’ as the primary meaning of the word, explaining that it used to mean ‘unbiased.’
    If you really told them it used to mean “unbiased”, you’d be doing your students a disservice. It’s hardly anachronistic to use “disinterested” to mean “unbiased”, and as far as I can tell most of the uses of it that I, at least, encounter do use that meaning. It’s also a tad disingenuous to say that there’s as little you can do about “disingenuous” as about the Crimean War, which, insofar as it happened in the past, is impossible to change, while language is changing even as we speak! It might be ultimately futile, but that’s not the same, especially if the alternative is endorsing “uninterested” where you might otherwise not have.

  29. Very quickly, it looks like, of the 5 uses of “disinterested” in the NYT in the past 90 days, 1 means “unbiased” and 4 “uninterested”.
    Of the roughly 4 times as many in the past year (as you’d expect), it’s closer to half and half. Plus the one hit that is a Safire column on the word itself.

  30. Noetica says:

    On disinterested and uninterested, should we compare distrust and mistrust? I wonder if SOED should be thought to find a difference? Perhaps not. Here are SOED’s primary v.t. senses:
    distrust … 2 v.t. Put no trust in, have no confidence in; have doubts about the reality, validity, or genuineness of. M16.
    mistrust … 1 v.t. Have no confidence in, be suspicious of; doubt the truth, validity, or genuineness of. LME.
    John Emerson:
    “We’ll see” is what I hear. Occasionally “We shall see”. More often “We will see”.
    That’s interesting. Of course we’d hear We’ll see! more often in Oz, too. But we’d pretty well always understand it as a shortening of We shall see! when it indicates scepticism.
    “Shall we dance?” strikes me as a coined phrase that brings its grammar along, like “Froggy did a-wooing go”.
    Sure. Now, what about two people stopping at the door before entering a meeting, to exchange a few private words, after which one says to the other Shall we?, gesturing toward the door?
    Ran:
    Standard alternatives, certainly. But you have simply avoided the issues raised!

  31. Now, what about two people stopping at the door before entering a meeting, to exchange a few private words, after which one says to the other Shall we?, gesturing toward the door?
    They’d say something else. “Shall we?” is simply not part of standard American usage, however strange that may seem from outside.
    Standard alternatives, certainly. But you have simply avoided the issues raised!
    No, there are no issues because “shall” is used only in fossilized phrases like “we shall see” (and then only by people who like archaisms).

  32. They’d say something else. “Shall we?” is simply not part of standard American usage, however strange that may seem from outside.
    Fine. I certainly don’t suggest that they ought to say it! I don’t find the American practice as you report it “strange”. In exploring differences in usage, it is handy to find “cruxes” for people to report upon accurately. That’s all.
    No, there are no issues…
    There were issues, and there still are. What about should in those conditionals? How do they fit with American English? They are common in British and Australian, in which they behave oddly enough, even given that we do tend to make more natural use of other adeontic shoulds than Americans do. The issue – or one them, anyway – is how all this is to be sorted out. It is not sorted out by denying that an interesting question has been posed – nor by offering a selection of uncontested and universally accepted alternative ways of saying things. (Those conditionals are not heard as archaisms in British or Australian, by the way. Just as somewhat formal.)

  33. I’m pretty sure “Shall We Dance?” was fossilized and deliberately archaic / formal in 1937 when the movie of the same name came out.
    Furthermore, the normal way to ask questions about the future without stock phrases or affectation is, “am/is/are … going to …?”, isn’t it?

  34. michael farris says:

    My personal usage (more or less mainstream SAE though I no longer live in the US) is as follows.
    The shall/will distinction of traditional grammar mostly just doesn’t function for me.
    will = normal
    shall = archaic, stilted
    I wouldn’t normally say ‘should’ if I mean ‘would’ unless I’m being ironic (see below). I might write it (but only with subject-modal inversion where confusion with the ‘real’ should is not likely). This is not related to person at all.
    I might use ‘shall’ in some set phrases.
    For me, productive use of ‘shall’ is restricted to a kind of rhetorical/ironic question. This is restricted to first person, so I might ask ‘shall I..’ or ‘shall we…’ when I know full well the person I’m talking to doesn’t me (or us) to do the thing in question.
    “Shall we go ask the director?”
    I also say ‘(do you) wanna let’s…’ which I always thought was normal, but I’ve been assured that it’s highly deviant.
    “Wanna let’s dance?”

  35. Noetica says:

    Interesting, Michael Farris. I am still left wondering about those conditionals with should, in American English: Are they used at all? Are they passively accepted and understood?
    How might an American paraphrase Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?, without irony or archaism? I think to Australian ears substituting will for Will’s word wouldn’t wash. His shall has a sense of deontic should, but also a strong sense of futurity. Does should work as a substitute for shall, here? Perhaps. There is still an element of futurity in it.
    Do we lose something important and useful if we ditch shall? (What is the difference between that question and Do we lose anything important and useful if we ditch shall? What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?)

  36. Others may have a more clever paraphrase, but I think basically American English requires making some intentional aspect explicit that isn’t in the original. “Would you like me to compare you to a summer’s day?” “Would I like to compare you to a summer’s day?” “Should I compare you to a summer’s day?” (“Am I going to compare you to a summer’s day?” being how to express uncertainty about the future, which is however clearly outside the original possibilities.) Of course, it remains within the basic confines of poetry that the thought isn’t an everyday one, so you can’t quite characterize these as normal.
    But, on the other hand, I wonder whether the sledgehammer irony of Prufrock is lost if some of its phraseology slips by as normal.

  37. michael farris says:

    “I am still left wondering about those conditionals with should, in American English: Are they used at all? Are they passively accepted and understood?”
    I’m wondering a little too. I only consciously became aware of them in (not very recent) writing when I had the luxury of time to figure out that “I should think…” was being used where I would say “I would think..” and figured out it was probably being used in analogy with shall. Shorn of context, “I should think” carries (for me) the presupposition “but I don’t/can’t”. Also, for me “conditional” should will (almost?) always sound pompous.
    Again, I think I probably could use the conditional should in writing but only with inversion
    “should it be possible” instead of “if it’s possible” reads well enough (though pretty formal).
    In speaking I _might_ do it but only in extremely formal/artificial contexts (or as irony).
    “How might an American paraphrase Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?, without irony or archaism?”
    I agree with MMcM that most Americans understand some degree of “do you want me to?” or “would this be a good thing to do?” which I’m just now realizing might not have been part of the original.
    In unpoetic but non-ironic/archaic SAE it might be’(don’t scream): ‘maybe I’ll compare you to a summer’s day’, or if you must have a question I’d start it “should I…” or maybe even “could I…”. If the meaning of the original really is simple future, then it would have to be “will I…”.
    “I think to Australian ears substituting will for Will’s word wouldn’t wash…”
    I’m one of those people who think of Shakespeare as essentially a foreign language, so he’s not a good example for questions of modern American usage.
    “Do we lose something important and useful if we ditch shall?”
    Languages lose important, useful things all the time (and get them back by other means if they’re missed enough).
    For American, the question is moot as ‘shall’ has already effectively been lost from mainstream, unmarked usage.

  38. Worthy ruminations, Michael Farris.
    The conditional should forms a kind of subjunctive, and it is used non-conditionally also. Nesfield (whom I have cited elsewhere) suggests this, without saying it directly:
     Lest.— This in the Tudor period was followed by the present Subjunctive:–

    Take heed, lest you fall

     In the later Modern English the tense and mood following this conjunction is formed by the Auxiliary verb “should”:–

    He worked hard, lest he should fail

    But I think Nesfield is mistaken in consigning that present subjunctive form to history. We in Australia, at least, are quite familiar with it, on the model of the motto Lest we forget, heard often around Anzac day. (It would certainly take the differentiating non-indicative form Lest she forget for the third person singular.) And I think it is quite normal in careful current British English. And in American? Would you say, or write, Bush had better act promptly, lest Congress pre-empt him?
    I’m one of those people who think of Shakespeare as essentially a foreign language, so he’s not a good example for questions of modern American usage.
    Hmmm… However that may be, Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? is not quirkily Shakespearean. Put you for thee and you get vanilla current British English. It seems to me that the traditional use of shall for the first person, along with will for the second and third, makes some sense. This future-forming shall did originally mean ought to, and this future-forming will did mean wish to. There is something tactful and psychologically apt in ascribing to oneself an obligation (moral, rational, or prudential), but to others a wish. So also for the associated forms should and would; and the subjunctive-conditional uses of should we have discussed can be accommodated with this account of original meanings. So can the pedantic use of shall in second person (and third) where obligation is implied; so can the pedantic use of will in first person where strong intention (obstinacy, tenacity, etc.) is implied.
    Anyway, I hope I have shown that the situation with should and would is more complex than it seems at first glance.

  39. O, and there’s this:

    I’ll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way. (The Highwayman, Alfred Noyes, 1880–1958)

    A fine line from a fine poem. How it have been put so beautifully without that should? (It is conditional, with though doing the work of even if.)

  40. michael farris says:

    Noetica, what I remember from reading about the issue (a long, long time ago) was that the traditional grammar explanation of shall/will has never actually worked in practice.
    Yes, something about the original semantics of shall/should meant that they were more likely to be used with first person but that was about as far as it went. Actual usage never really conformed to the neat paradigm produced in traditional grammars, at certain times and places some people may have consciously modelled their usage on it.
    In spoken SAE I’d say the two future markers (in statements) are ‘ll (clitic, neutral) and will (emphatic). Shall is a distant relation who doesn’t write home much anymore (and who makes a lot of us uncomfortable when he does visit)
    As for the subjunctive. It’s required in a few forms, but can always be easily avoided.
    “lest” sounds pretty archaic to me and I have a hard time imagining anyone saying it (in American) and not sounding pompous.
    “(had) better” is treated like a semi-modal in modern SAE. I think of the verb form that follows it as the bare infinitive and I’m sure most other speakers do too.
    For me, the most common use of the subjunctive is after ‘advise’ “I’d advise that he leave immediately.” But even there it’s possible to use ‘should leave’.
    Telling(?) anecdote: The song God bless America has several subjunctives that Americans don’t typically perceive as such.
    “God shed his light on thee, and crown thy good with brotherhood”
    I always understood both of these as simple past (the difference between ‘crown they good’ and ‘crowned thy good’ is not very salient in the best of circumstances).
    Two things work mightily against the subjunctive in modern English
    Language functioning is a system of trade-offs in which that which is not used often is doomed. Wholesale loss of inflection is going to mean wholesale loss of grammatical categories indicated by them. Some can be regained through particles of various kinds, but subjunctive is not one of those IMO.
    This is reinforced by the very low distinctive threshold of subjunctive forms which differ only marginally from indicative forms (in the past, only two persons for one verb…).
    Poetry (including song lyrics) is different and has different rules about what sounds acceptable and creates special effects.
    In the old Supremes song “Back in my arms again” one of the most memorable lines was:
    “And Flo, she don’t know,
    cause the boy she loves is a Romeo”.
    “Flo, she doesn’t know” would be a horrible change for the worse, I think (we won’t consider the semantic change of Romeo from ‘doomed lover’ to ‘cheating womanizer’).
    And thinking about it, I might (very informally) use don’t instead of doesn’t because (in third person only) it carries a little extra ooomph.
    Nevertheless, it’s not usage I’d recommend.

  41. Marie-Lucie!
    “I don’t know about England, but artichokes (big round ones) are much more popular in France than in North America, where artichokes are much smaller as well as pointy, and not a part of standard fare.”
    Move to a better part of Noth America. There are California artichokes the size of cabbages; maybe they just don’t ship very well. Where do you live, on the East Coast? After all, you can’t find big French artichokes in Afghanistan either.
    “They’d say something else. “Shall we?” is simply not part of standard American usage, however strange that may seem from outside.”
    It certainly is for me – American since the 1630′s. It may have to do with how you got your English – ancestrally or by halfway adequate assimilation.

  42. Graham Asher says:

    Shall we look at some data?
    Googling “shall we” (actual search was ‘”shall we” -dance -gather -reap -meet’ with exclusions to removed obvious clichés) yields over two million hits, many if not most of which seem to be from current colloquial American English.
    Shall we also tolerate each other’s usages in the Anglosphere? Now I *prefer* to say (UK) ‘if I had done it’ or ‘had I done it’ to (US) ‘if I would have done it’ but I’m not about to attempt to abolish the US usage, and any short comment about which is better is pointless, because arguments about ease of understanding fail unless taken in a much wider context including all sources of ambiguity and ways of reducing it, from phonology via morphology and syntax all the way to semantics. For example, I cannot sensibly denigrate US ‘horseback riding’ for UK ‘riding’ as pleonastic without considering the homophony of ‘riding’ and ‘writing’ in the US.

  43. Michael Farris:
    I think many thoughtful speakers of British and Austral English still do observe some version of the pedantic textbook rule: simple futurity marked by shall in first person, by will in the second and third; will in first person to show strength of intention; shall in second and third to show some sort of obligation. And I have suggested that the original meanings of shall and will accord with this determination.
    I’m surprised that for you the most common use of the subjunctive is after advise [that]. Surely there are several verbs that will equally call for it, even in Vespuccian: demand, suggest, require, etc. You wouldn’t say I demand that he leaves now, would you? Perhaps you would! I wonder if Jim’s rather patrician Americoid usage would allow it, though.
    Anyway, the subjunctive is lost on most Notanthropes, just as it seems to be on an even greater majority of USAvians. I mentioned Lest we forget, earlier. It is a quote from Kipling’s Recessional (another beautiful poem and song, much used in Australia for evoking public sentiment concerning old wars). Advance in our national anthem Advance Australia Fair might naturally be construed as a subjunctive; so might save in God save the Queen. We all seem to have archaic features in the core anthems of our polities, unsurprisingly. But that doesn’t mean we understand them, or use them comfortably. Same in French, I’m sure: the refrain of La Marseillaise ends with Qu’un sang impur / Abreuve nos sillons, in which abreuve is certainly subjunctive. (Let’s remember that the subjunctive is in decline in French, also.)
    Graham Asher:
    Handy observations. Yes, I agree that small and even incidental linguistic nuances can issue in large effects. You mention a possible confusion of riding and writing; it seems to me that the isolated dysphemic repetition of /wi/ in Will we? works in favour of Shall we?, in some usages at least.

  44. bruessel says:

    “Nobody eats them (Topinambours) now.”
    Well, this used to be true until a few years ago, but there has now been a great revival of the so-called “forgotten vegetables” in France and Belgium, and you can find them on the menu of many trendy restaurants.

  45. michael farris says:

    “demand, suggest, require, etc. You wouldn’t say I demand that he leaves now, would you? Perhaps you would! I wonder if Jim’s rather patrician Americoid usage would allow it, though”
    with suggest, I’d usually use should rather than subj., and probably with would:
    I would suggest that he should leave.
    demand and require okay, I can use subj with those, I’m just not used to demanding and require with a verb clause sounds a little odd in the first person (to me).
    but even then ‘should’ remains a possiblity for me.
    I demand that he should leave.
    Regulations require that the applicant should be 20 years old.
    or an infinitive clause
    Regulations require the applicant to be at least 21 years old.
    I’d say the subjunctive is on its way out in everyday spoken american english, usually replaced with should (the usage of linguistically oriented superliterates like commenters here is likely to be atypical in various ways).
    I grew up around people who wrote for a living and horses and we always said either horseback riding or riding (there’s usually not much chance of confusion with writing).
    The first time I heard ‘horse riding’ (from a non-native speaker) I thought it sounded dreadful and thought it might be a mistake (I had a similar reaction to “a nonsense”).

  46. marie-lucie says:

    (back to vegetables)
    Jim: I live on the Canadian East Coast and before that I was on the Canadian West Coast. All the artichokes I have seen in Canada, where they occasionally appear in supermarkets, are small (about fist-sized), pointy-leaved, and imported from the US. I am glad to hear that there are what I would consider “real” artichokes somewhere else on the continent.
    Bruessel: i am amazed that “topinambours” are served in French and Belgian restaurants. It must be because the majority of people now have no memories of the war years, so no prior experience with them as cooked at home during that time. I think that it would take a lot of culinary creativity to make them palatable. Have you tried them yourself?

  47. Noetica,
    Does that sound patrician to you? They are going to hoot over that at home!
    “Americoid”?
    Graham,
    “Shall we also tolerate each other’s usages in the Anglosphere?”
    A Cameroonian acquaintance says this very feature is a big reason for his preference for Englsih over French – he had to learn both back home – because he finds that West African Educated Speech is accepted on par with all other vaieties, and that is not the case with French.
    “Now I *prefer* to say (UK) ‘if I had done it’ or ‘had I done it’ to (US) ‘if I would have done it’
    “If I would have done it” sounds like the syntactic equivalent of a neologism. I never heard it until the 70′s. It sounds like someone not really at home in the language.
    Oh, and riding and writing are not homophones to most Americans. The same for ‘latter’ and ‘ladder’. It’s about the only place where there is a voiced-unvoiced contrast.

  48. Oh, and riding and writing are not homophones to most Americans.
    Don’t you flap these in ordinary connected speech? I do and I’m pretty sure the most Americans claim is valid.

  49. Yeah, I thought that was pretty noncontroversial.

  50. Just thought I’d mention that Timothy Garton Ash’s use of ‘should’ in the first two instances sounds weird to my British ears too. I’m pretty sure a large majority of British (English as well as Scottish, Irish or Welsh) speakers would use ‘would’ in the first two instances (expressing the conditional introduced by ‘suppose’) and contrast it with ‘should’ in the last sentence (expressing the opinion that this is the right thing to do). I certainly agree that stylistically the use of ‘would’ is preferable, and not only because it is less ambiguous. I suspect Ash’s use of ‘should’ is a personal idiosyncracy, not a national one.
    It may well be influenced by the old-fashioned notion that sh-forms are preferable to w-forms in the first person, but this distinction is very rarely observed in present-day British English. Still, I’m surprised to hear that ‘Shall we?’ is ‘simply not part of standard American usage – ‘shall’ remains the only possible word in British English in at least two situations. The first is to make an offer in the form of a question (‘Shall I make some coffee?’). Surely Shakespeare was also, at least in part, *offering* to compare the young man to a summer’s day, not just asking a question about the future. The second is in question-tags in sentences that begin with ‘Let’s’ (‘Let’s have some coffee, shall we?’). Would speakers of American English substitute ‘will’ for ‘shall’ in either of those examples? Surely not? Or would they simply not use questions to make an offer (or form the question differently), and never use question-tags in sentences that begin with ‘Let’s'?

  51. michael farris says:

    A thought and a response:
    Proponents of the traditional grammar shall/will distribution basically have to say that “I shall” has a contracted form, namely “I’ll”. Is there any historical foundation for this? That is, is there any good reason to think that “I shall” developed into “I’ll”? Independently from I will? Analogically? I’m trying to the think of any other contraction that elides such a prominent (for lack of a better word) consonant. The only consonants that normally elide in contractions are w and h (a glide and a consonant that’s often dropped in other conditions as well).
    I sometimes think I’m being too dismissive of ‘shall’ and then find myself confronted with something like “Let’s have some coffee, shall we?” and my heart hardens all over again.
    I think I’d say “Would you like some coffee?” or “Let’s have some coffee, okay?” “Let’s have some coffee, want to?” (okay, that might make some other people wince)
    For the first I can imagine myself saying “Should I make some coffee?” or “I’ll make some coffee, okay?” I can’t imagine myself saying “Shall I make the coffee?” under normal circumstances.

  52. I’ve just been browsing through OED’s generous treatment of shall. Oy, is it busy in there! Shakespeare gets twenty-four mentions, but never addressing any young man with a view to comparisons of any sort – diurnal, seasonal, or other. Here’s one use that seems relevant to our discussion:
    [B... II... 7...] (b) in categorical questions.
    Often expressing indignant reprobation of a suggested course of action, the implication being that only a negative (or, with negative question an affirmative) answer is conceivable.
    1600 [see (a)]. 1611 Shakes. Wint. T. v. iii. 83 Shall I draw the Curtaine? 1622 Wither Philarete (1633) I7 Shall I wasting in Dispaire, Dye because a Womans faire? ?a1700 D’Urfey Pills (1719) V. 113 Shall you and I Lady, Among the Grass lye down a. 1777 Sheridan Sch. Scandal ii. iii, What! shall I forget+when I was at his years myself? 1802 Wordsw. To the Cuckoo i, O Cuckoo! shall I call thee Bird, Or but a wandering Voice? 1865 Swinburne Chastelard i. i. 22, I am bound to France; Shall I take word from you to any one? 1891 ‘J. S. Winter’ Lumley xiii, ‘Are you driving, or shall I call you a cab?’ ‘Oh, no; I’m driving, thanks’.
    This seems to fit with the usage in Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?, because the poet goes on to explain why he should not, in fact. Other OED uses more frankly allow for Shakespeare’s question with shall even without expectation of a negative answer – more or less as suggested by commenter Steve, two contributions ago.

  53. CGEL terms this use of the modal shall, “deontic modality” (see here for summary), and has a section (Ch. 3, §9.6.1 — contents only here) on shall in particular. It calls these non-information questions, “direction questions” (Ch. 10, §4.6 — again contents here).
    The combination of the two results in the situation where “You shall” is never a valid response to deontic “Shall I?” This is because shall expresses the speaker’s guarantee. (Even for non-deontic, only “You will” is valid, since it only allows shall for the first person.) should, on the other hand, expresses the subject’s obligation directly and so is symmetrical, as are the rest of Michael Farris’ paraphrases. (“Yes, you should.” “Yes, I would.” “Yes, let’s.”)
    will also has deontic modality, but it expresses the speaker’s authority by predicting a required action. So it is not an alternative for those who don’t have shall.

  54. Deontic modality? Yes, here is what Huddleston and Pullum say about it in their Chapter 3:

    Deontic modality typically has to do with such notions as obligation and permission,
    or – in combination with negation – prohibition (cf. You can’t have any more).

    But I think it is useful to construe the twin notions of obligation and permission broadly, as the authors seem to invite. For example, I wrote above There is something tactful and psychologically apt in ascribing to oneself an obligation (moral, rational, or prudential), but to others a wish. The relations between the deontic and the dynamic, in the authors’ scheme, are perhaps problematic. (See this paper by Nuyts et al. for some of the issues.) With would and will as opposed to should and shall, it may be useful to think of the second pair as having to do with external or overriding constraints of whatever sort. For example:

    If you use enough yeast the bread should [OR: ought to] rise.

    This is not about simple futurity; nor is it merely epistemic. Some principle constrains the behaviour of the bread. It seems to fit the deontic category better.
    Incidentally, I used adeontic earlier, rather than these authors’ non-deontic. Just my antic preference for keeping words fully Greek or fully Latin. One can imagine a distinction being made, though.
    I like the tenor of what you continue with, MMcM, but I’m not sure that I grasp all of it.

  55. bruessel says:

    Marie-Lucie:
    I know I ate topinambours at a very nice restaurant in Beaune last year, because there was a discussion at our table about what they were and how to translate the term into English. I seem to remember they were served as a purée and most people seemed to think they tasted like sweet potatoes.

  56. marie-lucie says:

    Bruessel, in a purée the taste can be disguised by other ingredients such as milk, cream and spices, or potatoes, etc. I ate topinambours as a small child, as did millions of other French people, without additional ingredients and everyone at that time agreed that they tasted awful, like eating dirt – certainly not like sweet potatoes – but there was little else to eat. No doubt the patrons at your restaurant would have wondered why their parents or grandparents had such bad memories of eating topinambours, when what they were eating in the nice restaurant (cooked by an inspired chef) was not the same thing at all. (What colour was thie purée?)

  57. David Marjanović says:

    The subjunctive is in decline in French? My mother teaches French and tells me the opposite. Sure, the past-tense subjunctive is only archaic anymore — but it was replaced by the present-tense subjunctive, not the past-tense indicative.
    In any case, from my German perspective, the subjunctive is used in an incredibly large array of situations in French. (In written German, the subjunctive has an important function in reported speech, but is archaic everywhere else; I’m not aware of a dialect where it hasn’t died out without leaving any trace.)

  58. David Marjanović says:

    Oh! Tegetthoff: I ignore the third t and act as if the g were double; in other words, the first syllable is stressed and short. (All three syllables are short.) But then, the name comes from northern Germany, where it might be pronounced in a totally different way; a long first syllable is easily possible.

  59. David Marjanović says:

    Forgot something else. I’m sure German Sage “legend that plays in more or less medieval times and often features the devil” is cognate with Old Norse saga, but German has imported the latter the same way English has, for the same meanings.

  60. David Marjanović says:

    Yet something more on German subjunctives: Deutschland erwache (“[Oh, how I wish that] Germany wake up”) is a carefully hidden subjunctive, just like Rule Britannia, Britannia rule the waves. Even though they never added it, the Nazis consistently acted as if there were a comma in there: Deutschland, erwache would be an imperative…

  61. David Marjanović:
    The subjunctive is in decline in French? My mother teaches French and tells me the opposite.
    Well, it’s all relative. I may be wrong. And anyway, I am talking about “street French”. Does your mother teach that? (Marie-Lucie, what say’st thou? Or long-silent Siganus Sutor?) Certainly subjunctive forms remain more firmly entrenched, and less circumloculable, in contemporary French than they are in contemporary English. What do you mean by the opposite? That the subjunctive is in fact gaining a more secure foothold, or simply that it is not in decline?
    Deutschland, erwache would be an imperative…
    Yes. And I’m sure many forms in English anthems and the like that started off subjunctive are now construed as imperatives instead.

  62. circumloculable = circumlocutable (?)

  63. Siganus Sutor says:

    Or long-silent Siganus Sutor?
    Yes, Noetica, you are absolutely right, and it’s been much too true, alas. Er… let’s say that as it’s easier for some lazy ichtyosoic tetrapods to use French than English, they are always tempted to fart around making some specific kind of sounds more than others. I was tempted to post here, some time ago and right now, but I’m presently being kicked out of my place, to go and climb some rugged and stupid island off the North Coast… (I’m off, I’m off, darling!) Il faut que j’y aille! Il fallait que j’y allasse !
    I’ll be back !
    (And what about the subjunctive in English, hey? It DOES exist. Someone called Steve told me that one day — and David as well…)

  64. Be that as it may, Sejanus Sartor, it is a delight to see that you lurk in these quarters still. Would that you were more forthcoming with text, though – soit en français, soit en anglais, soit en tokharien B. (By the way, didn’t I send you an email that you have not yet answered? Sois plus sage, frangin!)

  65. Siganus Sutor says:

    By the way, didn’t I send you an email that you have not yet answered?
    Recently? Some time ago I did receive something, an epistle from the bon apôtre, to which I shall answer.
    Regarding the subjunctive, I wouldn’t say that it is in decline in French. It even tends to be used where the indicative should be used, e.g. after “après que”. (Je t’ai répondu après que tu m’aies écrit. — which is theoretically wrong but which is nonetheless the way most people speak.)
    However, when you hear a three or four-year-old use the subjunctive, you tend to say “Hey! this little one is a grown-up already!”, which suggests that is usually not part of “baby”-language, but I wouldn’t think that this mood is in decline, be it on the street, in the bathroom or on construction sites.
    “They” are once more calling me. Jamais tranquille… I shall be back again however.

  66. Siganus "adeontic" Sutor says:

    Noetica: In some careful and formal prose, I use and recommend shall and (adeontic) should in the first person, and will and would in the second and third persons. But I do so circumspectly. It would be neat to avoid shall altogether, perhaps, as many already do.
    Yes, Noetica, some do, despite what have been said to them at school. When I read this LH post some time ago, it came back to my mind that when I was taught English around age ten we were told that the future of say the verb to eat was “I shall eat, you will eat, he will eat, we shall eat, you will eat, they will eat”. And I was saying to myself that nowadays I barely hear anyone use it this way, as when people say “we shall eat this stinking fish”, it is generally understood that they have to do it, however unpleasant, rather than just being about to do it — which shwould then be “we will eat it”.
    I think many thoughtful speakers of British and Austral English still do observe some version of the pedantic textbook rule: simple futurity marked by shall in first person, by will in the second and third; will in first person to show strength of intention; shall in second and third to show some sort of obligation.
    N’est-ce pas ? Isn’t it somewhat pedantic to use shall with the future in the first person? But how funny, sometimes, to be purposely pedantic… But, however mischievous I may or may not be, do I need to say that, being un ci-devant sujet de sa gracieuse majesté, I agree with everything you say here?
    However, when I read this kind of statement — “Let’s remember that the subjunctive is in decline in French, also” —, I tend to think that the winter must be pretty harsh in Oz Land, and that some brains must be frozen hard, as hard as Rock. Si je t’oublie, ô Subjoncif, que ma main droite se dessèche ! (How do you say that in Australian?)
     
     
     
    Marie-Lucie: Eating artichokes is not a very elegant procedure, and you end up eventually with a big messy pile of scraped-out leaves covering your plate or even falling off it.
    Marie-Lucie, do you remember that joke from Coluche in which he very logically argued that artichokes were the real vegetables of the poor because when you finished eating them your plate was fuller than when you started?
     
     
     
    Language Hat: Also, we had artichokes for dinner last night, but we dipped them in mayonnaise rather than oil and vinegar. I apologize to the entire French nation.
    I don’t know if the whole French nation forgave you, Steve, but I shan’t, for this looks like a mortal sin to my eyes.
    By the way, have you noticed too that if you drink some water after eating artichokes, it tastes somewhat sweet?
    “Shall we?” is simply not part of standard American usage, however strange that may seem from outside.
    Yes, it does seem strange seen from the outside. But do you really speak English in the USA? (Very often you can read this kind of baffling statement on one of the first pages of books written by American authors and translated into French: “Traduit de l’américain* par Tartempion”.)
     
     
     
    * Etats-Uniens ou Américains, that is the question
    http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/07/06/opinion/edrousseau.4.php

  67. I tend to think that the winter must be pretty harsh in Oz Land.
    Je ne sache pas que cela soit vrai, absolument. As I say, it’s all relative. Melbourne itself has a climate tempered by the sea, and its nights are generally not so cold as, say, midwest-NSW nights. To this I can testify from personal experience. Mars is even more marine-moderated, sans aucune doute.
    Decades ago Harold Callender (“The Changing French Language”, The French Review, Vol. 2, No. 1, Oct 1928, pp. 5-17) included the use of the indicative instead of the subjunctive in a list of tendencies in popular French (p. 13). And we have this from 1974:

    This paper is intended to be the first part of a study contrasting the subjunctive of French with that of English and comparing it in both languages with the syntactic devices that can replace it. It examines the syntactic constraints on the use of subjunctive forms in French, the semantic contrast between indicative and subjunctive forms, and the semantic changes caused by the replacement of the subjunctive. Three types of French predicates induce their complement verbs to take the subjunctive under certain conditions. In addition, relative clauses can exhibit a meaningful indicative-subjunctive distinction which is not lexically conditioned. The [plus/minus referential] contrast expressed by this opposition is quite similar to the “fact” or “affirmation” vs. “hypothesis” distinction that characterizes the complements of predicates allowing an indicative-subjunctive contrast. One can therefore conclude that the indicative-subjunctive meaning difference in complement clauses is generally [plus/minus real]. The last two sections discuss the ongoing loss of meaning in the French subjunctive and its replacement by other forms. Some predictions are made about the future course of the decline of the subjunctive in French. Certain meaning neutralizations and changes entailed in the replacement of the subjunctive by other syntactic devices are discussed here. (Kathleen Connors, “The Subjunctive in Decline: The Case of French”, full text of author’s abstract; location of full article unknown, but see here; emphasis added.)

    Anyway, I may be wrong, as I have already allowed. Perhaps my take on things is conditioned by my reading so much French from circa 1400, recently.
    Adeontica da Noetica

  68. Siganus "adeontic" Sutor says:

    Noetica, I cannot quote articles from 1928 or from 1974, but what I can do is talk about what I see — and, yes, hear — around me. (Incidentally, I don’t think that I live amongst a particularly elitist bunch of people.) And around me I see people frequently using the subjunctive in plain, ordinary conversations. At work for instance, I see people who do not speak French totally fluently — mixing genders and ill-pronouncing some words per example — use the subjunctive on a regular basis.
    What is nonetheless true is that nowadays some tenses sound archaic with this mood, especially in everyday speech. The imparfait [imperfect] du subjonctif is only seen in books — and not all of them, and less and less I’d tend to say —, because this is what formal grammar rules tell you to use in order to respect the “famous” — or infamous — concordance des temps (sequence of tenses). Or, otherwise, it is used just to make fun, especially when using verbs like to know, to see, to receive (cf. Corneille’s Il faudrait qu’en amour j’en susse autant que vous). The subjonctif plus-que-parfait [pluperfect] is dead indeed, except when joking. It’s not even displayed in the conjugation tables in my Harrap’s.
    However, these tenses used in the subjunctive mood have not been replaced by the indicative. They have been replaced by the present subjunctive, however “wrong” this may be for grammatical purists.
    MM. Hanse et Blampain, in their Nouveau dictionnaire des difficultés du français moderne (4th edition, 2000) have this to say about the subjunctive:

    Il a fortement évolué ; aussi notre syntaxe diffère-t-elle sur ce point, comme sur d’autres, de celle du XVIIe siècle ou même du XIXe, mais le subjonctif reste très vivant et très utile.

     
     
     
     
    By the way, and totally out of this subjugating discussion, how would you, Noetica, you who must be 6’3″ or 6’4” tall, write the symbol representing the inches? With one straight quote (“) or with two apostrophes (”)?

  69. Mon cher ScUlpTOR de choses concrètes, I remind you of what I wrote earlier:

    Certainly subjunctive forms remain more firmly entrenched, and less circumlocu[t]able, in contemporary French than they are in contemporary English.

    Where do we disagree? When I propose, as I did in so many words earlier, that we “remember that the subjunctive is in decline in French, also,” I do not suggest that the subjunctive is close to extinction in French, though arguably it is in English – as a productive and “living” mood, at least. Twice I have said that it’s all relative, and twice that I may be wrong. But the evidence is there in print, and I have pointed to two sources, that there is a slow decrease in the use of subjunctive forms in French, at least over the last century. I am not an expert on this matter, nor do I live among French speakers, nor is my command of spoken French strong enough to make any firmer claim than I have made. My statement was measured and qualified; please do not rashly and illegitimately take it as absolute.
    It is acknowledged that the imperfect subjunctive forms are collapsed into the present subjunctive, in normal contemporary French. That in itself is evidence of the relative and partial decline of which I speak. So are the two sources I cite; so is the work of Harmer (Uncertainties in French Grammar, LC Harmer, eds P Rickard and TGS Combe, 1979, Cambridge UP, referred to in an earlier thread chez LH). Harmer expands at length on the shaky grasp many respected writers have of the morphology of some subjunctives in modern French.
    Note that it is not necessary to find examples in which the subjunctive is replaced by the indicative of the same tense, to support the moderate claim. It may well be that some locutions using the subjunctive have simply falling into disuse, or perhaps just out of easy currency. I don’t know! We’d have to chase the sources and investigate further. But they are there to investigate, and the modest assertion I make is not to be dismissed lightly by assuming, as a straw man (too common an imperfection in blog discussions, ALlASse!), some stronger and less supportable claim.
    As for the uncial intimation to which you urge me, I say that I would use ” (a single character) for the inch symbol. Just habit. I don’t use it much these days, anyway, because we are metric here. Why do you ask, Tours des Sungais? Which do you write: ” or “?
    – a noticed catenoid “action de Noetica”

  70. I think what we have here is a failure to communicate. The esteemed Noetica is using “decline” to mean a loss of complexity, a collapse of tenses, a shrinking of the formerly florid diramation of the arbor subjunctivus to a simple (if sturdy) trunk. The equally esteemed Sutor, per contra, thinks of “decline” as a withering away of the tree itself, and points to its sturdiness with a “thus I refute Noetica.” But the fact is that you’re both right!

  71. Siganus Sutor says:

    Ah, sorry if I got things wrong. Like David maybe, it appeared to me that what was said was that the subjunctive (as a whole) was following the same path as the Siberian tiger: a species on the path to extinction. And to me it didn’t seem to be the case as I still see it being widely used (in the present tense), even when it shouldn’t (cf. the “après que” case above).
    On the 1st of August you said this: “We all seem to have archaic features in the core anthems of our polities, unsurprisingly. But that doesn’t mean we understand them, or use them comfortably. Same in French, I’m sure: the refrain of La Marseillaise ends with Qu’un sang impur / Abreuve nos sillons, in which abreuve is certainly subjunctive. (Let’s remember that the subjunctive is in decline in French, also.)” Well, here I can talk for myself only, but I would still be very surprised if most French speakers didn’t understand abreuve (present subjunctive), or felt uncomfortable with it. Or if they did, I think it would be because the verb abreuver (to water — animals or meadows) is not so commonly used in urban language nowadays, not because of the subjunctive.
    But you are right: it would be interesting to study how its use is varying with time. Hanse & Blampain, again, say for instance that in classical — or classic — French, the subjunctive was used for the subordinate clause if the main clause was already in this mood, e.g. Il est essentiel que les domestiques ici ne sachent pas que je vous connaisse (Marivaux), while today it is the indicative which would be used for the subordinate: que les domestiques ne sachent pas que je vous connais.
    So, if you had that type of evolution in mind and if you thought of the imperfect, etc., you were absolutely right if what you meant was that the subjunctive spectrum has been narrowed. But its light is still shining bright nonetheless, presently.
     
     
     
    Which do you write: ” or “?
    Well, we’re supposed to have become metric too, but some rebels still sell fencing wire mesh by the foot, to my dismay. I’ve been busy, these last weeks, with closing the side of my plot which is still open to the manure-producing dogs from the neighbourhood, amongst other invaders, and I was just wondering how the ISO could have ruled regarding these not-very-handy inches. (What a pain to add 9’9″ with 10’8” and with 8’10″ while at the same time trying not to fall from the ladder…) As far as I am concerned, I have always handwritten the symbol ”, which has therefore always been a succession of two vertical lines. But recently I’ve heard someone complaining about “Americans” who were trying to impose “L.” instead of the normalized “l” for litres, and this made me think about the normalization of the unnormalizable (when using a computer). So ” you say? — which would indeed make more sense as it is just one character.

  72. Well intervened, estimable LH. You are plum[b]-right to prune, with such aplomb, the ramifactive discursive processes we had suffered so profitlessly to proliferate.
    Let’s resume the discussion the moment any of us finds the indicative to be going the way of the thylacine, agreed?
    Interesting about inches, worthy DiSigmatica. In Australia also there are recalcitrant merchants and artisans who persist with the old units. And many old-timers are left at a loss to say how efficient a car is, other than with hand-waving and expressive inflections of the voice. We used to speak of miles per gallon, but now we use litres per 100 kilometres. Such a complex change has been too much for the general, in general. But how are these things assigned a number on Mars – or in America, for that matter? (We recall, germanely, the disaster that befell NASA’s Climate Orbiter in 1999.)

  73. Noetica: Let’s resume the discussion the moment any of us finds the indicative to be going the way of the thylacine, agreed?
    Okay. But what would be left then, apart from the imperative? The infinitive? (To be or not to be, and the like.) Or grunts? which should be more than enough to let others know that 1) you are hungry; 2) you are angry; 3) you disagree with your boss*; 4) you wanna mate, mate; 5) the beer is not cold enough.
    * Well, no, scrap that one: silence would be sufficient in this case.
    - – - – - – - – - – - -
    Miles per gallon? Yes, we had that when I started driving, and for quite a long time 60 or 80 km/h didn’t represent anything concrete for people like me. But I must say that we can get quite easily used to the new units, even litres (of rum) per 100 km… when we are below say 70. A contractor who must have been above that age had to give a price for a piece of civil work and despite the fact that all dimension were in metres, he wanted to work out the quantities in cubic feet, which he would then have to convert back in cubic metres. Somewhere along the process he got lost and ended up with four times the quantity needed — and still got the contract. It didn’t cost as much as the Martian probe, but still…

  74. My car gets forty rods to the hogshead, and that’s the way I likes it!

  75. Rods to the hogshead: the words are not the same because the units are not the same? (The non-imperial gallon at least.)
    40 miles per American gallon? Not bad. I thought that these big cars in Ameriga were usually much thirstier…

  76. I fear I was merely giving in to the temptation to quote one of my favorite lines from Grandpa Simpson (from this episode). Forty rods to the hogshead works out to 11 or 12 feet to the gallon (according to Wikipedia), which wouldn’t make for a very fuel-efficient car.

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