SHALL AND WILL.

Orin Hargraves has a good post in the Language Lounge section of Visual Thesaurus on the decay of that good old modal shall, using Fowler’s entry on it as a jumping-off point (“There is never a reason not to consult Fowler about usage: whether you find what you were looking for or not, you’ll walk away from his text amused and edified in a way that you weren’t when you went to it”). Hargraves points out that “Though very few speakers today use it in a prescribed way, shall leaves an indelible impression on the minds of developing native speakers of English in many forms, starting early in life,” citing nursery rhymes, prayers and hymns, and historical documents like the Constitution and the Gettysburg Address. Here is the end of his post:

The upshot today is that shall — besides its fixed modal use in soliciting input for actions — has a special status and is used, not altogether consistently, to impart an air of authority, formality, of loftiness that will would lack in the same context. This usage isn’t lost on Hollywood, which sprinkles dialog with shalls for effect — an effect that Fowler calls “decorative and prophetic” in his original article. Thus,
Greta Garbo in “Grand Hotel”:
I shall dance and you’ll be with me and then — listen — After that you will come with me to Lake Como, I have a villa there. The sun will be shining. I will take a vacation — six weeks — eight weeks. We’ll be happy and lazy. And then you will go with me to South America — oh!
Joan Crawford in “Mildred Pierce”:
I shall prevent this marriage in any way that I can.

You can find scores of other examples with the search “you shall” on script-o-rama.com, where it is obvious that Hollywood is the true master of the “decorative and prophetic” shall. Alternatively, there’s a pretty good case to be made that what Fowler said in 1926 still holds true today: “there are people to whom the English distinctions mean nothing than the discovery that shall & will, should & would, are sometimes regarded as good raw material for elegant variation.”

If you have trouble parsing that final quote from Fowler, good for you; it’s been wrongly truncated and is unintelligible as it stands. For an explanation of what went wrong, see my comment on Hargraves’s post.

Comments

  1. Now rectified.

  2. I can’t read Hargraves’ post, nor languagehat’s comment there—here’s all the necessary context of the original quote for anyone else in my position:

    “The time-honoured ‘I will be drowned, no-one shall save me’, so much too good to be true, is less convincing as a proof that there are people to whome the English distinctions mean nothing, than the discovery that shall & will, should & would, are sometimes regarded as good raw material for elegant variation; …”

  3. I should also mention that the comma between “nothing” and “than” is mine, not Fowler’s.

  4. Aidan: Orin’s Language Lounge column is typically a “premium” (subscriber-only) feature of the Visual Thesaurus. I’ve temporarily set this one to non-premium so LH readers can take a look for themselves.

  5. AJP Something says:

    Thanks, Ben.

  6. Ah, sorry, I’m a subscriber and didn’t realize it wasn’t visible to others.

  7. Here’s my comment from over there:
    A fine post! But you have unwittingly traduced Fowler while quoting him exactly, and he would not be pleased that your final sentence turns him into an apparent illiterate: “there are people to whom the English distinctions mean nothing than the discovery that shall & will, should & would, are sometimes regarded as good raw material for elegant variation” appears to use “nothing than” as an illegitimate equivalent of “nothing other than.” What Fowler actually wrote (in his characteristically long-winded and clotted, but enjoyable when parsed, style) is: “The time-honoured ‘I will be drowned, no-one shall save me’, so much too good to be true, is less convincing as a proof that there are people to whom the English distinctions mean nothing than the discovery that shall & will, should & would, are sometimes regarded as good raw material for elegant variation” — in other words, “If you want to be convinced that there are people to whom the English distinctions mean nothing, don’t bother with amusing but invented examples like the old chestnut about drowning but instead take a look at these examples, where the two forms are simply regarded as good raw material for elegant variation.”
    Thanks for fixing it, Ben!

  8. Everybody says shall is dead, but is shall I? really dead, as an offer to do something for someone else? (Or is it just that offers of that kind aren’t made any more except by old farts who persist in spelling any more with two words?) “Will I get you a cup of coffee?” sounds (except in Ireland) like a request for the other person to predict my future.

  9. Ah: now that I can read it, I see the question use is discussed at the original post.

  10. I think the alternative is not “Will I” but “Should I.”

  11. John Emerson says:

    “Will I turn off the light?” is possible as a rhetorical question. It does mean something different than “Should I turn out the light, thoug,” as the guy says.

  12. My ESL grammar gnomes say “shall” is “unusual” or “formal” in American English. Raymond Murphy also lists “should I…” and “should we…” (used to ask for advice) as North American forms, and “shall I…” and “shall we…” as British forms.

    North American: Which way should we go?
    British: Which way shall we go?

    North American: I will be late tonight.
    British: I shall/will be late tonight.

    To my ear at least, “shall” sounds more like a coin-toss decision and less like a value judgment.

  13. Should I turn out the light?
    For what it’s worth, I would definitely say (eg to my wife) “Shall I turn out the light?”. “Should I” implies that there’s some possible danger involved.

  14. John Emerson says:

    Yeah, my wife was sort of scary too.

  15. Should I turn out the light?
    I was proposing this purely as U.S. usage; I have zero intuition about how other areas of the Anglosphere use shall.

  16. John Emerson says:

    Norskosphere English is an entirely different story.

  17. I’m pretty sure I’d say, “Wamme ta turn the light off?”

  18. OT for this post, but if you will go to this link you shall find an LJ comm discussing the correct plural form of Baba Yaga…(scroll down for the meatier comments).
    http://community.livejournal.com/metaquotes/7313751.html#cutid1
    (And of course y’all can critique my use of shall and will in the above sentence and drag this comment back into on-topic status.

  19. I’m Greek Australian, and my partner always giggles every time I say “shut the lights” or “close the lights” (as you would in Greek) instead of “turn the lights off”.
    And as far as I’m aware, shall in Australia is a more formal way of saying will or should.

  20. Actually, I recant what I just said:
    “Will we go?” is asking if we will ever go
    “Shall we go?” is asking if we will go right now
    “Should we go?” is asking the wisdom of whether or not we go.

  21. “Will we go?” is asking if we will ever go
    “Shall we go?” is asking if we will go right now
    “Should we go?” is asking the wisdom of whether or not we go.

    I enjoy the distinctions, but I don’t think they have much to do with actual usage. In my experience (and that’s all I’m going by), tone and context usually decide the meaning.

  22. I sometimes say “shall” because I like it and it’s been under-appreciated lately.

  23. > tone and context usually decide the meaning.
    Tone and context will also tell you when someone is saying something ironically and meaning exactly the opposite of what’s being said, but you have to have the standard, base meaning to get anywhere.
    So the question remains: what are the standard distinctions between will/shall/should in a hypothetical standard environment, which shall (will?) always be less-than-perfect.

  24. Winnie-the-Pooh says “shall” a lot.

  25. John Emerson says:

    Manolis: I think that in this case, there isn’t a standard, or there are two conflicting standard, and that is why tone and context decide the meaning.
    Since it’s to a degree a dialect difference, pronunciation might help decide the meaning.
    Perhaps it’s a bit like A Norwegian talking to a Dane, where each understands the other’s language but each is also unconsciously trying to accommodate the other too to a degree, so you ahve Norwegian-flavored Danish and Danish-flavored Norwegian, with a few words getting lost in the mess because they have conflicting meanings.

  26. I enjoy the distinctions, but I don’t think they have much to do with actual usage.
    With respect, you, like me, are a Yank, and I doubt you have any better intuitions about Aussie usage than I do. I’m pretty sure shall/will usage is one of those things that vary drastically by dialect.

  27. Well, that’s what I get for jumping into a thread past my time bedtime. I had no frame of reference; I was like a child, wandering into a movie theater…

  28. John Emerson says:

    STFU, Jammessal!

  29. Terry Collmann says:

    “Should”, “shall”, “would” and “will” all have very different nuances in my idiolect of BrE.
    “We don’t want people outside to see us.” “Should I turn out the light?” (= “Ought I to, under the circumstances?”)
    “I’ll light the birthday cake candles now.” “Shall I turn out the light?” (=”Would you like me to?”)
    “I’m going upstairs now, I’ll leave you to read your book.” “Would you turn out the light in the hall?” (=”I am requesting you to turn out the light”)
    “I’m going upstairs now. Will you come with me?” (=”Would you come with me, please?” – for me [I may just not be polite enough] “will you come with me?” does not require a “please”, “would you come with me” does.)

  30. STFU, Jammessal!
    *bows head, ties bowling show*

  31. I have long been plagued by Germans claiming to know it all about English features such as “shall” and “will”. The older generation would inform me of the existence of something called “Oxford English” that they had learned at school, and take it upon themselves to instruct me about the proper use of “shall”, “will”, and many another thing.
    The new generation has developed a new maneuver. They first ask me about the meaning of some English word or expression, then – because they are rarely satisfied with my answer – they ask whether that is British English or American English. When I then try to explain the differences for the case in question, these people furrow their brows and look doubtful.
    Grumbly sez to these impudent puppies: a little learning is a dangerous thing; drink deep, or go jump in the Pierian Spring and drown yourself.

  32. John Emerson says:

    Can’t you just tactfully say, “Wait, a minute, buddy! Who was it that won World War Two, anyway?”
    Give em an inch, and pretty soon they’ll be revising our noun declensions to match theirs. That’s what we fought for.

  33. mollymooly says:

    I don’t trust my introspection regarding “shall”. I sometimes consciously choose “shall I” (rather than “will I”) with a scintilla of affectation, but I’m not sure what the affect is. I obviously can’t say how often, if ever, I unselfconsciously use “shall”; I suspect it’s more often with “shall we” than “shall I”. I say “shall we dance”, or would do if I ever wanted to dance. I’m quite sure I never use “shan’t” or “I shall” except jocularly. “Should” is deontic, not conditional. “I would hope so” means “probably, and I hope so”; “I should hope so” means “certainly, and a good thing, too”.
    Correlate any change from “shall” to “should” with the change from “may” to “might”.

  34. What happens if you went to Cambridge? Should people complain about your English? Huh?

  35. What happens if you went to Cambridge? Should people complain about your English? Huh?

  36. Victor Sonkin says:

    I believe it is still taught in Russian schools that ‘shall’ is used as a future tense modifier in the 1st person, and ‘will’ in the 2nd and 3rd.

  37. John Emerson says:

    If you went to Cambridge, AJP Etc., we’d just ask if you were part of Monty Python.

  38. The foot, probably.

  39. The foot, probably.

  40. Which foot? I’ve heard of thirty-foot pythons.

  41. I’d not heard of foot-pythons. You may be thinking of foot-candles, something to do with measuring the amount of lighting in a room.

  42. I’d not heard of foot-pythons. You may be thinking of foot-candles, something to do with measuring the amount of lighting in a room.

  43. I’m with Manolis. His distinctions match mine – but then I was educated in Oz. I’m glad the distinctions still exist there. (As usual I throw spears at Jamessal).
    Shall and will certainly continue to be clearly defined in Br. E, at least in some circles (in Blackheath, if not Sidcup, AJP … ).
    To start another hare running (I saw hare tracks in the snow this week) I regret the apparent loss of the distinction between insure, ensure and assure….

  44. I regret the apparent loss of the distinction between insure, ensure and assure….
    Apparent to YOU, you mean (look at that spear fly!); do you really think there was some time that people heeded the (supposed) distinction more than they do now?
    Thanks for joining us, by the way. Until AJP hit the ball back to me in the other room, I was feeling a little silly playing armchair linguistics amidst a horde of Russophiles!

  45. Armchair Linguistics is a great title for something. Don’t waste it.

  46. Armchair Linguistics is a great title for something. Don’t waste it.

  47. AJP: It’s certainly not mine, but I’ll find a way to steal it.
    Paul: While we’re taking issue with random hobgoblins…please don’t tell me you object to “proven” for “proved” (a “rule” I was unfortunate to stumble upon in Garner the other day); not only would an insistence on one or the other be the very paragon of a distinction for a distinction’s sake (really, what would it achieve?), but it would rob the language of a lovely resource: a word that can be two syllables or one, depending on the rhythm of your sentence. Please, please don’t tell me you object!

  48. Something I just remembered about shall & will: it’s not just English. In Norwegian there is skal and vil. Vil I normally translate “as to want to” and skal as to be going to: jeg vil spise middag = I want to have dinner, jeg skal spise middag = I’m going to have dinner. Maybe this could work as a guideline sometimes for an equivalent English usage, I don’t know: “I shall turn out the light” = I’m going to, “I will turn out the light” = I want to (but I can’t right now).

  49. Something I just remembered about shall & will: it’s not just English. In Norwegian there is skal and vil. Vil I normally translate “as to want to” and skal as to be going to: jeg vil spise middag = I want to have dinner, jeg skal spise middag = I’m going to have dinner. Maybe this could work as a guideline sometimes for an equivalent English usage, I don’t know: “I shall turn out the light” = I’m going to, “I will turn out the light” = I want to (but I can’t right now).

  50. “I will turn out the light” = I want to
    I have assumed that that’s what “will” did mean, long ago. This armchair theory is based on the meaning of the noun “will”, and also on the fact that in German ich will means “I want to”.
    Of course, in German “I am going to” is not expressed by the cognate of “I shall”, as you say that it is in Norsk. That would be ich soll, right? But instead you get ich werde, where werden, when it’s not doing duty in the auxiliary verb corps, means “to become”.
    What did “shall” mean in the olden days?
    I once offended a German by saying Was soll ich tun? in a situation where in English I might have said “What should I do?” or “What shall I do?” or “What ought I to do?” My overall message was meant to be something like “I want to do it the right way. Just give me some instructions, please.” But my German was not quite up to it. I am pretty sure that part of the problem was that my exasperation about being less than fluent came across as exasperation toward my interlocutor, but I was later led to believe by another German that the word soll contributed, too.

  51. “I once offended a German by saying Was soll ich tun? in a situation where in English I might have said “What should I do?” or “What shall I do?” or “What ought I to do?”
    That’s very strange, “Was soll ich tun?” sounds perfectly OK to me to express what you were trying to say, how could anybody possibly be offended by that? Did he tell you what he expected you to say?

  52. I’m going to/I will are practically interchangeable for future tense in American English.

  53. Yes, but my point was that there are circumstances in which “I will turn out the light” means I want to turn out the light, but I can’t do it YET.

  54. Yes, but my point was that there are circumstances in which “I will turn out the light” means I want to turn out the light, but I can’t do it YET.

  55. Answers.com has a lengthy usage note about shall, that pretty much sums up how I understand the usage. Jamessal will be interested to note they say the meaning depends on context.
    I’m pretty sure I’d say, “Wamme ta turn the light off?”
    As far as actual usage, this sounds a lot better. It’s one thing to make up hypothetical grammatically correct sentences with a target word, but quite another thing to spontaneously express an idea. I would probably say “Kennai turn off the light?” or “Why doncha turn the light off?” If you know someone well enough to be in the dark with them, you’re not going to say “shall”.

  56. “I will turn out the light” means I want to turn out the light, but I can’t do it YET.
    I don’t see this working in American English, but I could see “I’ll turn off the light” as an offer. In both cases though it will get dark suddenly unless the other person speaks up.

  57. That’s very strange, “Was soll ich tun?” sounds perfectly OK to me to express what you were trying to say, how could anybody possibly be offended by that? Did he tell you what he expected you to say?
    In that case, it was probably all in the way I said it.
    It was a she, not a he (not that that makes any difference). I was visiting a university for some months. One day I somehow upset the smooth running of the department office in some minor way, by my ignorance of correct procedure in some matter involving office supplies or postage or photocopying or something, I forget what. It seems to me that, after being told in German, by the office manager or head secretary or whatever the right title would be, that I had done something wrong, I then tried without success to find a properly submissive way of saying in German “What would have been the right way, the preferred way? Please just tell me how I should do it next time.” My guess is that, after some fruitless dialogue, I said something like “Bitte, sagen Sie mir nur was ich tun soll” in what was by then a tone of some frustration. As I remember it, she lost patience with me and I retreated in embarrassment. That evening I mentioned the incident to the local professor who was my host, and he said he would smooth things over, deal with the ruffled feathers as you might say.
    Odd, that twenty years after that incident I am devoting even a tiny bit of my precious reserves of memory space or emotional energy to it, but I am. (I should let it go. Will I? Do I want to? Do I lack the will?)

  58. It was a she, not a he (not that that makes any difference). … My guess is that, after some fruitless dialogue, I said something like “Bitte, sagen Sie mir nur was ich tun soll” in what was by then a tone of some frustration. As I remember it, she lost patience with me and I retreated in embarrassment.
    It may be no accident that a woman said that to you. From your description, I can easily imagine that she felt that, as a result of what you describe as fruitless dialogue, you should have finally understood what you were supposed to do. Imagine further that the woman then finds you saying “Bitte, sagen Sie mir nur was ich tun soll” in a querulous tone of voice, like a stubborn child who “pig-headedly refuses to understand”. Your sentence, even though it is impeccable in terms of content and grammar, comes across as the final straw, and she becomes just as querulous as she thinks you are being.
    I also find it easy to imagine why you have remembered the incident all these years. I bet you were quite proud of having spoken German with everyone, and were accordingly miffed and disappointed at being rebuffed in that way. I have sometimes nurtured linguistic resentments of that kind for years, thinking about them ever and again. They’re problems that you want to solve, and sometime you finally solve them.
    Here’s such a problem, with solution, from Grumbly’s trésor de la langue allemande. In my first decade of speaking German, I occasionally had the experience of asking someone Warum hast du das gemacht ? and finding that the person would clam up, or get resentful. I did not understand this, since as far as I was concerned I was merely asking “why did you do that?”. By thinking about this over and over, and listening to how other people phrased their sentences when they wanted to extract information from someone about his motives for doing something, I finally figured out what was going on.
    At least in the Rheinland, a question about motives that uses the word warum is often felt to be inquisitorial and accusing – something a teacher might say, or your parents when they are about to lower the boom. To avoid this, you can use the word weshalb, which also means “why”: weshalb hast du das denn gemacht ?, or was hast du dir denn eigentlich dabei gedacht ? (what were you thinking of when you did that ?). The denn or denn eigentlich are just filler words that make the sentence sound less inquisitorial. Of course you have to watch your intonation, and really be non-inquisitorial when you use these alternative formulations, otherwise they too will cause offence.
    I know it sounds ridiculous that weshalb can work differently than warum, but it’s a fac. To put a bit of sociocultural spin on all this, I would say that Germans on the whole are not used to “self-analysis”, and “sharing” the results of “self-analysis” – in contrast with Americans. In no way do I mean to imply by this that Germans are deficient in self-understanding. If anything, I mean to imply that Americans are obsessed with navel-gazing and what they think they can find out about themselves by deploying various modish forms of psychobabble in dealing with themselves and other people.
    I remember a very explicit motive I had in leaving the States for Germany in 1971 – to get away from that American verbal obsession with self that was prevalent in the post-Hippie years, particularly in academic environments. I had already lived in Germany for half a year in 1969, and knew that this kind of illusionary self-centeredness was not present here. In effect, one of the reasons I was so hell-bent on learning German is that this would require me to stop speaking English – thus depriving me of the psychobabble resources that made it so easy to talk about myself all the time. This may sound just as outlandish as what I said above about weshalb, but – well, das mußt du wissen (suit yourself).

  59. Wieso (why) also works like weshalb (why) as a non-offensive alternative to warum (why), and is more colloquial.

  60. That’s all very interesting, Ø & Grumbly. I could imagine having to deal with any of those situations, myself.
    I don’t remember “weshalb” from my time in Hamburg.

  61. Although I’m in agreement with Grumbly about the “warum” question, I must disagree with him in one instance: I find that “Was hast du dir denn eigentlich dabei gedacht?” doesn’t really sound that different from “Was hast du dir bloß dabei gedacht?”, which, in my experience, is not really a question, but, like its English equivalent (“What could you have been thinking?”) means “How could you have been so stupid”.

  62. “Was hast du dir denn eigentlich dabei gedacht?” doesn’t really sound that different from “Was hast du dir bloß dabei gedacht?”
    True enough, bruessel – in that you have to say it “in a nice way” so it doesn’t come across as “How could you have been so stupid ?”. I’m sure you in particular know what I mean by “in a nice way”. It’s hard to describe in words to non-native speakers, so I won’t even try. Though I bet many people, even non-native speakers, could recognize and evaluate the different tones of voice when they heard the sentence said in different ways.
    The thing with warum is that it often tends to make people clam up, no matter in what tone of voice you say it.

  63. How about wieso? Or is that like warum?

  64. As I said above in an addendum to my original long comment, wieso is OK – unless you say it in a complaining or indignant tone of voice like Wiesoooo hast du das gemacht [, verdammt nochmal] ??!!

  65. Upon reflection*, I have had similar trouble right here at home with other front-desk despots. I like to be on good terms with the office staff, but I can’t stand being criticized. Maybe this has less to do with language and more to do with my own quirks and querulous qualities.
    *= navel-gazing?

  66. David Marjanović says:

    “Shall I turn out the light?” (=”Would you like me to?”)

    :-o That’s outright German, where sollen means sort of “to be supposed to”.

    What did “shall” mean in the olden days?

    It’s used for the future tense in at least some Low German dialects…

    or “Why doncha turn the light off?”

    The American why don’t you imperative. =8-)

    To avoid this, you can use the word weshalb

    You can actually use it? It’s seriously literary where I come from. – Anyway, I recommend shortening the entire question to just Warum? or (probably better, perhaps safest) Wieso?.
    Then there’s wozu, which means explicitly “for what purpose” and can carry connotations of “what should I do that for” or “what, if anything, did you have in your alleged mind when you started this time-consuming, useless activity”.
    Surprise can be expressed with warum, however: Warum hast du das denn gemacht/getan?, Warum hast du denn das gemacht? It all depends on the intonation.

  67. [A]fter being told that I had done something wrong, I then tried to find a properly submissive way of [acknowledging responsibility and repairing my practice]. [...] As I remember it, she lost patience[.]
    ø, it sounds to me like you ran into an intersection of in charge and insecure – a toxic combination, (I think) regardless of gender or ethnicity. Best to file under “Lose-Lose Bully”?

  68. I just happened to write a blog post about this recently that turned into a much longer paper. The loss of awareness among speakers of the various distinguished usages of future-expressing forms truly is a shame and robs us of a degree of precision that our language lacks without adherence to the specific usage called for each form (shall of course being one of these).
    If anyone would like to check it out, please click the link below:
    http://calleteach.wordpress.com/2009/12/17/an-inventory-and-discussion-of-english-futurity/

  69. Trond Engen says:

    [...] depriving me of the psychobabble resources that made it so easy to talk about myself all the time
    How do you manage without that?

  70. a much longer paper
    I had no idea you could upload a Word document to a WordPress subdomain.

  71. As a native American English speaker, in the everyday non-formal usage around here “Shall” has an Imperative air to it that “Will” does not. In a way this parallels the semantic distinctions I see between “Should” and “Would” in Conditional/Subjunctive constructions.

  72. I cann’t think of any area in my New York idiolect where ‘shall’ would be at all appropriate, besides the completely appropriate and common ‘shall we?’ (and its complemented variant). As of now I can imagine no other situation where the word shall would, uttered by me, lack an tinge of ironic drama.
    And the proper light-closing formulation, of course, is ‘Kill the lights, will ya?’

  73. Actually, right now I’m muttering various imperative formulations to myself and the ones with the actual phrase ‘turn the lights off’ sound quite ominous. If I were about to have someone murdered I’d say ‘turn the lights off’. Otherwise it comes off a bit ‘shall’y.

  74. If you ever get a chance to visit Operation Push and sing along with Jesse (yup, I did that once, quite by accident), you can bet they’re not going to be singing “we will overcome”…

  75. I assure that there is similarly, too, no way that a speaker of my idiolect could approximate or adopt any element of Jesse Jackson’s oratory style without the same irony making itself present, willy nilly.

  76. a speaker of my idiolect could approximate or adopt any element of Jesse Jackson’s oratory style
    I tried to imagine this with a New York accent and had to laugh. Photos of Operation Push in my URL–no, I didn’t get “we shall overcome”, but I did get some video of his style when he’s with his homies.

  77. Manolis said:
    (that in his Australian experience)
    “Will we go?” is asking if we will ever go
    “Shall we go?” is asking if we will go right now
    “Should we go?” is asking the wisdom of whether or not we go.
    jamessal said:
    I enjoy the distinctions, but I don’t think they have much to do with actual usage. In my experience (and that’s all I’m going by), tone and context usually decide the meaning.
    Sorry, I’m going way back in the thread, but as a New Zealander in his 60s who has lived in Oz for 25 years I’ll just say that Manolis is spot-on for usage in this part of the world.
    I also feel that jamessal was much too rudely rebuked for his scepticism (and his skepticism).

  78. Oh, jamessal and I are pals, he knew I was just yankin’ his chain. Can’t let him get above himself or he’ll be taking over the site before you know it.

  79. Gilbert, “STFU, Jammessal!”, if that’s what you mean, is a reference to the movie The Big Lebowski, a film that Jamessal had already quoted from, himself. (It’s John Emerson’s favourite movie.)

  80. Gilbert, “STFU, Jammessal!”, if that’s what you mean, is a reference to the movie The Big Lebowski, a film that Jamessal had already quoted from, himself. (It’s John Emerson’s favourite movie.)

  81. Yes, Gilbert, your intervention was needless — but valiant nonetheless!

  82. Do I dare confess that I have still not seen The Big Lebowski?

  83. No, probably not.

  84. Dammit!

  85. And yet you saw Avatar last night? You don’t even want help, do you?

  86. Hat has no frame of reference. He’s like a child who wanders into the middle of a movie and wants to know what’s going on.

  87. STFU, Emerson! Couldn’t you rent it? It’s well worth the 50c.

  88. STFU, Emerson! Couldn’t you rent it? It’s well worth the 50c.

  89. For what it’s worth, I haven’t seen The Big Lebowski either. I don’t even have a TV that works.

  90. jamessal said: Yes, Gilbert, your intervention was needless — but valiant nonetheless!
    Well, that’s what I get for wandering into the middle of another’s relationships .. I had no frame of reference; I was like a child, wandering into a movie theater.

  91. You (pl.) can watch it on your computers.

  92. You (pl.) can watch it on your computers.

  93. Next you’ll be tellin’ me I can surf the internet on my tellyphone! I swear, kids these days…

  94. FWIW, I usually say “I’ll” which avoids the whole problem… ;-)
    But yeah, for me “will we…?” has a sort of “ever” flavor to it, while “should we…?” is asking for advice. “Shall we…?” is formal or set-phrasey (“shall we dance?” is almost self-mocking) and “Let’s…” is what I’d use instead.

  95. Yes, Gilbert! Bone up on your Lebowski, your Alice, your Dravidian, your everything Russian; then, unlike me, you’ll get all the jokes!

  96. michael farris says:

    “FWIW, I usually say “I’ll” which avoids the whole problem… ;-)”
    But _does_ it? I personally have a very hard time accepting “I’ll” as a contraction of “I shall”, especially since there is also “Ish’ll”.
    Unless someone can make a convincing case, I think of “I’ll” as either a) a contraction of “I will” only b) a separate construction independent of both “I will” and “I shall”.

  97. I too seem to have missed the required reading list for this blog. Where is the syllabus?

  98. jamessal said: Yes, Gilbert! Bone up on your Lebowski, your Alice, your Dravidian, your everything Russian; then, unlike me, you’ll get all the jokes!
    Alice?.. been there, never seen a town like it. I’m also an admirer of Rahul (The Wall) Dravid and when I want Dravidian stats I just go to Cricinfo.com .. but everything Russian, I’m not so sure. I do have a life so I think I’ll just get on with it.

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