Theiling Online    Sitemap    Conlang Mailing List HQ   

Re: Powers that be were Re: Newbie says hi

From:Tristan <kesuari@...>
Date:Saturday, November 2, 2002, 6:13
Padraic Brown wrote:

>--- Andreas Johansson <and_yo@...> wrote: > > > >>>>* Why is it "the powers that be", and not the >>>>"powers that are"? >>>> >>>> >>>> >>>subjunctive. i imagine it could be paraphrased >>> >>> >>'such >> >> >>>powers as exist', using the subjunctive to mark >>>generality. not sure if this is a native germanic >>>useage or a nicking of the latin one >>> >>> >>Nice to see you unenlightened anglophones keeping >>the subjunctive at least a >>little bit alive! :-) >> >> > >The subjunctive is alive and well in English. You >Forners just can't tell, cos it's a Trade Secret. ;) >No, really, the once distinct subjunctive and >indicative endings simply ended up the same, i.e., "-" >except the 3s indic which remains steadfastly "-s". >That is, they are morphologically identical. >
Well... the subjunctive isn't completely dead or anything, is it? From my reading, I understand the Americans use it a lot more than the Brits do (for whom it's essentially dead). Whether it's because of American influence, or the fact that it didn't die before Australia was settled, or because I perceived it as more formal and picked it up for certain circumstances, I tend to use it myself. (OTOH, in the song 'Fourty Years On', which we have to sing at Speech Night (a school thingy at the end of each year, a bit like a final assembly but different), there's a line: 'till the field ring again and again', which everyone seems to sing 'till fields ring again and again' but I seem to be the only person who understands why, and that's only because Mr Macrae (since retired, though no-one can ever retire from Melbourne High... he keeps popping up again. And he went to MHS as a student, too...) mentioned it once in year nine and I'm the only one with a memory for these things...). Pardon my ramblings. I have no idea why we sing 'Forty years on'. None of the students were at the school fourty years ago. Some of the teachers, yes, but none of the students. I don't even thing anyone's twenty!)
>The phrase given is probably not subjunctive at all - >it doesn't read like one to me at least. A good use of >the present subjunctive is Henry's "If this be >liberty..."; it shows doubt, concession, et.c. (while >the past subjunctive shows contrary to fact). >
Yeah. I can see what you're saying and on those grounds would be forced to agree with you.
>Wright notes that "be" (<beth), an indicative verb, >was current up into the 16th century or thereafter >(and indeed survives in forms of American), and >survived a quhile longer in formal language. >
>The KJV _certainly_ counts as a use of formal language; and as >John pointed out, "are are" looks bad together. >It looks to me like the bible translator was simply > >avoiding the "are are" conjunction. >
And it was just luck that made it 'the powers that be are' rather than 'the powers that are be'? John says:
>Because the original context (Romans 13:1) says "the powers that be >are ordained of God", and "the powers that are are ordained of God" >would sound really stoopit. >
On the word 'stoopit', I guess that's an American way of making 'stupid' stupid, because they can't just do 'stoopid' because that's the normal pronunciation? The word seems to have essentially become 'stoopid' /stu;p@d/ here all the time, even though 'student' is still /stSu;d@nt/. Tristan.


John Cowan <jcowan@...>
Padraic Brown <elemtilas@...>
Jake X <alwaysawake247@...>