Thursday, May 18, 2006

A Ren Faire Speak How-To

I love archaic stuff like this:
Will and shall change to wilt and shalt when thou is the subject, but remain unchanged for other subjects.

The remaining auxiliaries, also, change only when thou is the subject. But thou is not used in ordinary discourse. Except in solemn or poetical style, we use you, whether addressing one person or more; these auxiliaries, therefore are seldom changed.

The forms of the remaining auxiliaries required with thou, in solemn or poetical style, end in st: --
MUST - thou must (no change).
HAD - thou hadst.
CAN - thou canst.
MAY - thou mayst (mayest).
MIGHT - thou mightst (mightest).
COULD - thou couldst (couldest).
WOULD - thou wouldst (wouldest).
SHOULD - thou shouldst (shouldest).

...Will and shall may not be used at pleasure, the one for the other. To express simply what is about to take place, shall is used with I and we; will is used with all other subjects.

...Will used with I or we, and shall with other subjects imply determination as well as futurity.
(Lesson L(50) from Illustrated Lessons in Our Language by G.P Quackenbos, 1882. Available on CD at Lady's Maid Books).

On the topic of will and shall, The Common School Question Book (by Asa Craig, 1878) has this to say about them:
116. When is it proper to use shall and should?

Answer: When required to express a duty, command, determination, resolve; and in future propositions when the subject is of the first person and no reference is made to the will of the subject.

117. When is it proper to use will and would?

Answer: When the expression is of willingness, inclination, or in future, propositions when the subject is of the second or third person, and no compulsion required.
So, there is a difference between shall and will. It's just that very few of us know it anymore.

2 Comments:

Blogger E.K. Hornbeck said...

Just curious: In your brief autobiographical notes, you state that "Alexandra is a collector of 19th century textbooks, a former writing teacher, and an English language enthusiast."

Shouldn't that read "19th-century textbooks" and "English-language enthusiast"? The former perhaps is arguable, but the latter could lead to confusion without the hyphen; one might be led to believe that Alexandra is a language enthusiast who is English.

2:01 PM  
Blogger Alexandra said...

You may be correct. I have not claimed to be an expert in English, merely an enthustiastic student. When it comes to hyphens, I'm never really sure. My 19th-century textbooks hyphenate just about everything, from to-morrow to rail-road, so I cannot claim any special knowledge on the contemporary usage of hyphens.

8:09 PM  

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