"being have"

Lynne Murphy lynnem at COGS.SUSX.AC.UK
Thu Sep 6 17:16:55 UTC 2001

--On Thursday, September 6, 2001 11:18 am -0400 George Thompson
<george.thompson at NYU.EDU> wrote:

> A year or so ago someone set off a discussion here by posting an
> overheard conversation in which a mommy offered to whap the bejesus out
> of her kid if he didn't start "being have" ("behaving himself", the
> word "behave" being analyzed as if it were the verb "be" and an
> adjective "have").  I've had no success in finding this discussion in
> the Archives.

That was me--the mother said the kid wouldn't get any treats at grandma's
if the kid didn't start 'being have'. (Perhaps someone else told a
'whapping the bejesus' story, though.)

> I recently heard a record made in the mid 1920s by the vocalist Hociel
> Thomas, called either "Go On, I Told You" or "What I Told You".  The
> song celebrates the esprit of a cake-walking baby and contains the
> following couplet:
>     She came in on the Charleston wave,
>     What I told you, she just won't have.
> This is probably available on CD, since Thomas is backed by Louis
> Armstrong.  I have an Armstrong discography somewhere, which, if I
> could find it, would give the correct title and the date of recording.
> But in any event, the thought that the command "behave!" = "be have!"
> is at least 70 years old.

But there's no 'be' there--so I don't think this is a case of 'to be have'
at all.  It's just a case of creative rhyming of the word 'have'.  Just
like when American singers say 'a-gain' to rhyme with 'rain' or 'been' to
rhyme with 'seen'.


M Lynne Murphy
Lecturer in Linguistics
School of Cognitive and Computing Sciences
University of Sussex
Brighton BN1 9QH

phone +44-(0)1273-678844
fax   +44-(0)1273-671320

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