Don't let's

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Jan 17 02:13:46 UTC 2008

FWIW, besides the various British hits (Noel Coward's WWII fave
"Don't let's be beastly to the Germans"; cf. also the celebrated
memoir of a Rhodesian girlhood, _Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight_)
and the (I think) aforementioned hit single "Don't Let's Start" from
They Might Be Giants (as well as a new U.S. indie movie of the same
name currently in production according to IMDb), there's a song that
pops up on google, "Don't lets talk about Lisa", by Lonestar.
Contemporary, non-British, and featuring the eloquent couplet
"Priscilla was a killer/Meaner than Godzilla".

You can also find the classic (if non-contemporary) final
double-cigarette-lighting scene from "Now Voyager" in which Bette
Davis beseeches Paul Henreid, "Oh Jerry, don't let's ask for the
moon, we have the stars".  Go to YouTube, plug in, listen to Bette as the
music wells up behind her, and *then* tell me you want to kick "don't
let's" out of the language.


At 4:51 PM -0800 1/16/08, Benjamin Barrett wrote:
>I just ran into a male Tucsonite, 43, who's also an "ain't no don't
>let's" dialect speaker. BB
>Laurence Horn wrote:
>>At 4:12 PM -0800 1/16/08, Benjamin Barrett wrote:
>>>For the record, I'm not drawing a correlation or stating they are the
>>>same, simply attempting to describe the reaction I have.
>>>Also for the record, here's what I originally wrote:
>>>>I'm American and I consider it ungrammatical. BB
>>>I think most of this thread was caused by my phrasing. I should have
>>>said "...and it's ungrammatical for me" as you suggest. I therefore make
>>>it so! Clearly, the way I wrote it implies a wide-ranging judgment that
>>>I didn't intend.
>>>FWIW, I'd in particular like to hear from people in their twenties or
>>>younger on "don't let's" as age may very well be a factor.
>>It's not only age, or geography.  My wife, who's 1.5 years older than
>>I am and also from N.Y. and Connecticut, is not a "don't let's"
>>speaker.  I'd ask my kids but they're not around at the moment, and
>>the cats are mum.
>>>Laurence Horn wrote:
>>>>At 2:33 PM -0800 1/16/08, Benjamin Barrett wrote:
>>>>>As far as I can tell, it seems to be akin to doubling up modals, similar
>>>>>to saying "I must should". (I know people use that in some dialects, but
>>>>>it is still seems ungrammatical for me.) BB
>>>>Well, it might be, but there's no correlation in terms of who finds
>>>>these grammatical.  (I don't speak double-modal natively, but I might
>>>>could learn.)  I'm still not sure (maybe this is what Ron was getting
>>>>at) that it makes sense to describe a construction that's widely
>>>>attested and that many speakers are comfortable with as
>>>>"ungrammatical" tout court, as opposed to "ungrammatical for me".
>>>>Maybe this is a tempest in a teapot, but while I'm already somewhat
>>>>uncomfortable with the use of "ungrammatical" for forms that are
>>>>dialectally restricted, I guess I'm especially sensitive to it when
>>>>it's my own dialect which is so characterized!  Don't let's quarrel
>>>>about terminology...
>>>The American Dialect Society -
>>The American Dialect Society -
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list