Don't let's

James Harbeck jharbeck at SYMPATICO.CA
Thu Jan 17 03:22:24 UTC 2008

I first saw "don't let's" in an Asterix comic when I was a kid. I
thought it was a bit odd but I understood it and accepted it. I'm not
used to hearing it in real life, though. "Do not let us" is
persuasively grammatical, but the pattern of contraction is
exceptional to me, as I'm used to "don't" and "let's" as separate
largely unanalyzed auxiliaries, and stacking them together has a sort
of "shouldn't might" feel -- that is, I don't automatically process
"don't let's" as "do not let us" but rather as particles signifying a
negative command and a positive command. Also, "let's" is normally a
contraction of an imperative and a pronoun, but in "don't let's" it's
an infinitive and a pronoun, and we're not normally in the habit of
contracting infinitives, are we? I might have missed this in my quick
reading of the copious daily emails -- Benjamin Barrett, have you
already made this point about contractions being temporal?

James Harbeck.

The American Dialect Society -

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