Don't let's

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Thu Jan 17 15:10:28 UTC 2008

Didn't someone say earlier, in commenting on something I wrote, that
"let's" was being used in two senses?  And perhaps that's why

At 1/16/2008 09:13 PM, Laurence Horn wrote:
>FWIW, besides the various British hits (Noel Coward's WWII fave
>"Don't let's be beastly to the Germans";

sounds OK to me -- permission (although perhaps only because I
associate it with the British!), and

>cf. also the celebrated
>memoir of a Rhodesian girlhood, _Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight_)

does not -- intention?  I want to change the latter to "Let's Not".

>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.

Did Bette want to deny intention (not "grammatical" for me), or
request prohibition ("grammatical" for me; and perhaps LH hears it
the same way, since he wrote "beseeches")?  And I think I want "don't
let us" if I mean permission and "let's not" if I mean intention, in
cases where "don't let's" would sound, to my ears, ambiguous.


>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 -

The American Dialect Society -

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