Don't let's

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Jan 17 17:10:55 UTC 2008

At 11:59 AM -0500 1/17/08, William Salmon wrote:
>>This is not a request for permission (as in "Don't let us..."), but a
>>suggestion.  (Note too the contrast between "Don't let's X" and
>>"Let's Y", the latter being the positive suggestion.)  My claim is
>>that "Don't let's" can *never* be understood in the former way.  I
>>grant that many speakers don't get it "Don't let's X" (as a
>>paraphrase of "Let's not X"), but those who get it at all--Noel
>>Coward, Bette Davis, me--get it *only* in that sense, never as a
>>request to a third party to deny permission to a group including the
>>speaker and some second party to X.
>I'm not sure this last claim holds for the vegetative variant on the
>form, as in "don't lettuce". Here's a google example:
>You probably confused the poor guy with your rainbow sweatshirt. But
>don't lettuce stop you going back...

Ah, but as predicted, this can *only* be *un*contracted: "Don't
lettuce stop you going back", never "Don't let'ce stop you!"


>>This is an empirical claim; as
>>I said above, I'll welcome refutation if someone can provide an
>>attestation of "Don't let's" with the request-for-prohibition
>>meaning, which seems as unlikely to me as "Let's" meaning 'Allow us
>>to'.  (The*un*contracted forms, "Let us" and "Don't let us", can be
>>interpreted either way, but the contracted ones only as lexicalized

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