"should/ would" opinions please

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Sun Apr 28 19:12:12 UTC 2013

On 4/28/2013 12:50 PM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      "should/ would" opinions please
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Here's an interesting "should/would" question with a dash of "might" for
> those more attuned to 19th C. nuance than I am.
> In an 1881 essay on the battle of Shiloh, Ambrose Bierce concludes by
> waxing poetic in the following terms:
> "Ah, Youth, there is no such wizard as thou! =85[G]ild for but one moment t=
> he
> drear and somber scenes of to-day, and I will willingly surrender an other
> [sic] life than the one that I should have thrown away at Shiloh."
> I can't believe (from the broader context) he means that he "should" have
> thrown his life away; merely that he "might" have (by being killed).  (The
> "other" life involved, in contrast to his adventurous youth, is his drab
> post-bellum existence.)
> Whatever Bierce may mean, I don't feel that my sprakgefool is sharp enough
> to determine the nuances of "should" and "would" in this case.
> How do others interpret Bierce's meaning?

I think "an other" = "a different" in usual modern writing, not exactly
the same as usual modern "another".

I think "should have" = "would have": I think in isolation it is
ambiguous as to whether an element of will[ingness] is implied: perhaps
this would be clear to one who has carefully read the whole piece (and
other Bierce).

So I would think

<<and I will willingly surrender an other life than the one that I
should have thrown away at Shiloh>>

can be paraphrased

<<and I will willingly surrender my current life, which is [so]
different from my youthful life, which I would have thrown away at Shiloh>>


<<would have thrown away>>

meaning either

<<might have thrown away (had things gone a little differently)>>


<<would willingly have thrown away / risked (in the recklessness of my

[Of course, when one waxes, some fine features may be lost.]

-- Doug Wilson

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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