let it begin

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let it begin

Post by navi » Thu Dec 13, 2018 9:09 pm

1) Let the show begin!

What does 'let' mean in this sentence?
How is that sentence different from:
2) May the show begin!
3) Would that the show began!


Gratefully,
Navi
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Re: let it begin

Post by trolley » Fri Dec 14, 2018 1:49 am

Here, let means "allow".
"Allow the show to begin". The speaker wants the show to start. The way in which it differs from the other two examples is that you rarely hear #3 anymore and I'm not sure I've ever heard #2. I assume "may" is being used in the "I wish/hope" sense, similar to "may your days be merry and bright. "Would that.." also has that "I wish/hope" meaning but it feels a little more urgent than "may". To me, #2 and #3 are similar, with the speaker politely waiting and hoping for the show to begin. In #1, I get a sense that the speaker has finished wishing and waiting....."start the damned show!"
.
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Re: let it begin

Post by tony h » Fri Dec 14, 2018 2:42 pm

Let is an interesting verb. It means "hinder no longer" or "stop stopping something". So you have dogs straining on a leash and you "let them go" after their quarry. You hold a balloon and "let it go". "Have we got everything? Right, let's go" and "let them go free" and "he let go the arrow which flew straight to the target". They all have the sense of removing the constraint.


"May the show begin!" is also about allowing the show to start but probably with something less dynamic at the start.

"Would that the show began" seems to say that the show had not been able to start and they wished it would for Mrs. Agnew, who considered her self able to step up to the occaision, regaled the audience with her own translation of the 650 verse of the Greek national anthem. This was too much for anyone to bear.
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Re: let it begin

Post by gdwdwrkr » Fri Dec 14, 2018 6:51 pm

From childhood is the TV memory "Letter flicker!" which was always shouted just before a movie or cartoon.
I have since figured it out: it means "Let her flicker!", as in "Roll the tape!"
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Re: let it begin

Post by trolley » Fri Dec 14, 2018 7:58 pm

Would that we could stop Mrs. Agnew, but we can't, so we shan't.
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Re: let it begin

Post by tony h » Fri Dec 14, 2018 11:57 pm

trolley wrote:
Fri Dec 14, 2018 7:58 pm
Would that we could stop Mrs. Agnew, but we can't, so we shan't.
Very good. I laughed at that one!
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Re: let it begin

Post by Phil White » Sun Dec 16, 2018 5:49 pm

You may want to have a look at J L Austin's classic, groundbreaking work How to Do Things with Words, where, among other things, he looked at "performative utterances".

The first two sentences are performatives, and as trolley says, the second is somewhat archaic. Many performatives use extremely formal structures and fixed idioms.

The third sentence is not a performative. It is an (archaic) expression of an intense wish. In fact, I would use the present subjunctive ("would that the show begin") in this case. The more normal use of the "would that" construction is to express hypothetical wishes ("would that I were younger"). The hypothetical nature of the wish is indicated (as in ordinary conditional sentences) by a shift from present to past tense (in this case, present subjunctive to past subjunctive). Non-hypothetical uses of the "would that" construction are extremely rare nowadays.
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