[B-Greek] vulgar examples

John VanRietschoten jvanriet1 at mts.net
Sat Nov 12 12:45:05 EST 2005

Carl Conrad wrote the following apparently himself forgetting what he rightly tells us: to stay with the Greek. I object to Carl's vulgar examples be it in the German or any other language. John VanRietschoten, jvanriet at mts.net pastor emeritus in the Canadian and American Reformed Churches, Carman Manitoba. 
Message: 4
Date: Sat, 12 Nov 2005 09:32:32 -0500
From: "Carl W. Conrad" <cwconrad at ioa.com>
Subject: [B-Greek] Periphrastic imperatives
To: B-Greek B-Greek <b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org>
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I've been watching the thread on third-person commands, jussives,  
etc. with interest but with little or nothing to contribute to the  
discussion -- and what I will throw in here may not add much to the  
discussion either. I'm not even sure that I understood the original  
question posed by Don Wilkins that brought us into this exploration.

Nevertheless, what I've been pondering is that even in English we use  
"let" as an auxiliary with an infinitive for hortatory expressions  
"let us pray" or "let's go to bed" and also for third-person jussive  
expressions: "let the games begin!" or "let it go." French uses  
"laisser" with an infinitive as does German with "lassen" (John  
Kennedy started using the refrain in his Berlin address, "Let them  
come to Berlin! and soon the audience was shouting, "Lass sie nach  
Berlin kommen!").

French uses a simple subjunctive with "que" for the third-person  
jussive: "qu'ils viennent vite!" and German can use a simple  
subjunctive to express the third-person jussive: "moege es immer  
dauern!" In English we can occasionally use an infinitive as an  
imperative; occasionally ancient Greek could do that too.

Already Koine Greek is anticipating the Modern Greek AS NA +  
subjunctive with AFES/AFETE + hINA + subjunctive -- but of course  
hINA + subjunctive is already on its way in Koine Greek to becoming  
the Modern Greek infinitive. Latin uses "sin/sinete" with a  
subjunctive as a colloquial imperative (I remember my shock in  
finding it in Vergil's Aeneid 6).

Then there's the "polite" imperative: "Please do this for me" --  
whether that be a form of "I plead with you" or "if it please(s) you"  
or "if you please"; for that German has forms of "beten" ("bitte") as  
English has "bid" and Modern Greek has PARAKALW, which like German  
"bitte" means both "please" with a request and "you're welcome" in  
response to a "thank you." Classical Greek used EAW much as Koine and  
Modern Greek do AFIHMI/AFIW, and OUK EAW as an equivalent of KELEUW  
in legal formula "the law does not allow ..."

Is there a significant difference between an optative in Greek and a  
third-person imperative? How is Paul using MH GENOITO, his  
distinctive response to rhetorical questions? is it different from  
the emphatic aorist subjunctive, OU MH GENHTAI? ERRETW is used in  
colloquial ancient Greek for "to hell with it!" as "pereat" is used  
in Latin. What of "Damn"? Is that a third-person jussive expression  
in origin in English -- a subjunctive third-person form?  What's the  
force of "to hell with so-and-so!"?

What of the Lord's Prayer petitions hAGIASQHTW TO ONOMA SOU, ELQETW  
hH BASILEIA SOU, GENHQHTW TO QELHMA SOU? Are they stronger than would  
be optatives, e.g. hAGIASQEIH, ELQOI, GENOITO? I'm not sure, but it  
would appear that the morphological third-person imperatives endured  
in spoken Greek longer than did the optative for wishes and prayers  
-- or were both third-person imperative and optative really archaic  
in Koine and employed as we use archaic diction only in legal and  
liturgical usage?

I remember many years ago when I was a lowly exchange student in  
Munich I read a wonderful little book entitled "Ein tausend Worte  
Bayrisch" or something like that (it wasn't "Woerter" either); it had  
a curious little chapter on four ways of expressing what in English  
(and in other languages also, I'm sure) a rather standard emphatic  
dismissal: there was the simple "Go to hell" sort of expression:  
"Leck mi am Arsch!" Then there was a more emphatic variation: "Am  
Arsch sollst mi lecka!" I found particularly curious one form of it  
which expressed a sort of puzzlement: "Du leckst mi am Arsch!" --  
spoken more or less as we'd say in English, "Well, I'll be damned!"

Is there a point to this? I'm not really sure, beyond that the third- 
person imperative, the subjunctive, the optative, auxiliaries with  
infinitives or infinitives by themselves all seem to be used with a  
considerable variety and range of rhetorical force. I rather think  
that these usages cannot be spelled out by grammatical "rules" --  
rather, I think, one must come to know the moods and faces of a  
language as one does with a person whom one loves or detests or  
fears;  one must have the ear of a talented humorist to discern and  
reproduce at will these expressions that are to colloquial speech  
what the emoticons are to digital expression.

I don't know if that helps or not with the questions raised, but I do  
think that the usage of third-person imperatives probably can't be  
expounded in any very simple catalogue.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Emeritus)
1989 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad2 at mac.com
WWW: http://www.ioa.com/~cwconrad/

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