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December 19, 2011


Dan Schmidt

I don't know if it's intentional, but "Let's merry" reads like Engrish (bad Japanese English) to me. In English-translated Japanese, "Let's" seems to act as a particle that simply puts the whole sentence in some sort of general first-person-plural-imperative sort of mood. See for example "Let's Shotgun!!" at http://www.engrish.com/2007/05/lets-fun/ (the first hit I got when I just googled for "engrish let's").

I must admit to occasionally jokingly using the construction myself because I think it's kind of cute. And I bet this slogan would make 100% perfect sense on a sign in Japan. But it is indeed weird to see it in New Jersey.

(I am also guilty of saying things like "I like spicy" without a second thought.)


Germans do this, yes, but also English poets. But I think you're right that the new tradition of e.g. liking "the Sticky", or complaining about "the Stupid", or catching "the Gay", is convergent, not coextensive.

From a good old German writing in English:

I stood on a hill and I saw the Old approaching,
but it came as the New.
It hobbled up on new crutches which no one had ever seen before
and stank of new smells of decay which no one had ever smelt before.
–Bertolt Brecht, “Parade of the Old New,” 1939.


If liking sticky was good enough for Kim Deal, it's good enough for me: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bt5MWCwFhCI.

Christopher Schoen

I, too, like spicy.

I wouldn't put it that way, maybe, but if I did, I would expect you to mentally and unproblematically insert an "it" or "them" in there. Maybe I would sacrifice economy for clarity and say "The spicier the better," and not worry too much if I was being insufficiently abstract. You would still know, next time I came over, to leave a bottle of Cholula on the table.

"Let's Merry," though, is vile in manifold ways. For one, is it passive or active? Transitive or intransitive? Can we Merry others? Is Merryness an aspect of Being or Becoming (Are we to "get," or merely be, merry?) (And then there's horrible implied homonym to "marry.")

Doug M.

What you're describing isn't abstraction, but elision of the adjective's subject:

"I like (things that are) sticky."
"I like (food that is) spicy."
"(A girlfriend who is) Crazy can be fun, sometimes."

That said, English is perfectly capable of exactly the sort of abstraction that's hardwired into German. It just gets overlooked because it there's no formal rule for it, so it thrives in colloquial English rather than the "high", grammatically correct version of the language. Stupid is as stupid does; pretty passes, but mean is for life.

Doug M.

Andrew Dolson

Almost certainly not up your alley--or anywhere in your town--but Let's Active was one of my favorite bands in the 80's: http://youtu.be/kOUX88P0qhw

Neil B

I have a horrible feeling that "Let's merry" is faux-Elizabethan English.

"Let's burn the Yule-log bright with John Frost flame / And merry! for 'tis Twelfth Night again! / Tra-la-la! Look, Robin a'Red Tits merries too!"

I made up John Frost and Robin a'Red Tits. I feel sick.

B Winterhalter

Um, who cares? This entire post is extremely curmudgeonly. The rules of grammatical construction that would require "stickiness" instead of "sticky" or "let's be merry" instead of "let's merry" are arbitrary anyway. If all hearers - i.e. actual parties to a conversation - understand what's meant, how is spoken expression as a whole in any way "impoverished?" Because the sentences don't conform to some prior set of formal rules? In other words, it's not as though the Starbucks slogan renders "let's be merry" impossible or incorrect, nor do I see any (non-pretentious) reasons to weep for some bygone purity of the English language.

Neil B

Ah, this should put the cat among the pigeons.

It looks like Starbucks are simply reclaiming the late medieval and early modern use of 'merry' as a verb. Goode olde Starbuckes.

According to my 22 volume OED, you can 'merry' as much as you want, as long as you died before the English Civil War (although, to be fair, in the final attestation you can also 'vulture', so I say we're dealing with a poet there and all bets are off.)

  1.1 intr.

   c 1000 Ags. Ps. (Th.) xlvi. 1 Fæᴁniað and myrᴁað Gode mid wynsumre stemne.    a 1310 in Wright Lyric P. xiv. 45 In May hit murgeth when hit dawes.    c 1460 Towneley Myst. xiii. 714 Lo, he merys; lo, he laghys, my swetyng.

2.2 trans. To make (a person, etc.) merry.

   a 1310 in Wright Lyric P. xiii. 44 Wowes this wilde drakes, Miles murgeth huere makes.    c 1400 Pride of Life (Brandl, 1898) 296 A ha, solas, now þou seist so þou miriest me in my mode.    1627–77 Feltham 'Resolves' i. xxv. 44 Though pleasure merries the Senses for a while: yet horror after vulturs the unconsuming heart.

Neil B

Merry New Year, incidentally, Justin.

Let's productive and prosperous and generally awesome in 2012, even if if things do augur so far to shitty.

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