Monday, June 24, 2013

Back in the Ill-Behoover Administration

The estimable Michael Quinion puzzles over "behoove/behove" as in "it ill behoves":
It’s one of those few expressions in modern English that is almost always impersonal. You or I, or even they, do not generally behove. The empty agent it is usually in charge of the verb. Behove can also appear with negative sense, for which a common marker word in the UK is ill. Ill behoves implies acting inappropriately or improperly, as in this editorial pronouncement from a Sunday newspaper:
In an age of genuine austerity, it ill behoves those who have enough cash to eat as they wish to stand in judgment on those who do not.
The Observer, 10 Feb. 2013.
Americans use ["behove"] only rarely, but make up for it by using behoove more often and with a wider range of modifying words such as would, might and certainly.
I think I can help re the American instance.  Back in the 50s, all the clever people (= myself and my friends) owned an LP record called "I Can Hear it Now," in which Edward R. Murrow curated snippets of radio broadcasts of famous events.  Clever people could recite chunks of it, including this from John L. Lewis:
Labor, like Israel, has many sorrows. Its women weep for their fallen and they lament for the future of the children of the race. It ill behooves one who has supped at labor's table and who has been sheltered in labor's house to curse with equal fervor and fine impartiality both labor and its adversaries when they become locked in deadly embrace.
Amazing how flat ir sounds without his orotund Welsh sonorities.  Best I can do is a snippet of some testimony before the Senate, from back  in the days when private-sector unionism was stilll a public issue:

Meanwhile, I'm still looking for a good finish to the limerick about the girl from Vancouver who thought it would never behoover.  "Louvre" seems indicated, although I am not quite sure how.


The New York Crank said...

Well, if you insist:

There once was a girl from Vancouver
Who thought it would never behoover
Standing nude at the window
To cry, “I have sinned, oh!”
Whilst opening and closing the louver.

Very crankily yours,
The New York Crank
(in full doggerel mode)

Ken Houghton said...

Ouch. But to double-down (and abide by this being a family blog)

To mix love and art
Would not be smart
Under the pyramid of the Louvre