I am become death…
Posted: 06 August 2010 05:50 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Interesting article about the famous quote often associated with today’s date.

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Posted: 06 August 2010 08:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Some suggest it’s a misquote, which would explain the peculiar grammar; but “am become” is not an error but a (poetic) archaism, as in “I am become a name, for always roaming with a hungry heart” (Tennyson, Ulysses). Which

Another example for the “‘is’ + past participle” thread.

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Posted: 06 August 2010 10:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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In Dutch, to form a past participle of ‘worden’ (become), the auxiliary verb is ‘zijn’ (to be): ik ben geworden - *I am become

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Posted: 06 August 2010 10:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Likewise in German (werden and sein), unsurprisingly.

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Posted: 06 August 2010 04:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Actually, the quote is associated with the 16 July 1945 Trinity test, not the bombing of Hiroshima.

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Posted: 10 August 2010 05:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Actually, the quote is associated with the 16 July 1945 Trinity test, not the bombing of Hiroshima.

Yes, to those of us familiar with the whole story, but the press and the public often don’t make the distinction and the reason I posted the article was that I saw the quote in story headlines twice that day. Associations are where you find them.

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Posted: 10 August 2010 08:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Would you say it was a spontaneous utterance by Oppenheimer? It always struck me as contrived and done for posterity. Better than Neil Armstrong’s ‘first step’ solecism though.

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Posted: 10 August 2010 08:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Would you say it was a spontaneous utterance by Oppenheimer?

I always figured he had a lot of time to mull it over before the actual test.

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Posted: 10 August 2010 11:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Would you say it was a spontaneous utterance by Oppenheimer?

Since according to the article he didn’t say it, only thought it, I wouldn’t call it an utterance of any kind, spontaneous or contrived.

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Posted: 10 August 2010 02:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Actually, he did say it; just not at the time of Trinity. It is the 1965 interview that is the source of the quote.

That remembrance doesn’t read as contrived to me and doesn’t seem at all out of place for someone who was able to read the Bhagavad Gita in the original Sanskrit.

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Posted: 10 August 2010 03:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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I agree with happydog.

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Posted: 10 August 2010 06:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Actually, he did say it; just not at the time of Trinity. It is the 1965 interview that is the source of the quote.

vb was clearly not asking about the interview.

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Posted: 11 August 2010 05:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Better than Neil Armstrong’s ‘first step’ solecism though.

What does this mean?

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Posted: 11 August 2010 06:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Neil Armstrong had planned to say, “one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” Instead he actually said, “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” which doesn’t really make sense.

But I think we can forgive him this little slip. He had more important things on his mind that day.

Armstrong came up with the quote himself, with the help of a single public affairs official from NASA. It really was his words, not something created by a bureaucracy. But it was something planned for posterity, not spontaneous.

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Posted: 11 August 2010 07:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Yes, I’m familiar with the story, but there was no “first step” and, more importantly, there was no solecism, just a slight stumble in speaking.

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Posted: 11 August 2010 10:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Whether Armstrong misspoke or not is an incredibly vexed question (he himself believes he did). Language Log has visited this several times, with this one, I believe, being the latest.

My conclusion: I have no doubt that Neil Armstrong meant to say “for a man”. And perhaps he produced an unusually rapid performance of the “for a” part, with a brief syllabic /r/ followed by an even briefer and very weakly de-rhoticized schwa. But it seems more likely that what he actually said was just what everyone has always heard, namely “for man”.

I would change my mind if it turns out that Armstong often fully assimilates schwa after /r/, or if this is a characteristic of the speech of people in the part of the midwest that he comes from.

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