Come one come all
Posted: 14 April 2014 09:10 AM   [ Ignore ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2344
Joined  2007-01-30

Idly musing on this one. I can’t find it in OED, at least nothing of relevance (it pops up incidentally in a 1996 cite for script-kiddie). I’m trying to recall whether I’ve come across the phrase in 19th century writing or earlier, but without much luck. And what is this, a hortatory subjunctive or something else?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 14 April 2014 10:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4790
Joined  2007-01-03

I’m surprised it’s not in the OED. The earliest citation I can find in a cursory search is in Walter Scott’s 1810 poem “The Lady of the Lake.” A knight proclaims that he will not give way before his foes:

“Come one, come all! this rock shall fly
From its firm base as soon as I.”

I’m fairly certain that antedates can be found.

Since English only has a defective subjunctive mood, calling this subjunctive would be problematic—grammatically the subjunctive, imperative, and indicative would not differ in this case. Depending on the context, one could call it hortatory subjunctive if the speaker includes himself, and a straightforward imperative if not. In the Scott poem, it would be imperative, as the speaker is not going to fight himself.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 14 April 2014 03:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2344
Joined  2007-01-30

Nicely found, Dave! That certainly settles the question of whether it was used in the 19th century.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 15 April 2014 05:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3525
Joined  2007-01-29

I don’t find it surprising it’s not in the OED on its own hook; it’s more of a cliche than an actual unit of the language.  If they included it, why not “There’s one born every minute” or “How about that?”

Profile
 
 
Posted: 17 April 2014 02:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
Avatar
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  341
Joined  2007-02-17

The unusual grammar would justify its inclusion. I don’t see how it can be an imperative, so it’s an example of the survival of the subjunctive in a fixed expression.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 17 April 2014 04:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3136
Joined  2007-02-26

They have to draw the line somewhere. This phrase is of obvious meaning, construction and origin. If they included every such phrase ("first come, first serve”, “come the hour, come the man") they’d never finish the entry for “come” let alone the whole damned thing…

EDIT: Added a non-Oxford comma. Cambridge, I suppose.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 17 April 2014 10:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  838
Joined  2007-03-01

The OED has the related phrase let ‘em (or them) all come ("a formula expressing confidence in face of a challenge by others") from John Wesley in1739: “ No; let them all come; let all the world see the judgement of God.”

Profile
 
 
Posted: 18 April 2014 04:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4790
Joined  2007-01-03

Come one, come all is a fixed phrase. It’s deployed as a single unit and usually in specific contexts, that of a carnival barker or some other advertising patter. That plus the Scott citation would justify it’s inclusion.

And How About That? is indeed in the OED (how, adv. and n.3, def. 2.e).

There’s one born every minute is different. That’s a quote, or at least a paraphrase of a quote. I would agree that the OED shouldn’t be in the quotations business. There are plenty of other good references (and even more bad ones) for that.

Profile