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All Hail! 
Posted: 31 October 2014 12:00 PM   [ Ignore ]
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A question arose yesterday in a discussion among English PhDs and grad students (not a linguist among them) as to exactly how to grammatically classify hail in the traditional greeting, as in Hail Caesar!

Is it subjunctive? And if so, what flavor of subjunctive? Is it imperative? And what does the all in all hail do? Is it merely an intensifier? Or is it the subject of an imperative?

I, for one, can’t come down definitively on any answer.

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Posted: 31 October 2014 12:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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The OED considers it “An elliptical or interjectional use of hail adj., the imperative be , or some equivalent, as in hail adj. 2, having been originally present”.  In other words, the phrase is in origin a shortened form of “Hail [healthy, well, etc.] be [Caesar, or whoever]”.

In “all hail...”, I’d say that hail has been reanalyzed as a verb ("to salute with ‘hail’) and is an imperative.

[ Edited: 31 October 2014 12:39 PM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 31 October 2014 06:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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In church when they say “All rise”, I take it to be an imperative. Seems basically similar.

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Posted: 31 October 2014 11:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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OP Tipping - 31 October 2014 06:27 PM

In church when they say “All rise”, I take it to be an imperative. Seems basically similar.

I don’t see the similarity. Hail Caesar as in Hail Mary is a salutation, and it seems to be more of an “exclamatory sentence” whereas “All rise” is expressing an instruction or a request or command.

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Posted: 01 November 2014 03:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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The controversy looks to be between verb or noun. It never occurred to me that it was anything but an imperative verb. However, now I am forced to consider what the “hail” is in Hail to the Chief, which would appear to be a noun or remotely an adjective.

Further, “Hail Caesar!” seems like an expression analogous to “Heil Hitler!” and “Sieg Heil!” with the idea that the corresponding words are cognates (as apparently they are). In the German expressions, I believe those are imperative verbs, but I could be wrong.

Odd that “hail” and “hale” as in “hale and hearty” are related but have different spellings?

[ Edited: 01 November 2014 03:36 AM by Iron Pyrite ]
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Posted: 01 November 2014 04:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Odd that “hail” and “hale” as in “hale and hearty” are related but have different spellings?

It’s not odd. It’s par for the course when it comes to English spelling.

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Posted: 01 November 2014 10:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Iron Pyrite - 01 November 2014 03:27 AM

Further, “Hail Caesar!” seems like an expression analogous to “Heil Hitler!” and “Sieg Heil!” with the idea that the corresponding words are cognates (as apparently they are). In the German expressions, I believe those are imperative verbs, but I could be wrong.

You are. The German verb heilen means ‘heal’, giving rise to the Nazi-era joke where two psychiatrists meet. The first greets the other with ‘Heil Hitler!’ to which the other responds, ‘Heil du ihn.’ (’You heal him.’) Obviously the joke consists in deliberately misinterpreting the word. The intended sense can be seen in the Prussian national hymn ’Heil dir im Siegenkranz‘, generally translated as ‘Hail to thee in victory’s crown’.

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Posted: 01 November 2014 11:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Wow, and Duden backs that up: das Heil (noun, neuter)

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Posted: 01 November 2014 12:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Look at the Latin, which precedes the English by a few years: Ave Caesar, or Salve Caesar.  I don’t know what the root of ave is, but I think salve derives from salus (health) which would suggest, as Dr. T points out, an imperative meaning something like “be well”, similar to “hail”.  The gladiator’s salutation ave atque vale or salve atque vale is usually rendered as “hail and farewell” - and I think vale is the imperative of valere, to be well, strong, healthy; in which case, both salve and vale mean much the same thing, as the above discussion suggests that “hail” and “farewell” also originally meant much the same thing. It’s usage which has given “hail and farewell” (and ave atque vale) a sort of “hello and goodbye/coming and going” sense.
It may be argued that if “hail and farewell” both mean much the same, there’s redundancy. Very possible. “Greetings and salutations” also smacks of redundancy, but it’s occasionally used, nevertheless. Who said redundancy was against the law?

Similar forms exist in Spanish: to greet is saludar, from salud, health. One of many forms of greeting in Spanish is salud!

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Posted: 01 November 2014 02:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Regarding the Latin the University of Notre Dame’s Latin Dictionary and Grammar Aid page has this:

aveo (2) (haveo) -ere [to be well]; found only in imperat. and infin.; ‘ave’ , [hail! or farewell!].

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Posted: 01 November 2014 09:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Faldage - 01 November 2014 02:01 PM

Regarding the Latin the University of Notre Dame’s Latin Dictionary and Grammar Aid page has this:

aveo (2) (haveo) -ere [to be well]; found only in imperat. and infin.; ‘ave’ , [hail! or farewell!].

Calls to mind, of course, Ave Maria which is from Luke 1:28. The Greek there is χαίρω chairō which can mean a number of things, the “hail” greeting being one of them.
rejoice, be glad
to rejoice exceedingly
to be well, thrive
in salutations, hail!
at the beginning of letters: to give one greeting, salute

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Posted: 01 November 2014 11:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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The Greek there is χαίρω chairō which can mean a number of things, the “hail” greeting being one of them.

I think it can also mean “goodbye”. I remember seeing it as the last word inscribed on a pugilist’s funerary stele at Olympia (Greece, not WA ;-); and in modern Greek, I believe you’ll find it given in that sense in any tourist’s phrasebook.

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Posted: 02 November 2014 05:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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The meaning is not in dispute. The question is what grammatical category does it fall into. Is it an imperative to be well? Is it a hortatory subjunctive calling upon all present to wish the person well? Is it an optative subjunctive expressing a desire that the person be well? Etc.

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Posted: 02 November 2014 06:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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If we can trust the German parallel construction, it’s no part of a verb at all. Looks like a noun to me, but you could make a fair argument for it as an interjection.

Not strictly relevant, but a few years ago there was a racehorse called Xaipete. Commentators generally pronounced it ‘zy-peet’. Nobody seemed to notice that when the name is written in all caps – as is generally the practice on racecards, at least the paper versions – it would appear as XAIPETE, and look like the 2nd person plural imperative form of the Greek verb mentioned a bit earlier on this thread.

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Posted: 02 November 2014 12:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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It is not immediately evident to me what difference the capital letters make, but apparently they make a difference for somebody else.

Did ancient Greek have a system of upper case (capital) and lower case letters? My impression is that classical Latin did not.

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Posted: 02 November 2014 12:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Capital letters make a difference because in lower-case, a Roman/English a (in most fonts) does not look like an alpha (α), a t does not look like a tau (τ), an e like an eta (ε), or a dotted i like an iota (ι), and even a p doesn’t look quite like a rho (ρ: the vertical stroke does not extend past the contact of the loop), whereas the capital letters are all essentially identical.

[ Edited: 02 November 2014 12:20 PM by Dr. Techie ]
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