a command for nobody
Posted: 12 March 2018 12:27 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Suddenly strikes me that sentences such as “Nobody move!” are a bit weird. The imperative mood is being used, and the meaning is the same as “Everybody be still!” but taken literally, the party being commanded is nobody.

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Posted: 12 March 2018 05:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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There’s a key difference between everybody be still and nobody move. One commands people to do something, the other commands them not to do something.

Everybody be still tells people to stop moving. Presumably, at least some of them are moving, and the person issuing the command wants them to stop moving about. The people are being ordered to do something--to stop moving. You could replace the phrase with just be still and have the same effect.

Nobody move tells people not to move. Presumably they are in position, and the person issuing the command wants them to stay. They may not be moving when the command is given. The command is not given to nobody, it’s given to everybody just like the other command, but it’s in the negative because the command is not to do something. Unlike the other command, you could not simply replace the phrase with move; you need to put it in the negative--don’t move.

The literal effect of both phrasings are the same, but they are constructed quite differently. It’s the verb, not the pronoun, that makes the difference.

[ Edited: 12 March 2018 05:04 AM by Dave Wilton ]
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Posted: 12 March 2018 09:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Isn’t it interpreted and meant to mean: “no body move”, which makes more sense?

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Posted: 12 March 2018 10:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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No, I don’t think anyone interprets it that way.

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Posted: 12 March 2018 05:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Dave Wilton - 12 March 2018 10:27 AM

No, I don’t think anyone interprets it that way.

True; nevertheless, nobody means no one, no body(one) move.

OED

a. No person; no one.
Conventionally followed by the masculine third person singular pronoun, but cf. sense A. 1b.
a1400 (▸c1303) R. Mannyng Handlyng Synne (Harl.) 3049 (MED) Do no-body..despyte ne skaþe.
?a1400 (▸a1338) R. Mannyng Chron. (Petyt) ii. 183 (MED) No body bot he alone vnto þe Cristen cam.
?a1425 tr. Catherine of Siena Orcherd of Syon (Harl.) (1966) 80 (MED) Sche putteþ hersilf to the flood..and abideþ nobody.
1484 Caxton tr. Subtyl Historyes & Fables Esope xi I wyll wel, yf thow wilt swere that thou shalt neuer reherce it to no body.
1490 Caxton tr. Foure Sonnes of Aymon (1885) iv. 120 And thenne the foure brethern wente vp to the hall, and met wyth noo bodi.
1535 Bible (Coverdale) 2 Kings vii. 5 And whan they came to the vttemost ende of ye tentes, beholde, there was no body.
1543 Chron. J. Hardyng f. xlviiiv If no bodye maye bee taken oute of sanctuary because he saieth he will abyde there.
1569 R. Grafton Chron. II. 268 There was no body in them, but two fayre Damoselles.
1621 S. Ward Life of Faith ii. 7 He ingrosseth the common God to himselfe, as if his and no bodies else.
1663 A. Cowley Of Obscurity in Ess. in Verse & Prose In Places where they are by no body known.
1721 N. Amhurst Terræ-filius No. 40. 210 The advantages..are so palpable, that, at the bare mention of it, no body can be at a loss to perceive them.
1754 Bp. T. Sherlock Disc. (1759) I. iii. 135 Mysteries… Things which no-body can understand.
1791 A. Radcliffe Romance of Forest II. x. 88 Your father, nor nobody else has ever sent after you.

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Posted: 12 March 2018 10:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I think I interpret it as ‘[Let] nobody move!’, which is a quite unproblematic construction. In the kind of situation where you might need to shout at everybody not to move, it’s natural and indeed useful to drop any auxiliaries.

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