I want to shorten the sentence "Memories can only ever be created now." I'm debating between

Memories are born of now.


Memories are born to now.

The former sounds better, but is there a grammatical difference? E.g., one can say "a child is born to two parents" (literal) or "wisdom is born of pain" (figurative).

  • Do you mean 'Memories always originate at a point in time we call "the present" at that time', 'Memories can be created on the 11th of November 2013 and at no other time', or 'Nothing else can be done to change the facts – all we can do now is make sure we ensure our memories will truly represent what has happened'? – Edwin Ashworth Nov 10 '13 at 8:57
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    @Edwin Ashworth 'Memories are born of now' says a lot to me. I take it as an exhortation that if you want to enjoy happy memories you have to create them, and the only time you can do that is 'now'. It is a profound statement. – WS2 Nov 10 '13 at 9:49

You are right 'Memories are born of now' is the correct form of what you are wanting to say. indeed it is a lucid and elegant thought.

'Born' in both its real and its figurative sense, can take 'of' or 'to', and it may take a while to grasp when each is appropriate. Figuratively I could say 'Pele, whose father was a footballer, was born to that life'. But some might say 'ignorance is born of a lack of educational opportunity'. Can you spot the difference in meaning of 'born', in these two sentences?

In its literal use 'born' can take either 'to' or 'of'. 'I was born of a humble family' means almost the same as 'I was born to a humble family'. 'Of' is used more where you are making a general observation about someone. 'To' would tend be used where you are providing specific information. But it is a very finely nuanced distinction and will take a while to grasp.

If you are talking very specifically, using parents names etc, you nearly always use 'to'. 'A boy, Charles Edward, was born to Mike and Melanie Jackson, at 7.15am on 26th October'. Being 'born of' has a much older, almost biblical sense: 'Isaac was born of Abraham and Sarah' .

  • Yes, figuratively, born of means 'resulting from' [prevailing conditions] whereas (more literally) born to means 'born into a situation where the following lifestyle was a given ...'. A caveat concerning the use of 'born of now' is that 'now' is a marginal noun (...ran well till now...), but unusual sometimes works. Also, the question ['born to' or 'born of'?] may be inaccurate: the phrase 'as of now' tends to inform usage (so perhaps the question should read "born ['to now' or 'of now'?]" - requiring a more temporal, less reason-based interpretation. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 10 '13 at 9:18
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    @Edwin Ashworth I do not doubt your expertise in the least, but I often have difficulty following what you are saying. The above comment is clear to me down to the words 'marginal noun'. After that I am completely at sea! I admit that I am a man of only average intelligence, but I think many students of English could have difficulty with that comment. – WS2 Nov 10 '13 at 9:36
  • I'm modelling 'marginal noun' on peripheral adjectives (a reasonably familiar collocation - adjectives which don't behave exactly like central ones. *an asleep baby / *this reaction is chemical // a heavy smoker <=/=> the smoker is heavy). Constructions where 'now' is arguably used as a noun are few, and specialised, and for your well-formed 'ignorance is born of a lack of educational opportunity' to be used to justify 'memories are born of now' takes faith. There is a semantic switch here, too. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 10 '13 at 16:24
  • ...In line with the problem I have with accepting 'born of now' as a reasonable modelling on 'born of the conditions of absolute poverty existing in X at that time' and especially 'born of a virgin', on examining "of now" I find that the two-word string seems to be used largely in offbeat ways, with capitalised 'Now' – though some examples do admittedly seem to mean 'pertaining to the present time'. The only occurrence I'm familiar with is 'as of now ...' meaning 'from this moment'. It seems as if OP is mixing up 'born of' (resulting from) with 'of now' (pertaining to the present time). – Edwin Ashworth Nov 10 '13 at 16:40

The distinction between "born of" and "born to" is in fact quite simple, and is a consequence of the core meanings of 'OF' and 'TO'. Their different meanings are not essentially related to "historical"/"habitual"/"correct", and so on, uses but to the very meanings of the contrasting elements 'TO' and 'OF'. This constrat has to do with discourse ORIENTATION, which enunciation lingistics, as well as other branches of manguage studies, are interested in tracing and interpreting.

'OF' denotes ORIGIN, within a retrospective (backwards) orientation, often very much in a similar way to 'FROM'; whereas 'TO' denotes DESTINATION, within a prospective (or onwards/forwards) orientation.

Thus the previous example 'A boy, Charles Edward, was born to Mike and Melanie Jackson, at 7.15am on 26th October'indicates that Mike & Melanie "received" a son on 26th October, etc., "a son was born onto them", "their baby boy arrived on that date", and so on. The ORIENTATION here is that the producer of that sentence is looking at "what happened to" Mike & Melanie, the "destination" of the child in question.

About the same supposed event, you could just as validly, but in a different discursive context, say/write: "Charles Edward, that rascal, caused such much pain and suffering in his life, although he was born of gentle and benevolent parents, Mike & Melanie Jackson, on..."

In this last example, 'OF' means that the discourse is oriented backwards, to look at the origin and provenance of the event, thing, person notion, etc. in question.

So if you want to shorten "Memories can only ever be created now", "born to now" would not translate the original meaning ; it would rather mean "memories become real in the present moment when you evoke them" not "are created now". The appropriate solution is "born of now" = produced in the present moment.

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