1

Maybe some linguist can explain why Why "the powers that be"? and my question are basically the same (grammar and such), but I would not be able to recognize this to be the same thing, so I would still have to ask. So no - Why "the powers that be"? - does not answer my question.


In the song "Tribute" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_lK4cX5xGiQ the demon asks Tenacious D "Be you angels?" Shouldn't that be "Are you angels?" and this was artistic freedom of Tenacious D or is this a posh way to ask the question - befitting a demon? The question sound similar to "How be your?" from "How be you" or "How are you"?, but is not the same, that is why I am posting.

  • 2
    Be this a valid question in contemporary English? I don't think so. – FumbleFingers Feb 2 '17 at 18:03
  • @FumbleFingers Why be you so full of doubt this form is not used anywhere in the English speaking world? – ab2 Feb 2 '17 at 18:14
  • 1
    @ab2: There are probably still a few yokels in the West Country who "naturally" use this form, but I've no doubt their grandchildren (and great grandchildren! :) find it somewhat embarrassing. In this particular case, the association between "dialectal" and "ignorant, uneducated" is so strong you'd need to be extremely inflexible & thick-skinned (or just thick) not to fall in line with mainstream usage. – FumbleFingers Feb 2 '17 at 18:29
  • 1
    Not really posh. More like archaic and hence appropriate for how one would often visualize a demon speaking. It wouldn't be a common expression in Standard American English, but it would be understood by any native English speaker. – ohwilleke Feb 2 '17 at 21:35
  • 1
    Possible duplicate of Why "the powers that be"? – herisson Feb 3 '17 at 3:37
4

The usages "I be..." and "Be you...?" rather than "I am..." and "Are you...?" are archaic, and it's been several hundred years since they were common in standard English. They survived in some dialects longer than that, notably the West Country, but the usage is pretty much dead there too. I believe there may be some foreign (I.e. non-British) dialects where it survives.

I don't believe the usage has ever been 'posh'.

Having demons talk in archaic language is a fairly common trope.

| improve this answer | |

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.