Re: Gnomic aorist in English?

From: Jonathan Robie (
Date: Wed Apr 30 1997 - 16:42:04 EDT

At 12:53 PM 4/30/97 -0500, Carl W. Conrad wrote:
>At 11:06 AM -0500 4/30/97, Jonathan Robie wrote:
>>Is this a gnomic aorist?
>>"Curiosity killed the cat."
>Depends on how many lives the cat has. Sort of like "Pop goes the weasel!"
>(or perhaps it should best be called a "hysterical present"?)

Maybe I should fill this in a little. Remember how Smyth says that the
gnomic aorist states a past event and leaves it up to the reader to infer
that this is a general truth? This states a past event (curiosity killed the
cat), and we infer that curiosity continues to be dangerous in general.

  The grass withered. The flower faded. But the word of the Lord stands forever!

That sounds a little more unusual in English, but don't native speakers of
English also infer that this is being used gnomically?


Jonathan Robie
POET Software, 3207 Gibson Road, Durham, N.C., 27703

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