French - "n'en déplaise à"

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages, and Linguistics (EHL)' started by silverwhite, Jul 26, 2011.

  1. silverwhite Member

    English - UK
    Hi! Any French speakers out there that happen to know the etymology of this expression that means "even if it displeases __ ", which is difficult to tell from the phrasing. ;)
  2. Angelo di fuoco Senior Member

    Russian & German (GER) bilingual
    No big etymology whatsoever: it's just good old French. The expression originated before the creation of the Académie Française (in the 17th century), which made the second part of négation (pas) obligatory.
    A similar expression is found in Italian: "non ne dispiaccia a".
  3. silverwhite Member

    English - UK
    Thanks, but that's not what I'm puzzled about. The phrasing seems like there're some ellipses - eg. the subject of the clause, what "en" refers to, etc. Could it be that it was derived from the P2 imperative "ne déplaise" ("don't be displeased"), which then evolved to mean "even if it displeases you" and was then extended to a larger context? :confused:
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2011
  4. Angelo di fuoco Senior Member

    Russian & German (GER) bilingual
    Yes, there's no real subject in this frase. If there were a similar construction in modern French (not inherited from Old French), it would use the dummy subject "il".
    The 2nd person singular imperative is almost ways identical with the 1st person singular form, except that it uses no personal pronoun. The 1st person singular of déplaire is "Je déplais" ("I am disliked"), not "Je déplaise", so it cannot bethe 2nd person imperative.
    It's rather the 3rd person imperative (using forms of the subjunctive mood), if such a cathegory still exists in French (it's still present in Italian and the Iberoromance languages), which functions as optative (i. e. expressing a wish) in this case. "N'en déplaise à" rather means "may X take no offence at" or "may it (dummy subject again) give no offence to".
    "En" could refer to "what I'm going to do" or "what I'm going to say right now".
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2011
  5. silverwhite Member

    English - UK
    Right, my mistake. Thanks!
  6. CapnPrep Senior Member

    An older construction for this verb was Il déplaît à qqn de qch (something displeases someone), so what we might think of as the subject (the something) is actually a prepositional complement. That's why it can be replaced by en. As Angelo said, the actual subject is impersonal il, which could be left out in older periods of French.

Share This Page