No army can stop an idea whose time has come

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Man_from_India, Dec 4, 2012.

  1. Man_from_India Senior Member

    Indian English
    I found it in a social networking site:
    "No army can stop an idea whose time has come."

    Can you please tell me what it means? There was nothing more or less, nor there was any context. just that line.

    What I thought;
    "No army, whose time has come (probably death), can stop an idea."
    Am I right?
  2. cyberpedant

    cyberpedant Senior Member

    North Adams, MA
    English USA, Northeast, NYC
    I don't understand why you've inverted the order. "An idea whose time has come" (one that is applicable to present circumstances) can not be defeated by even a powerful army. (Compare "The pen is mightier than the sword.")
  3. Man_from_India Senior Member

    Indian English
    Oh I see the idea is "whose time has come".
    But wouldn't it be better if there was "about" between "idea" and "whose"?
  4. pob14 Senior Member

    Central Illinois
    American English
    You're suggesting "an idea about whose time has come"? No, that wouldn't make any sense.
  5. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    The quote is by Victor Hugo, probably France's best poet. He lived in the early 19th century. The important part is "whose time has come."

    You give one meaning of it - "My father is dying, his time has come." - he is going to die shortly.

    The other meaning is - "when it is the perfect time (for the idea)."

    As, for example, Mahatma Ghandi had an idea of Indian Independence - others had had the same idea too, but the time for the Mahatma's idea was the right time! And not even the British Army could stop it.

    "No army can stop an idea whose time has come." = there is nothing more powerful than an idea when that idea is conceived at the right time. i.e. the perfect time for putting the idea into practice.
  6. The Lord of Gluttony Senior Member

    Hello :)

    I don't understand why you've inverted the order, either :) I think cyberpedant has explained it very clearly.

    I understand like that:

    If an idea's time has come, it starts to affect a particular situation or group of people.

    Edit: PaulQ clearly explained it, too
  7. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    Oh, yes, that reminds me, as it is a famous quote, you don't fiddle with it! :)
  8. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    It is actually not a quotation, but a bad paraphrase. The original is much better. (But I am not allowed to quote it on here because of the monolingualism rule).
  9. Packard

    Packard Senior Member

    USA, English
    Wiki lists alternative translations for this very famous quotation. Perhaps the other translations will be more transparent in meaning:

    • An invasion of armies can be resisted; an invasion of ideas cannot be resisted.
    • One cannot resist an idea whose time has come.
    • No one can resist an idea whose time has come.
    • Nothing is stronger than an idea whose time has come.
  10. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    Of which only the first is vaguely correct. Hugo says nothing about time coming.
  11. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    And I think the lesson we can take away from this is, "If you want to say something clearly, say it in English." :D
  12. Man_from_India Senior Member

    Indian English
    Oh I see.
    But without knowing the context it's hard to get that quote's meaning. But PaulQ has done a great job, he clearly gave its explanation. Am I the only one who couldn't understand it without any context?
  13. JustKate

    JustKate Moderate Mod

    Would you be offended if I said "yes"? ;) But seriously, I'm sure you're not the only one, Man_from_India, but it did seem perfectly understandable to me, even shorn of context.

    I think where you - quite understandably - stumbled was over "an idea whose time has come." I would say that almost qualifies as an idiom, and it means, as others have explained, "an idea that comes at the perfect time to be useful."
  14. Man_from_India Senior Member

    Indian English
    Truly speaking I won't be offended, coz it's an honest review and I am open to it as I am still learning a foreign language.
    But how one can get the meaning of the "idea" the author was talking about? And if it is not there then I bet people can't guess what "whose time has come" indicates.
  15. JustKate

    JustKate Moderate Mod

    Out of context, it isn't important what specific idea is being discussed. All that matters is that it's an idea that has emerged at the right time and the right place and to the right audience, and that makes it powerful - more powerful than an army. And I'll just add that army isn't necessarily being used literally here. It can be, but it might also refer to any overall authority, such as a government.
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2012
  16. Hau Ruck

    Hau Ruck Senior Member

    United States - Midwest
    English - U.S.
    Kate is correct, this is an instance where no context is needed to understand the statement.

    You have to understand though, in language, certain idiomatic phrases/ideas are just innate. I am sure there are idiomatic sayings in Hindi, Bengali, Punjabi and Tamil. ;)

    Some vernacular that is easily understood by a native English speaker, would not always be so readily interpreted by a non-native. :)

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