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Courtney
It's so difficult to understand. (19th novel) This is an excerpt of 19th novel(by Nathaniel Hawthorn) "May I be hanged myself," exclaimed Dominicus Pike, aloud, on reaching the top of a lonely hill, "if I'll believe old Higginbotham is unhanged till I see him with my own eyes and hear it from his own mouth. -> I may be hanged myself if I'll believe old Higginbotham is unhanged till I see him with my own eyes and hear it from his own mouth. I cannot easily understand this phrase.... especially because of "if" and "I'll". Could you explain this with simple logic(?)?? so confused
Aug 30, 2020 2:35 PM
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Answers · 8
Just curious, but why are you reading this? There are much better ways to use your time and increase your English level more effectively than by reading 19th century novels.
August 30, 2020
This is old fashioned English, so it can be confusing even for modern English speakers. I will rephrase it in a simple and modern way. "I am certain that old Higgenbotham was hanged and that he is dead. It is not possible for me to believe that he is alive unless I see him alive with my own eyes and unless I hear him say he is alive with his own mouth. That is the only thing that will convince me! You can try to convince me, but if I believe he is alive without seeing this evidence, well, then you can hang ME as a punishment for being so stupid." So the speaker is saying that he firmly believes something, and he will need very clear evidence if he is going to change his mind. He is so confident in what he believes that he bets his own life on it! He is saying "if I believe he is UNhanged without evidence then you can hang ME". You can see that I rearranged some things in my sentence. In your sentence the speaker bets his life at the very beginning... "May I be hanged myself IF..." If what? He explains in next part... "if I'LL believe old Higginbotham is unhanged". "I'll" is a contraction of "I will". By saying "if I will believe" he is speaking about the future. For example, "I don't know if I will go to the store tomorrow". So when the speaker says "if I'll believe" he is saying "you can try to convince me and at some time in the future I may believe you".
August 30, 2020
My first reaction: Dominicus thinks he would be a fool to believe that Higginbotham has escaped a hanging, and will only believe that Higginbotham is well when he can see Higginbotham with his own eyes and be reassured by him personally. Further, he thinks that he himself would deserve to be hanged if foolish enough to accept the word of another in these circumstances. (For the obscure different between 'hung' and 'hanged,' I suggest: https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/hung-or-hanged ) I think this text would be quite tough for most native speakers, Courtney. I have spoken English all my life, but still had to re-read the excerpt before answering. I agree with James: there are more efficient ways to improve your English!
August 30, 2020
Courtney
Language Skills
English, Italian, Korean
Learning Language
English, Italian