Having trouble with the internet lately. Seeing so many
shoulds floating around there. No one person can respond to all of them. And yet every day, there is so much outrage — some real and valid. We’re putting it onto each other. Our own anxieties and fears, we see more clearly their outlines in others.
So what is a should to do? Who should should? Why shouldn’t you should? What are the five fabulous things that should blow my mind about should — if I only click on this article. If I only sign up. If I only give my email address. Should I be giving these people my email address? Should I be spending my time this way?
Should according to whose rules, according to what metric? What happens if we would and could and knew we should, but just finally for whatever reason don’t…
This is interesting, the etymology of should, from shall:
Old English sceal, Northumbrian scule “I owe/he owes, will have to, ought to, must” (infinitive sculan, past tense sceolde), a common Germanic preterite-present verb (along with can, may, will), from Proto-Germanic *skal- (source also of Old Saxon sculan, Old Frisian skil, Old Norse and Swedish skola, Middle Dutch sullen, Old High German solan, German sollen, Gothic skulan “to owe, be under obligation;” related via past tense form to Old English scyld “guilt,” German Schuld “guilt, debt;” also Old Norse Skuld, name of one of the Norns), from PIE root *skel- (2) “to be under an obligation.”
So there’s some linguistic connection to guilt, debt, owing. Obligation. Must.
And looking at guilt:
of unknown origin, though some suspect a connection to Old English gieldan “to pay for, debt,” but OED editors find this “inadmissible phonologically.”
Maybe it’s ‘inadmissible phonologically’ but not phenomenologically…
Old English gyldan “to gild, to cover with a thin layer of gold,” from Proto-Germanic *gulthjan (source also of Old Norse gylla “to gild,” Old High German ubergulden “to cover with gold”), verb from *gultham “gold” (see gold).
You shall wrap your shoulds in the gold of guilt; that much is an obligation.