If I am going to meet someone soon, and want to make sure to discuss a certain topic with them then, does it make sense to quickly text them

Lest I forget: Can you explain to me ....?

My question is not about the appropriateness/effectiveness of this, but about the meaning and syntax of lest.

Googling this only brings up about war remembrance

  • 4
    Just look up lest in a dictionary and all things should be clear. Oct 24 '17 at 10:17

I'm a native American English speaker and I just used the conjunction "lest" twice last night in my five-page English paper for an American Literature class I'm taking, and I also said it today in class to two students whom I was talking to (about three times in 15 seconds as I was trying to get my point across).

Here are the quotations from my paper:

"This quotation is still relevant today because it epitomizes self-reliance and individualism as a whole—the concept that we should do our best not to fall into the trap of relying on others lest we succumb to conformity, thereby losing our individuality."

"It is essentially a wake-up call to us that we must think for ourselves lest we become like the sot in Emerson’s parable."

The situation today in class wherein I used "lest" is as follows:

"I made sure not to use the neuter 'he' in my paper again even though Emerson uses it throughout 'Self-Reliance' because I know how Sister Cynthia thinks it's sexist language. Since I'm attending a college that is 93% female, I figure that I should be as pro-feminist as possible lest I be chased off campus with pitchforks."

The two students responded jokingly that they don't have pitchforks in the dorms, so they won't chase me off campus with pitchforks, but maybe with something else. So based upon my use of "lest" and still remembering the day in second grade when we learned the word "lest" as our teacher wrote it on the chalkboard in a sentence, I think it is still a very common word albeit very formal. Yes, you can text "lest I forget"; it's a lot faster and simpler than typing out "in case I forget". We're always trying to save time in text-speak anyway, right?

NOTE: Remember that if you use the word "lest", it is followed by the present subjunctive conjugation of the verb in English.

I hope that might have helped you out. Take care and good luck.

P.S. Here is another excerpt from a paper that I just wrote last night. In my envoi, I state:

"The famous philosopher Baltasar Gracián once said, “All that really belongs to us is time; even he who has nothing else has that.” It is by this credo that Le Ly Hayslip has lived her life and it is by this credo that we should live ours lest time itself pass us by into oblivion like a wraith of smoke from the extinguished fire of our minds."

  • well done for using it, and I up-voted you for that. In English English I've only heard it used ceremoniously or for comedy effect such as inflecting irony. Oct 25 '17 at 8:00
  • Yes, Oxford marks it as formal. Oct 27 '17 at 17:53

Googling this only brings up about war remembrance

Thats because its an archaic word only really used in historical works and in ceremonial situations. It has Old English roots and is little modified since then other than in spelling. Its used in shakespeare sonnet #72

A good modern alternative might be "in case I forget", I have never used "lest" other than when reading old passages aloud or looking at War Memorials.

  • 1
    But lest does not mean in case I forget but so that I don't forget. And lest is not archaic, it's formal. Oct 27 '17 at 17:52

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