The King is Dead. Long Live the King!

By Maeve Maddox

A reader is puzzled by an expression:

This is regarding the proverb “The *Something* is Dead. Long Live *Something*.” I’ve seen it being used in various contexts where *Something* is replaced by words…such as Internet, Article etc. Could you please elaborate on it, as I have been unable to find any reference to it.

The reader is not a native English speaker, but there may be native speakers who use the expression without being aware of its origin.

The expression derives from the announcement that follows the death of a monarch. My first encounter with it came when I read Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper:

The King is dead. Long live the King!

The first King refers to the deceased ruler; the second King refers to his successor.

When King George VI of England died in 1952, the announcement was:

The King is dead. Long live the Queen!

The expression has been adapted by headline writers to convey the idea that something old has been replaced by something new. Here are two examples from the Web:

The ATM is Dead. Long Live the ATM!
The article that follows is about the decline in the use of cash that is making the old type of ATM obsolete. It describes new functions being added to ATMs to enable them to provide services other than cash delivery.

The Euro is Dead – Long Live the Swissy
The article that follows reports the fact that the Swiss government has freed their national currency to rise in value above the euro. Swissy refers to the Swiss franc.

When used in contexts other than the passing of a monarch, the “Long Live” expression means that something has been updated or replaced.

Click here to get access to 800+ interactive grammar exercises!


Share


Leave a comment: