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A call to arms that has been used in many a battle in many langauges.

General Henri Philippe Pétain first used it in World War One to rally his French troops to defend Verdun (Ils ne Passerons pas !). Ironically, he turned out later to rule over Vichy France after the Germans avaient passés in 1940. French poster artist Maurice Neumont used They shall not pass on one of his more famous propaganda posters. Ninety years later it would be used by Colonel Emmanuel Maurin, commanding the French Foreign Legion in Cote d'Ivoire.

Translated into English, it was the cry of the East End Jews and trade unionists who fought against a parade of Blackshirts in the Battle of Cable Street of 1937.

And in Spanish, They Shall Not Pass ! becomes the highly visible slogan No Pasaran!, first used by the republicans defending Madrid during the Spanish Civil War. The translation was coined by Dolores Ibárruri Gómez ("La Pasionaria"), a famous Communist leader and orator. I wonder how many non-Spanish speakers knew that - I thought it referred to parmesan cheese.

It presents itself for interesting analysis. Saying shall instead of will implies that the speaker has the authority to decide who can do the passing. The phrase in itself marks out a place that the speaker owns and will fight to maintain its possession. In a revolutionary context, where poor riff raff aren't supposed to own anything to defend, the slogan empowers the listeners to feel that they own the land they are defending, be it city ghetto or a few miserable inches of Le Patrie in no man's land. They Shall not Pass ! fires the belly and breathes determination, authority and resolve, and anybody no matter how small they are can use it on the day they draw a line in the sand.

Perhaps Tolkien was inspired by the quote to use it in The Lord of the Rings, when Gandalf bellowed You Shall not Pass ! to a demon. And who can forget the South Park parody ?:

You shall not p.....You shall not pa....

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