(N. Balakrishnan, Bangalore)

As far as the meaning is concerned, there is no difference. The Americans spell the word ‘behoove’, while the British spell it ‘behove’. The Americans pronounce the ‘oo’ like the ‘oo’ in ‘cool’, ‘pool’, and ‘fool’. The British, on the other hand, pronounce the ‘o’ like the ‘o’ in ‘go’, ‘so’, and ‘no’. In both cases, the stress is on the second syllable: ‘bi-HUUV’/ ’bi-HOV’. This rather old fashioned word is employed in formal contexts; it means, ‘to be necessary or proper’.

It behoved us to dismiss all those who went on strike.

It ill behoves you to speak so rudely to the Minister.

Whenever we use ‘behove’, the subject is always ‘it’. We cannot, for example say, ‘The pouring rain behoved us to shut the windows’.

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“Is sloppiness in speech caused by ignorance or apathy? I don’t know and I don’t care.”William Safire