Monday, August 25, 2008

Hypergrammarian Tendencies

Us r whoaz.

Yesterday after service Irene and I were discussing the ablative case outside the trailer (e.g. "pro bono" or "solā gratiā Dei") while spot-cleaning baby saliva.

Jerry, Rebecca, and I once pondered the correct use of "It is I," or "It's I," vs. the bastardized "It's me," and how "to be" verbs require the predicate. Jesus had it right, e.g. in Mt. 14:27 and probably has supremely godly grammar.

Isaiah, however... does not. Or does he?

I came across his wonderful "Woe is me" lament again this morning and sadly, yes, it bothered my brain. Ophelia says the same in Shakespeare's Hamlet. Apparently there's a book by Patricia O'Conner titled Woe Is I. And an angry hypergrammarian blogs about its in/correctness here.

In summary, some claim that "me" is in the dative, so the meaning is actually "Woe is (un)to me," though Safire thinks Shakespeare would just have written this if it's what he meant, or "Woe is mine" if poetic meter required three syllables. Purist predicate nominatarians in the "It's I" camp believe "Woe is I" is the gramatically pristine form.

For 400 years before Shakespeare, the written record shows people using woe is me, woe is us, woe is unto me, woe to them. It was ordinary English. If Shakespeare had written "Woe is I," we might want to examine his reasons, but "woe is me" requires no deep interpretation.

Please smack me if I ever say "Woe is I." And if I ever ROFL. Do people actually ROFL?

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