The Lexingtonienne



All my life I’ve been a little obsessed with grammar, from spelling to punctuation to dangling modifiers and beyond. Just ask my sister, who has been putting up with me her whole life. I never missed a single opportunity to correct her grammar while we were growing up, or even to pre-correct her before she could make an embarrassing gaffe. Right here I had probably just warned her, “Don’t end sentences with a preposition in front of Santa. He doesn’t bring presents to dummies.”

Christmas Photos

You’re probably surprised to hear that I am such a dork. I mean, I don’t look like a dork HERE, do I?

Christmas Photos

My dorky grammar obsession even transfers to Christmas carols. Take, for example, “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen,” which has bifurcated over the centuries also to become, “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen.” Two totally different titles.

Centuries ago, the carol was written as, “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.” In the English of the time, “rest” would have meant “keep” or “make.” And “merry” didn’t mean happy or cheerful, as it does to us today. It meant “mighty.” Today we could translate the song title as, “God make you mighty, gentlemen,” or, “God strengthen you, dudes.” This message seems more tonally fitting to the minor key and the marching beat of the tune, don’t you think? (Now this is getting needlessly dorky. I’ll move on.)

Somewhere between then and now, somebody misunderstood the message, and they moved that comma over a word. Now we think the song means, “God wants you to take it easy, happy fellas.” YOU thought it was a song about sleeping off your holiday hangover, didn’t you?

I know you and I are thinking the same thing here: What a difference a comma makes!

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  • Comment by Glenda — December 14, 2012 @ 10:22 am

    You’re an AWESOME dork, Hannah. I’m an Anglophile and a BIG history dork, so I really enjoyed this post. I bet you LOVE the book “Eats, Shoots & Leaves”? Btw, that Santa looks like he’s heard enough of your preposition lecture. His body language and facial expression says it all.

  • Comment by Bonnie — December 16, 2012 @ 4:56 pm

    I remember you correcting Johnny about ending a sentence with a preposition. I never forgot it. True story. haha

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