Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Woe unto English case marking!

Constructions like woe is me (beyond predicate nominatives like answering the phone with it's me) have been beaten like a rented mule by prescriptivists and pseudo-mavens, including Bill "Misfire" Safire, Ben "Adjective Killer" Yagoda and Woeful Patricia O'Conner. (Sorry, maybe I'm ready to go see some pro wrestling or something.)

In the blog connected with her Boston Globe column, "The Word", Jan Freeman has recently taken this one apart, here. She's not a linguist and she's not pursuing any big program, any kind of syntactic argument or anything else fancy. She's just laying out the evidence, like a good journalist should, I figure. It's hardly a lack of analysis, but it's a fact-based, low key treatment of the topic. A breath of fresh air.

I've been pretty critical of media treatment of language (including those standing on the wrong, and I do mean wrong, side of this issue), so it's really nice to see basic facts laid out cleanly and clearly.


Anonymous said...

Yes, this is nice — she makes a compelling point in a way that requires no background in linguistics to understand. Maybe she could have Safire's job!

The Ridger, FCD said...

Yes, I think we should start a movement to recover our lost linguistic heritage of cases and verb declensions!

Mr. Verb said...

So, h ow far do we go? I'm up for voc, nom, acc, dat, gen, can hang with instrumental, and maybe ablative on a long weekend. But if Safire doesn't want the dative?