Friday, July 24, 2009

Woe is Not Me

Seldom do I get paranoid about a leaving a comment on a blog.

There is one I read, however, once in a great while because it's all about grammar, written by a grammar guru. Occasionally I will leave a comment, but I get the kind of nervous one feels when she's one chess move away from checkmate. I mean, this grammar king has some serious linguistic syntaxes firing away in his brain. The rest of us are babbling pawns.

Not even in my 400-level college grammar class did I hear about "datives" (unless I mistook them for daters--people who date) and I barely recall accusative constructions. Then again, I was planning my wedding.

This blogger, proud author of Anti-Small Talk, has been "refusing to celebrate mediocrity for over four years!" (Woe is he for letting grammar run amok before then.)

In his most recent post, the blogger analyzes the correctness of Ophelia's cry "Woe is me!" by stating that an alternative construction could have been "Woe is to me," since woe is something that must be given to someone. (Think of it as giving grief.) The blogger concludes that only a preposition is dropped, thereby rendering the sentence grammatically correct .

Diagramming the sentence would prove that woe is the subject, is is a being verb, and therefore me would have to be a predicative nominative, which it can't be because you can't interchange the two. You can't say the reverse: Me is woe. Me is a pronoun, which means it stands for a noun. Woe is a noun, but it's not me. I am not woe. I am Zo. (Woe's on first.) I can be woeful, but I can't be woe, nor can woe be me. Grammatically, the wording would only be correct if you could say "woe is I" because "I" must follow a being verb. That's not what Shakespeare's woe-man character meant. She said what she meant and meant what she said.

Got it? Woe is you for reading this.

Conclusion: the construction of "woe is me" must be a dative, not an accusative.

And I have no idea what I'm talking about.

I'm just having fun throwing a smart guy's words around.

9 comments:

dancebythelight said...

Have you ever read the grammar book "Woe Is I?" This post reminded me of it . . .

Laurie L. said...

I'm getting nervous and sweaty just reading about the grammar guru! I want to seal my lips, but one has to communicate, so one prays for clarity and grace. Hang all the technical correctness! (I have a fear of grammar snobs.) Is there a name for "the fear of grammar snobs"?

Sandy said...

I'm having fun going back through old post and visiting people I've lost track of. I'm reviewing the blog and picture, then deleting it...sorta cleaning house at the same time. Thought that gave me the opportunity to review before I hit the too full area and blogger deletes.

Hope you'll swing back for a visit.

Blogging for most people is fun, we all hated the red pencil in school and being a grammar snob is sorta excessive. I mean, in school you turn your paper in...like it not, it's going to be graded...it's expected. When someone visit's my blog, I've not asked them to spell check me; so personally I don't get excited when I myself make errors or when I find them elsewhere. Often people are just relaxing, typing fast, multi-tasking etc.

I join Laurie when I say I'm uncomfortable around and in truth don't appreciate snobbery...whether it's grammar, money, dress, whatever...it still seems like one upsman ship and uppity to me.

Just my opinion
Sandy

Zoanna said...

Danielle,I haven't read it, but probably would like it. The post I just read refers to the book, and the blogger disagrees with the author who thinks Shakespeare was wrong. He asserts that "woe is I" is wrong because people aren't woe. Woe is something given (to people).

I personally enjoy being around grammarians, but I know it's not for everyone. I can see how it could be taken as snobbery to talk about it, and it does make me nervous to be in the company of really sharp communicators, but it's a good kind of nervous. I enjoy the logic of grammar the way some people enjoy the logic of math.

Laurie L. said...

Zoanna,
Okay, maybe I was harsh with a snobby comment! Yes, I appreciate grammar, but would clam up on "grammar stage"!
Please keep talkin about it!
Don't mind me... or my grammar.
I'll just enjoy the words!

BTW I have a few poems ready for posting, poems I did not write, about grammar/writing/poetry. But you know what? I'm stating the obvious... We NEED grammar lovers and gurus! Simple as that! Glad you're among them! Maybe I'm a "Shy Grammarian" or a "Insecure Grammarian"!
BTW Yes, Long comments lend themselves to an editor's nightmare!

Laurie L. said...

Zoanna,
Okay, maybe I was harsh with a snobby comment! Yes, I appreciate grammar, but would clam up on "grammar stage"!
Please keep talkin about it!
Don't mind me... or my grammar.
I'll just enjoy the words!

BTW I have a few poems ready for posting, poems I did not write, about grammar/writing/poetry. But you know what? I'm stating the obvious... We NEED grammar lovers and gurus! Simple as that! Glad you're among them! Maybe I'm a "Shy Grammarian" or an "Insecure Grammarian"!
BTW Yes, Long comments lend themselves to an editor's nightmare!

Laurie L. said...

Zoanna-
Hee hee hee.
I mistakenly left two comments that are ALMOST identical! Can you proof read and find the difference between the two! I made a correction in the 2nd comment. (I didn't realize I'd already posted it or I wouldn't have reposted it! ~Blush~) Anyway you'll probably find it right off! Maybe you'll find quite a few more than one mistake!!

Anonymous said...

Umm, I don't get uptight about bloggers' comments that need to be proofread. I'm notorious for not proofreading my own. I read comments for joy, not errors. Occasionally a blooper cracks me up. The only things I'm OCD about are apostrophes, parallel construction, and subject/verb agreement which stand out like bad design elements or awful colors in a room.

I'm an Insecure Grammarian around certain people, too. The worst feeling I had was seeing typos and a grammar error in my essay that accompanied my application for an English teaching position. Just when you think something's as good as it can get, look out.

zz said...

That was me. I mean, that was I who commented above.