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Random English geekery

I’ve recently been reading of some of Jeff Cooper‘s columns and essays. The man’s a brilliant writer and, in addition to the ideas he expresses, he’s gotten me thinking a few times about language and writing.

Most recently, I’ve been reading through his old “Cooper’s Commentaries” columns and at one point he uses the phrase “God Rest You Merry, Gentleman.” His placement of the comma after ‘Merry’ is interesting. I kind of always assumed that it should be punctuated as “God Rest You, Merry Gentlemen”, with the direct address including the adjective ‘Merry.’

With the comma before ‘merry’, the implication is that the gentlemen in question are already merry and that God is merely resting them. This would mean, roughly, “I hope God gives rest to you gentleman, who are merry”. With the comma after ‘merry’, it seems that God is giving gentleman not only rest, but merry rest. Roughly: “I hope God gives you gentlemen merry rest.”

A tiny quibble? Well, yes. Amongst the tiniest. But I thought it was interesting.

UPDATE: If anyone’s interested in reading Cooper’s Commentaries, they’re available online here.

Posted in Geekery, Realtime Autobiography.

2 Responses

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  1. Chris Sullins says

    It seems that’s the proper punctuation of the carol. Very interesting.

  2. Citizen Jane says

    I read “rest” as the Old English “keep”: ergo, “God keep you happy (well, etc.), Gentlemen.”