11 February 2009

Misfit: a Christmas carol

University Challenge also brought to my attention the linguistic phenomenon of "metanalysis", in which a new lexical item is formed by the movement of a letter across a word boundary (in the olden days, an adder was a nadder and an apron was a napron, dontchaknow).
I decided to see what The Oracle (Wikipedia) had to say on the matter, and learnt that, as well as metanalysis of words, there exists metanalysis of phrases.
I discovered that in the title and lyrics of the Christmas carol God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, originally merry was a complement with rest (in other words, rest ye merry = have a pleasant repose).
I, like many I am sure, thought twas the gentlemen who were merry (as in cheerful, jolly or perhaps full of the Christmas spirit, having been at the sherry).
Well, I never. Perhaps someone should get in there with a comma in the songsheet and a crochet instead of a semiquaver.
God rest ye merry, gentlemen.

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