case choice by rhyme

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Fri Aug 19 16:31:55 UTC 2005

On Aug 19, 2005, at 8:28 AM, Alison Murie wrote:

> ...The "the exigencies of rhyme" don't account for the case choices
> in the
> epitaph I quoted  earlier (8/7) ( "Her as was has gone from we, Us
> as is
> will go to she"), since the much the same  sentiment could easily
> have been
> expressed  with standard cases, e.g.,
> She whose bones we here inter
> Will wait for us to follow her
>  or
> She whom we do here inter
> Will wait for us to follow her.

no one was claiming that the exigencies of rhyme account for all, or
even most, instances of nonstandard case choice.  in particular,
nonstandard dialects of english have quite a variety of case choices,
including some uses of nominative objects for emphasis/contrast --
which might be going on in the epitaph above, and in a family story
from kentucky, which ends with a man reflecting:
   It don't hurt I, and it pleases she.

on the other hand, the fact that something could be completely
rephrased so as to allow entirely standard case choices is not
necessarily an argument against the exigencies of rhyme being a
contributing factor in nonstandard case choice.  in particular, the
original epitaph is strikingly parallel, with the contrasted pronouns
in (accented) first and last positions in each line:
   her ... we
   us ... she
and with ordinary rhyme; standard pronouns would eliminate ordinary
(end) rhyme, in favor of  rhyming *first* words.  and the proposed
rewordings lack the parallelism in the accented words of the two lines.


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