"Q: "show me out [something]" = show to me?

Damien Hall halldj at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Sun Feb 10 17:12:25 UTC 2008

Joel said:

> Therefore I agree that "shew me out the postern"
> in this context can mean "escort me out the back
> way".  It could also, but does not have to, mean
> (as I wondered) "show me where the back gate is"
> (an interpretation supported by Doeg's asking
> "Where's the postern?" ); in this case, Doeg would see himself out the gate.

Setting my German-calque suggestion aside, since there doesn't seem to be any of
that influence here (shame though;  I enjoyed doing that ten minutes of
research), there's another thing.  This had been at the back of my mind;  I
knew there was something funny about the first sentence uttered by Doeg, but
couldn't quite put my finger on it.

If Doeg had meant 'escort me to / through the postern', how likely is it that he
would have said 'shew me out ___ the postern' (which he did say) and not 'shew
me out of the postern'?  That is:

- Do you think that the version without 'of' is less formal than the version
with 'of'?  That's certainly how it strikes me.  (cf 'He walked out (of) the
door' and other parallel sentences, where, to me, the variation creates the
same effect.)
- If so, is such a degree of informality likely to appear in a play written on a
Biblical (sc. serious) subject by a clergyman?  I don't think it is.
- Thirdly, does the 'of-less' variant of the construction date back to 1845 in
any case?  (It may well - I am continually surprised by the early datings of
constructions I had thought of as modern - but there's still the point about

To me, all these things point to the greater likelihood that 'Shew me out the
postern' is to be interpreted not as 'Escort me to / through the postern' but
as 'Show me where the postern is':  the conclusion arrived at by independent
means by Joel and Mark above.  Then, of course, we're back to the question of
why it's 'shew me out' and not just 'shew me', but maybe some of the things
that were said earlier about parallelism with *point out* apply.

Damien Hall
University of Pennsylvania

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list