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MERRY

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MERRY

Postby Dr. Goodword » Sun Dec 23, 2012 11:50 pm

• merry •


Pronunciation: mer-ree • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Joyful, happy, jolly, as in merry Christmas. 2. Brisk, quick as in a merry pace.

Notes: This word is seldom heard before or after Christmastide and almost never in its second meaning. It comes with two nouns: merriness, the quality of being merry, and merriment "having a good time, merrymaking". Don't forget to change the Y to I in both the nouns and the adverb, merrily.

In Play: North Americans associate this word most closely with Santa Claus: "They were having a right merry old time preparing for the Christmas party." Preparations were proceeding at a merry pace, too. "Gladys Friday left the office in a merry mood, knowing her husband had the kids for the weekend."

Word History: Today's word was inherited from Old English myrge or mirige, which meant "pleasing, agreeable". This word apparently came from Old Germanic murgya, which meant "short-lasting". The connection to "pleasure" is likely via the notion of "making time fly", suggested also in German Kurzweil "pastime" and in English pastime itself. Merry-making also suggests a pleasant way to pass the time and, as everyone knows, time flies when we are having fun. The word developed a wider set of senses in Middle English, including "pleasant" (sounding and tasting), "fine", "pretty", and the two it bears today in Modern English. (I'm sure we all wish Bonnie Shipley a merry Christmas for suggesting today's most appropriate Good Word.)
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Re: MERRY

Postby Philip Hudson » Mon Dec 24, 2012 12:37 am

I haven't found a satisfactory reason why this Christmas carol has a comma between merry and gentleman:
"God rest ye merry, gentlemen...."
Given the comma, merry is not an adjective modifying gentlemen. So what is it?

Does anyone know or even have an idea?
It is dark at night, but the Sun will come up and then we can see.
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Re: MERRY

Postby Perry Lassiter » Mon Dec 24, 2012 1:46 am

It's an adverb, modifying rest. He is to rest you in happiness.
I'm wondering in the OE word if the G is pronounced as in George or gourd?
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Re: MERRY

Postby MTC » Mon Dec 24, 2012 7:54 am

You are not alone in your confusion, Philip. According to Wikipedia, "there is some confusion today about the meaning of the first line, which seems archaic to our ears. It is usually given today as 'God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen', with a comma after the word 'merry', so does not refer to 'merry gentlemen.'"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_rest_y ... _gentlemen

Although the Wikipedia article discusses this cyclone in a songbook, it does not specifically address what part of speech "merry" may be, leaving that issue to us. So, merrily, merrily, here we grammarians go. Hearing the line sung without seeing it on the page, most of us would think "merry" is an adjective. Certainly I always have. You will notice both Dr. Goodword (see Notes) and Collins dictionary describe "merry" as the adjective and "merrily" as the adverb:

merry [ˈmɛrɪ]
adj -rier, -riest
1. cheerful; jolly
2. very funny; hilarious
3. Brit informal slightly drunk
4. Archaic delightful
make merry to revel; be festive
play merry hell with Informal to disturb greatly; disrupt
[Old English merige agreeable]
merrily advmerriness n
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003

If the unknown songwriter had followed Dr. Goodword and Collins he (or perhaps she) would have written, "God rest you merrily, gentlemen, " etc. (Of course, in fairness neither authority was around when the carol was written.)

Also, we are accustomed to hearing "merrily" used as the adverb in other Christmas songs, e.g., "Merrily, merrily, merrily,merrily, merrily through the snow..."

Nevertheless, seeing--rather than hearing-- the entire line helps us appreciate that "merry" is indeed being used creatively, with poetic license as an adverb:

"God rest ye merry, gentlemen, let nothing you dismay,"

"Gentlemen," a word of direct address, is set off by commas, and the way direct address works, "gentlemen" therefore has no grammatical relationship to the rest of the sentence. So we know "merry" cannot be an adjective modifying "gentlemen" if the rules of grammar are followed.

But if "merry" the supposed adjective does not modify "gentlemen," then what does it modify? No word nearby makes sense. So our assumption that "merry" is an adjective is incorrect. By process of elimination, the only other part of speech "merry" can be is an adverb. The line in controversy would then mean something like, "God rest you cheerfully, happily, or delightfully." This interpretation seems strange because "rest" clashes with "merry," a word with active connotations. Still, it is the only interpretation which makes sense.

All this is a roundabout way of saying I agree with Perry. Odd though that a carol which is supposed to inspire joy and contentment has instead "played merry hell."
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Re: MERRY

Postby Audiendus » Mon Dec 24, 2012 10:54 am

Wikipedia states: "'Rest' here denotes 'keep' or 'make'." ("Keep" makes sense when you consider that rester in French means "stay" or "remain".)

So the grammatical structure of "God rest ye merry, gentlemen" is the same as that of "God keep ye merry, gentlemen". I would analyse it as follows:

God – subject
rest – verb (subjunctive mood)
ye – object
merry – object complement.

I think "merry" is an adjective here, not an adverb. It is "ye" who should be merry; it does not mean that God should act in a merry way.

Note also in the Wikipedia article that, strictly speaking, "ye" is ungrammatical in the objective case; the word in the carol was originally "you".
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Re: MERRY

Postby LukeJavan8 » Mon Dec 24, 2012 12:50 pm

Rest merry, all ye.......
-----please, draw me a sheep-----
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Re: MERRY

Postby Perry Lassiter » Mon Dec 24, 2012 3:03 pm

Whilst being merry, let me not let slide MTC's remark - if the rules of grammar are followed. I'm not sure whether the violation of grammar in either merry or ye rests me merry or creates merry hell, when I consider ye olde Englishmen might violate them thar rules as much as we do today.

And btw, how is the G pronounced? Or was...
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Re: MERRY

Postby wurdpurrson » Tue Dec 25, 2012 12:40 am

As a sidereal question: is there any relation to "mirth" in all of this?
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Re: MERRY

Postby MTC » Tue Dec 25, 2012 7:04 am

A stellar pun on "siderial," wurdpurrson.

Back to "mirth" and "merry," they're two merry little peas dancing in the same linguistic pod. According to Etymoline
"mirth" springs from O.E. myrgð "joy, pleasure," and "merry" from O.E. myrge "pleasing, agreeable, pleasant, sweet; pleasantly, melodiously...."

Merry Christmas and a mirthquake to one and all!
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Re: MERRY

Postby Perry Lassiter » Tue Dec 25, 2012 12:18 pm

Now myrgo is surely a hard G.
And I agree about the pun.
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Re: MERRY

Postby Audiendus » Tue Dec 25, 2012 1:23 pm

Perry Lassiter wrote:Now myrgo is surely a hard G.

It's a ð (= th), not an o. :)
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Re: MERRY

Postby Perry Lassiter » Tue Dec 25, 2012 4:04 pm

Thanx.
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