So I’m in a McDonalds listening to a gay governor

So I’m in McDonalds and on CNN there’s this gay governor stepping down and giving a speech and he says,

To be clear, I am not apologizing for being a gay American, but rather, for having let personal feelings impact my decision-making and for not having had the courage to be open about whom I was.

“whom I was?” I think. “That’s a weird hypercorrection. That’s the sort of thing that Language Log is constantly blogging about, till I can’t stand it anymore and I have to take them out of my newsreader yet again to get away from their nonstop stream of obsessive consideration of trivial mistakes.”

Huh… what do you know.

Actually Language Log doesn’t look it at it as a hypercorrection to “whom” from “who” on the general basis that “whom is correct,” it looks at this as a general pattern of error, with a number of other instances documented on the net.

That’s kind of interesting — I think that both are involved. Because using “whom” instead of “who” is not natural to most Americans’ speech anymore, it’s done on a semi-conscious basis instead of completely effortlessly as is the case with really natural grammar. Because it’s semi-conscious it’s prone more to cheap heuristic shortcuts based on surface appearance rather than deep grammatical insight.

And “about whom” is, if you look at those two words isolated, a place where “whom” is often correct — “about whom you were talking” is correct. Indeed, “about whom you are….” is correct as long as there’s a present active participle following it whose object is “whom.” But if there’s no such participle, “about whom you are” or “about whom I was” is not correct.

But I think the “correcting impulse” which leads to the former correct correction also leads to the latter incorrect hypercorrection.

If this weren’t a situation where people were correcting themselves in the first place, such a hypercorrection would never occur, I bet.

up way too late composing Latin

cause some guy on ISCA bbs asked how to render into Latin the sentence “to truly live is to stare defiantly into the face of death.”

I started working on it and noticed that my sentence was about half hexameter, so I labored and obsessed until I put the whole thing into dactylic hexameter, or something close enough for government work. I had to ditch the “defiance” but I thought the epic meter made up for it:

intueri in vultum mortis, id vivere vere est.

Then I realized I had totally jumbled around the sense of his words to get that. It should be more like:

Vere vivere, id est fortiter intueri in vultum mortis.

No epic meter there, nor any easy way to cast it that way.

But “fortiter intueri in vultum…” — that’s a lovely little chunk of hexameter in the middle of it. Makes me sad not to be able to render it all that way.

Ah, Latin. What fun.

Here’s an awesome page giving English verses composed in Classical meters.