Welcome to our first “Glossologue”! Every month, Alison (my fellow Glosso-blogger) and I will post an example of language usage that sparks discussion and debate – and we invite you all to come and battle it out here on Glossophilia.
Feel free to weigh in and offer your insights and arguments – especially if you’re right!
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Glossologue I: Woe to whom?
Last week Alison and I crossed swords – very briefly and amicably – over something one of us stumbled on in the “Ethicist” column of the New York Times magazine*. Here is the statement in question:
“It’s unethical, but then again, it’s just an updated form of advertising, and woe to him who seeks truth therein.”*
It’s that pesky pronoun that knots our brows: is it really “woe to him who“? If he is the one seeking the truth, shouldn’t he have the benefit of a subjective pronoun before the only verb in that part of the sentence – “he [who] seeks”? However, he is, after all, the object of the woe being heaped, and let’s face it: without the relative clause that follows (“who seeks truth”), “woe to he” is clearly a clanger.
So, is this sentence correct, or has there been an editing booboo*? What do you think?
* this is not necessarily the final version that appeared online or in print