4

Why is Did noted 17th century poet Katherine Philips make a grammatical error? on hold?

  1. The question is clearly about the history of grammatical development in English, specifically about the grammatical use of 'I', and so the question is clearly within the topical scope of ELU.
  2. Even supposing I've overlooked some defensible argument that puts the question outside that scope, nobody who voted to close saw fit to comment on how the question falls outside the scope of ELU, so the OP has no route forward for editing to re-open the question.

As "defensible argument" I don't include arguments that fly in the face of the long-established and still extant primary definition of 'grammar':

That department of the study of a language which deals with its inflexional forms or other means of indicating the relations of words in the sentence, and with the rules for employing these in accordance with established usage; ....

["grammar, n.". OED Online. September 2016. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/80574?rskey=2ACPm8&result=1&isAdvanced=false (accessed October 10, 2016). Emphasis mine.]

  • 3
    I've never seen that question before, but if I had to guess, I'd say its primary flaw is the question rests on the premise that poetry must or should be grammatical. Invalidating Phillips' poetic license, so to speak. Having said that, determining whether Phillips actually employed her poetic license -- i.e. demonstrating whether the usage adhered to the prevailing rules of grammar -- seems a legitimate line of inquiry to me. – Dan Bron Oct 10 '16 at 11:22
  • It's open again. However, in the meantime my close vote comment and the poetic license comment have garnered more votes. I'd suggest enhancing the question to actually ask the question you answer. – Helmar Oct 10 '16 at 17:35
  • If only because it has earned another close vote already. – Helmar Oct 10 '16 at 17:37
  • I was interested in the answer to this question, as phrased by JEL—something like would the poet's contemporaries have seen the construction as ungrammatical-if-acceptable-in-a-poem, or was it more generally acceptable then than it is now? Is this the kind of edit that others can make, or is the question doomed if the OP doesn't return? If others (like, say, me) can make it, how should that be marked? – 1006a Oct 10 '16 at 22:31
  • Also, if the question is just doomed, could I post a related question without it being closed as a duplicate? – 1006a Oct 10 '16 at 22:32
  • 1
    @Helmar, the question does not ask about poetry in general, about how ungrammaticality can be justified, by 'poetic' license (?) or any other 'license'. The question is simply 'is this use of I in the objective case ungrammatical in a 17th century poem?' The question does not ask anything about how or why, simply whether or not. The comments, starting with deadrat's (which I assume was at least semi-humorous), are the only place where how or why putative ungrammaticality can be justified or explained is mentioned. I don't regard your response as defensible based on the textual evidence. – JEL Oct 11 '16 at 1:47
  • 1
    @JEL No, it asks in bold title letters if there's a grammatical error in this poem. The answer is it doesn't matter, it's a poem. That's presumably why it is at three close votes again (not from me). Please just edit the good question you see in there into the question. It's just not written down there... – Helmar Oct 11 '16 at 7:02
  • 2
    @Helmar, the good question is already there. Why are you so sure (a) that the answer to a question asking about the existence of a grammatical error can be "it doesn't matter" and (b) that grammaticality "doesn't matter" in poetry? Those both seem uh, well, outlandish, and particularly the latter. – JEL Oct 11 '16 at 8:10
  • @JEL the seven people who voted to close and up voted the two comments disagree. The only thing I am saying is that the question you answered isn't clearly posed. Otherwise we wouldn't have this discussion or the multitude of close votes. – Helmar Oct 11 '16 at 8:15
  • @Helmar, understood, although the meaning and number of the 'votes' (which might be multiple votes from the same people, and might mean nearly anything, except Hotlick's, which is commented, and seems to amount to "poetry is off-topic"--not an agreeable sentiment, but not arguable in place) is not known. As for the question: I don't see anything to edit. The question is clear and succinct. – JEL Oct 11 '16 at 8:22
  • @1006a, I don't see why you couldn't distill your general question out of the other more-specific question and not have it closed as a duplicate...but close votes are often mysterious and inexplicable. – JEL Oct 11 '16 at 8:25
  • @JEL I agree votes cannot be over-interpreted. The four up votes from the other close voters who supported the close reason via the close dialog have some meaning. Otherwise up voted comments generally tend to be up voted more. – Helmar Oct 11 '16 at 8:49
  • 1
    @JEL Since the question seems to be staying open, I'll just leave it alone for now. And thanks for answering my comment/question there—my six-month-old isn't likely to challenge my grammar, but my older kids might, and it's always good to have a "why Mom still knows best" answer in my pocket. The perils of raising little language enthusiasts! – 1006a Oct 11 '16 at 15:44
  • 5
    I wasn't sure that the question would attract a good (and on-topic for this site) answer, but it did. And once that happens, I see no reason to find fault with the question or to try to close it. Like many other participants at this site, I have little or no interest in certain areas of English language and usage; but I think it's important to resist the temptation to presume that questions in those areas are off topic unless someone can prove them to be otherwise. Wouldn't it be more sensible to let participants who are interested in those topics assess the legitimacy of such questions? – Sven Yargs Oct 11 '16 at 17:20
  • 2
    Finally re-reopened. Hope it stops here. – user66974 Oct 12 '16 at 8:52
6

Since I provided the original close reason I'll gladly elaborate.

Criticism, discussion, and analysis of English literature is off-topic per help center. This includes poetry, so the analysis of it is off-topic. Regarding the grammaticality the poet has the poetic license that is mention in the other highly up voted comment.

It's clearly stated in the second comment under the question which is the exact close reason I suggested. I didn't comment there, it's the reason I entered when I voted to close. Therefore, there is a clear and specific close reason that can be addressed.

If the question was reworded to pose the question about the historical use of the pronoun like you indicate in your question here, I would be inclined to vote to reopen. In its current form I don't see that question clearly and supposedly neither did the others that voted to close and up voted my comment with the close reason. As long it's just asking, "did a poet make a grammatical error?", I stand by my close vote.

  • I can't substantiate it now, but I didn't see your monicker in the list of close-voters, nor @deadrat's, nor that of any commenter. What I do see is a question that asks whether 'I' in the objective case is ungrammatical in a 17th century poem. As it turns out, and as the answer makes abundantly clear, 'I' in the objective case was not considered ungrammatical until the 18th century. The question does not ask how or why ungrammaticality can be justified, in a poem or anywhere else, which somehow becomes the focus of the comments, even though the how and why are not questioned. – JEL Oct 11 '16 at 1:39
  • 3
    @JEL I didn't vote to close. (I checked.) I rarely vote to close for anything other than duplication. All I did was add a particularly unhelpful comment. Sorry about that. It's a fine question, you provided a fine answer, and I've seen fit to upvote them both. The insistence that questions follow a particular and stringent formula of call and response has grown tiresome. – deadrat Oct 11 '16 at 2:25
  • @JEL I did vote close, as evidenced by the comment from the close vote dialog. I haven't checked if my name was in any list. – Helmar Oct 11 '16 at 6:58
  • @Helmar That’s odd. According to the revision history, it was put on hold by cobaltduck, Scott, Rory Alsop, Chenmunka, and NVZ, but not you. As far as I can tell, you must have had around 3,800 rep points at the time, which is enough to cast close-votes (rather than just flag to close). Did you retract your close-vote before the question was closed? That’s the only sensible reason I can think of that would explain why your name doesn’t appear on the list. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 11 '16 at 16:57
  • @JanusBahsJacquet found a close vote in my history. I don't recall retracting the vote. I don't know what happened. – Helmar Oct 11 '16 at 17:03
  • @ab2 I didn't vote to close the second time. I think the way the question is now it is very clear and on topic. – Helmar Oct 12 '16 at 7:47
5

I've never seen that question before, but if I had to guess, I'd say its primary flaw is the question rests on the premise that poetry must or should be grammatical. Invalidating Phillips' poetic license, so to speak. Having said that, determining whether Phillips actually employed her poetic license -- i.e. demonstrating whether the usage adhered to the prevailing rules of grammar -- seems a legitimate line of inquiry to me. – Dan Bron


I wasn't sure that the question would attract a good (and on-topic for this site) answer, but it did. And once that happens, I see no reason to find fault with the question or to try to close it. Like many other participants at this site, I have little or no interest in certain areas of English language and usage; but I think it's important to resist the temptation to presume that questions in those areas are off topic unless someone can prove them to be otherwise. Wouldn't it be more sensible to let participants who are interested in those topics assess the legitimacy of such questions? – Sven Yargs

  • +1 I still think the question you have answered nicely isn't in there in any clear form. I myself won't vote to close again, but it's at four close votes again. So please write in the question you actually answered to keep it open or we will have a repeat guest in the close vote queue. – Helmar Oct 11 '16 at 20:22
  • 1
    Will someone please tweak the question so it can be reopened? I will do it myself if no one else does, but I'd rather someone with lots of rep does it. I just voted to reopen it because I think a question that elicits a superlative and on-topic answer should be open. – ab2 Oct 11 '16 at 22:09
  • 1
    @ab2 The question in question has now been tweaked by/the helpful sumelic, and also by I. – 1006a Oct 12 '16 at 0:42
  • @1006a Methinks thou hast done well. – ab2 Oct 12 '16 at 1:38
  • 1
    A small quibble, but methinks is a peculiarity where the me is actually objective. Methinks means "It seems to me", not "I think". – Andrew Leach Oct 12 '16 at 9:37

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .