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PRONOUNS, PERSONAL. "Me rather had;" "I were better;" "I am sorrow"

Ungrammatical remnants of ancient usage. In Chaucer and earlier writers, preference is expressed, both by our modern "I had, or would, rather (i.e. sooner)," and by "(To) me (it) were lever (German lieber)," i.e. "more pleasant." These two idioms are confused in the following example:

“Me rather had my heart might feel your love.

In the earliest writers "woe!" is found joined with the dative inflection of the pronoun, "woe is (to) us," "woe is (to) me." “Wa worthe (betide) than monne (the man, dat.).” LAYAMON, i. 142.

As early as Chaucer, and probably earlier, the sense of the inflection was weakened, and "woe" was used as a predicate: "I am woe," "we are woe," &c. Hence Shakespeare uses "sorrow" thus. Similarly our "I am well" is, perhaps, an ungrammatical modification of "well is me," Ps. cxxviii. 2 (Prayer-book). In Early English both constructions are found. In Anglo-Saxon, Mätzner "has only met with the dative construction."

“I am sorrow for thee.

“I am woe for't, sir.

“Woe is my heart.

“Woe, woe are we, sir.

On the other hand,

“Woe is me.

“Woe me.

Similarly, the old "(to) me (it) were better," being misunderstood, was sometimes replaced by "I were better."

“I were better to be eaten to death.

“I were best to leave him.

“Poor lady, she were better love a dream.

“Thou'rt best.

And when the old idiom is retained, it is generally in instances like the following:

“Answer truly, you were best.

“Madam, you're best consider.

where you may represent either nominative or dative, but was almost certainly used by Shakespeare as nominative.

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