"God rest you merry, gentlemen"(Usage Disputes)
First of all, "God rest you merry, gentlemen" is correct, not "God rest you, merry gentlemen." The verb "rest" is used here in the way now most familiar from the phrase "rest assured". In earlier English it was used with a variety of other complements: the OED has "rest thee merry" from 1400; "rest you well" from 1420; "God rest you merry", "rest you fair", and "rest you happy", and "rest myself content" from Shakespeare; "rest thee tranquil" from Shelley, and "rest thee sure" from Tennyson. The nouns "rest"="repose" and "rest"="remainder" are etymologically unconnected: the former is from Germanic (whence German _Ruhe_); the latter is from Old French _rester_ from Latin _restare_ from _re-_="back" + _stare_="stand". Some dictionaries connect "rest" as in "rest you merry" with "rest"="remainder" rather than "rest"="repose". So "God rest you merry" would mean "May God keep you (or make you and keep you) merry." Semantic leakage from "rest"="repose" would explain why we never see uses like "rest agitated" or "rest you sad." People sometimes wonder whether "rest you merry" should be "rest you merrily". Rest assuredly that it shouldn't. :-) The song is now widely misunderstood as being addressed to "merry gentlemen", first because this use of "rest" is now obsolete except in the phrases "rest assured" and "rest easy", and secondly because the familiar tune supports that stress pattern. A tune "once ubiquitous in the West Country" of England and that better supports the stress pattern of "God rest you merry, gentlemen" is given in _The Oxford Book of Carols_ (by Percy Darmer et al., Oxford, 1928) and can be heard in _The Carol Album_, conducted by Andrew Parrott (EMI, 1990, 0777-7-49809-2-0). The other dispute about this phrase is whether the pronoun should be "you" or "ye". In the references to the song retrieved by AltaVista, "ye" outnumbers "you" by 5 to 1. Traditional grammarians would prefer "you", since the pronoun is the object of the verb "rest" and hence should be in the accusative. Although there was some historical use of "ye" in the accusative (e.g., Thomas Ford's madrigal "Since first I saw your face I resolved / To honour and renown ye"), in the prestigious English of the King James Version of the Bible, "ye" was always nominative and "you" was always accusative. (This is counter-mnemonic, since "thou" was nominative and "thee" was accusative.) The Oxford Book of Carols quotes the words from a broadsheet published circa 1800 as: "God rest you merry gentlemen". In _A Christmas Carol_ (1843), Charles Dickens wrote: "The owner of one scant young nose [...] stooped down at Scrooge's keyhole to regale him with a Christmas carol: but at the first sound of 'God bless you, merry gentleman! May nothing you dismay!' Scrooge seized the ruler with such energy of action, that the singer fled in terror [...]".
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