01 September, 2010


Ok, I am busy. But this is far too marvelous to remain unexpressed for long. A bit of background: I am taking Elementary Latin here at UD because I always did fight my mother tooth and nail about taking it in middle school...and here I am having gone to Rome, regretting all the time not having followed her sage advice. Well, as you can imagine, much of the "civilized" world is not up to snuff with their grammar. So the first assignment for this class was to parse several sentences from Genesis and the famously long and tortured opening sentence of Paradise Lost (the exercise decreased my already poor opinion of Milton, I'm afraid). My roommate and I went vastly overboard in completing the exercise, of course. No need to get way down into details like relative clauses and subclauses; the teacher was looking more for "this is a verb, transitive, past tense". One place in particular that had confused us to no end, however, was a line from Genesis that runs: "And God said, 'Let there be light'" , etc. Well, imperatives are always a bit tricky. And the usual rule of implicit subjects that I usually hazily follow when I am compelled to have anything to do with them is kind of hard to apply in this case. Who on earth would God be commanding other than Himself? Which, of course, is an option that works syntactically but not grammatically.

But then there was all this "let be" nonsense (which reminds me unavoidably of that gorgeous conclusion of Hamlet's existential drama)--let being an intransitive helping verb, we later found. And the mysterious "there". What part of speech would "there", used clearly not as an adverb, but to signify the state of something's being in existence be? This is what I've been working up to all along. Wait for it...wait...this particular part of speech is known as the "Existential there". Really! This is no joke. They call it the existential there.

That's all I wanted to say, in point of fact. But it's kind of awesome, don't you think? Perhaps not quite as delightful to some, but there's nothing better (I just used it!) than all of the sudden finding a previously hidden potential for puns of epic proportion in, of all things, technical grammatical vocabulary.


Gentle Gardener said...

I just howled with laughter! These little gems that lie hidden until unearthed with a bit of effort...what a joy! And yes, I believe that the proper response is to be ecstatic over a found bit of truth. "There is" nothing more delightfully satisfying.

Therese said...

It really was a lot of fun. :D