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After our abominable election results, I wrote an email to a friend, saying, "woe is me." Then I thought I should change it to "woe is I." However, that didn't sound right, so I came to WC, but couldn't find it here. So I went to Google and found this good explanation.. Apparently woe is the subject and me is the dative object, which isn't allowed (used?) in English today. It actually means woe is to me.
 
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A good site, Kalleh. Thanks.

As most of us know, English is confusing to many new learners because of our having lost those cases Mr. Owen mentions. Latin and ancient Greek had five, modern Spanish has five; Russian has six. Word order is less critical in those languages, so there is an advantage to having specific cases, or so it seems to me.
 
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I aways assumed it derived from woe unto me.
 
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I think it is the same "me" that is in methinks, which is derived from mē þyncþ "it seems to me".
 
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quote:
þyncþ

From which "sense" is derived?
 
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Originally posted by Geoff:
quote:
þyncþ

From which "sense" is derived?


No, Old English þyncan was "to seem". Its similarity with þencan "to think" meant that both verbs became the same verb in Middle English: think. Then the "seem" meaning disappeared - except in methinks.
 
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"Woe is me" is a continuation of Old English wā is mē "woe is to me". is the dative case. The German is Weh ist mir.
The plural would be wā is ūs "woe is to us".

The OED says:
quote:
Ælfric Gram. (St. John's Oxf.) 278 Heu mihi, domine, quia peccaui nimis in uita mea wa is me, drihten, forþan þe ic syngode swiðe on minum life.

"Woe is me, lord, because I sinned excessively in my life."
 
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So, in a sense, Proof was right that it is from woe unto me.
 
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