April 18th, 2012


Quoth Who?

Someone on the Sidney-Spenser list threw out a challenge the other day, which no one so far has taken up. Maybe there's a bold younker here, ready to don the bright helm of grammatical truth?

The question is: is there any word in the English language, other than "quoth", which always appears before its subject? You always say "Quoth Aristotle" not "Aristotle quoth". Is this unique? I feel it can't be, but have been racking my brains to find another instance.

Incidentally, it turns out that "quoth" is not, as I always thought, related in some way to "quote", even though these days it invariably introduces a quotation. It's an unimpeachably Germanic word, echt deutsch. The verb from which it derives (only the first and third person singular survive) is "queath", which we still hear echoes of in the verb "bequeath" - suggesting that wills were originally spoken, as of course in pre-literate societies they must have been.