This Christmas our band noticed a well-placed comma. Now, the comma has been there for quite some time, but the rhythm of the song hid it:

God rest ye merry, gentlemen, let nothing you dismay
The rhythm of the song makes it sound like merry gentlemen are resting, but that well-placed comma tells us that apparently dismayed gentlemen are being encouraged to rest merry. The question is, what does it mean to "rest merry"? There seems to be some difference of opinion.

One source says that in the English of the time, 'merry' meant 'mighty' (as in Robin Hood's Merry Men). So, the dismayed gentlemen are being encouraged to be mighty. A quiz by Zondervan agrees.

The etymological entry for 'merry' in the American Heritage Dictionary says, "Middle English merri, from Old English mirige, pleasant." This seems to disagree with the previous statements.

Any English language experts out there??


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