Literal-Minded

Linguistic commentary from a guy who takes things too literally

God Done Shed His Grace on Thee

Posted by Neal on July 5, 2004

Read Geoff Pullum’s post on this slightly altered line from “America the Beautiful” as sung by Ray Charles. I noticed the alteration in this line, too, when I heard the song a year or two ago: It’s just the kind of thing I had in mind when I said I tended to get distracted by syntactic or semantic oddities in a song. GP’s analysis is dead on.

One Response to “God Done Shed His Grace on Thee”

  1. Anonymous said

    While it is entirely possible that Ray Charles simply mis-translated the tense of the lyric into ebonics, it’s also possible that he meant “God done shed” as his own personal confirmation upon the uncertainty of the subjunctive “[may] God shed” – as if to confirm, Gospel preacher style, that God has indeed done what we hope in the subjunctive he might do, OR might be doing or have done. After all, the subjunctive in that context reflects not only the hope that God might shed his grace at some time in the future, but that we hope he already has done so, and is continuing to do so.

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