I understand Ric Schlexer's reticence in challenging Barry Evans on a point of astronomical science ("Winter Hexagon," March 10). I, too, am humble as the day is long-in December-and am loathe to express my lukewarm views.
Sometimes, though, truth compels me to speak out. Such is the case with the tooth-grinding, blackboard-scraping phrase, "Far be it for me." If you analyze the phrase wordy-by-word, far-be-it-for-me is meaningless and nonsensical, exactly as Paul Brians indicates. If you substitute "from" for "for," the meaning becomes clear.
Never before have I read or heard of this particular form of language butchery. Usually it is something like "I could care less" when the correct usage is "I could not (couldn't) care less. Or "would of" (ouch) instead of would have or would've. I just saw this error on a sign at a Wisconsin teacher's rally!
Seems a bit funny that Ric insists on total fealty to science for Barry but completely exempts himself since bad grammar is a sort of family heirloom. All Mr. Evans has to do now is to state that he grew up with Regulus as Leo's front paw and he is home free!
If, through a misplaced sense of familial pride, Mr. Schlexer thinks that prefacing his scientific treatise with a jarring, grammatically incorrect, provincial colloquialism will somehow impress his audience he may be in for a disappointment. Mondegreen? I guess I'll have to Google that sometime this week.
Timothy Crlenjak, Eureka