It is matter for regret and those who defy this canon deserve well of the languag

A text that once again I hand-type and I have cross-checked:

It is matter for regret and those who defy this canon deserve well of the language.

What is the grammatical structure of DESERVE WELL OF? What does it mean? If I were to explain it to anyone, I would surrender, because a dictionary doesn’t help; what I can find nearest to this structure is:

eg People spoke well of (= spoke with approval of) him.

eg They have a poor opinion of somebody (= to not think well of somebody).

But obviously they all very different. Could you help me?

***** NOT A TEACHER *****

Hello, Jackson:

  1. I had never heard of this strange (but elegant) phrase until I read your post.

  2. I did not get much sleep last night, for I was thinking about its meaning in your sentence.

  3. I wish to offer four definitions that I found in my book and on the Web. Then I hope that some other members will explain to us what your sentence means.

a. I CAN tell you with some confidence that this phrase is not often used in modern English. I found MANY examples of “deserve well of” by going to the “books” section of Google. They were mostly by older authors.

  1. Here are the definitions that I mentioned:

a. To be worthy of recompense. Especially in the phrase “to deserve well, or ill, of.”

– Webster’s New International Dictionary (first copyrighted in 1909).

b. do something or have or show qualities worthy of (a reaction which rewards or punishes as appropriate).

Oxford Languages | The Home of Language Data. (Web)

c. An example sentence: “One man may merit or deserve of another.”

– Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913). (Web)

d. To merit; to be worthy of our deserving; as,

He deserves well or ill of his neighbor.

– Webster’s 1828 Dictionary (Web)

  1. Finally, let me give you this beautiful example that I found on the Web:

“Our teachers deserve well of the people of the town. They have been true to their trust and rendered successful service.”

a. I think that I know what that means, but I’m not 99.99% confident, so I shan’t say it.

Now let’s wait for someone to study those definitions and then to explain your sentence. I really want to understand that phrase, for I want to use it! It is so beautiful and elegant.


  1. What a forciful clinching argument. Thank you very much.

  2. Your answer is already excellent.

  3. There’s really no need to say whether a member is a teacher or not. I’ve read some of your posts, and the answers are all good.

Thank you for your kind note.

Would you please explain to me what “[T]hose who defy this canon DESERVE WELL OF the language” means?


I find myself in an invidious position of explaining English to a native English speaker.

But anyway, if I am wrong please correct me.

It means, those who violate the rule of using FIDDLE in familiar or contemptuous use only have given good treatment to the English language; because at the end of that para, the writer says VIOLIN, a word from Italian, should not be allowed to upset the natural run of the English sentence. I believe my explanation is not a good one and probably it is the opposite of the intended meaning; at the end of the day I as an undergraduate in Asia am not capable of disentangling hundred year old English. This, after cracking the passage for half an hour, is what I can do at best.

Thank you for your explanation. I shall study it carefully.

In fact, many advanced learners, such as you, know more grammar than do many native speakers. (Or is that: “than many native speakers do”? I used the inverted sentence because the sound pleased me and it automatically came to mind.)



Your sentence’s given me a mighty headache! :slight_smile:

Could you provide some more context? Someone might be able to figure this out then! Thanks!

Sorry for the confusion. You have already told me what you think that sentence means.

Have a nice day!


Hello James,

Sorry, I don’t understand – I hope you are not apologizing because of my post! Perhaps you consider it to be rude? I only asked for more context because I thought it might help to come up with a better understanding of that sentence. I know that Jackson’s already explained what he thinks it might mean, but he also said he’s not at all sure his interpretation is right, didn’t he?

Besides, the original poster is absolutely free to simply disregard my message!

***** NOT A TEACHER *****

Hello, Cristina:

As you young people say: OMG!

I did not notice that the post came from you. I had assumed that it had come from Jackson.

I humbly apologize for any misunderstanding.

I am SO happy that you are interested in Jackson’s sentence. I love that old-fashioned phrase “deserve well of” and want to use it in my speech – if I can learn exactly what it means!

I have been googling like mad, and I have discovered the context of Jackson’s excellent question.

In 1926, an English gentleman named Henry Fowler published a book on “good” English. It was called A Dictionary of Modern English Usage. People in England (and the United States) loved it.

Mr. Fowler was upset because many English people were no longer using the word “fiddle” in formal conversation. They were using the word “violin.” Mr. Fowler saw no reason to discard “fiddle.”

He then wrote these words:

If the word [“fiddle”] is, as the O[xford] E[nglish] D[ictionary] says, “now only in familiar or contemptuous use,” it is matter for regret, & those who defy this canon deserve well of the language.

In the two other editions (which I have), that sentence does not appear. I guess that the editors thought “deserve well of” was too old-fashioned. (I read the 1926 edition online.)

Now, I get the general idea: anyone who continues to use “fiddle” instead of “violin” is a true patriot of the English language.

What I want is an EXACT translation.

Can you help me?


P.S. Thanks again for teaching me to carefully note who has sent a message before replying!

Reading that book online should be with caution. I just use google to find a particular phrase that I have come across in my classic first edition, hardback. There are lots of mistakes in that online version.

Thank you, Jackson.

Hello James,

Thank you so much for clarifying! :slight_smile:

I can’t help you with an EXACT “translation” but I can tell you that I thought of two possible meanings for “those who defy the canon deserve well of the language”.
One is --I think-- basically the same as the one you’ve already given. (To be exact, I thought: “those who defy the canon by continuing to use the word “fiddle” in a formal way, are faithful to the English language and worthy of it”.)

And then I daren’t say the second possible meaning that I thought of – it seems too ridiculous when written down!

Sorry, I know this doesn’t help any.

***** NOT A TEACHER *****

On the contrary! You have hit the nail on the head!

That is the best (and clearest) answer that I have gotten from anyone.

Here is a similar answer from someone: “They are worthy of being called good speakers of English.” (I do not know if he wants his user name publicized, so I shan’t give it.)

Finally, I found a scholarly book in the “books” section of Google that contained some info that may interest you.

It says that somebody can deserve something, [that is] have a right to something because of his / her qualities, hard work, etc.

It gives this elegant sentence:

For [Mr.] Hills, despite the vast length of time spent abroad, represents the best of his country, and deserves well of it.

a. I assume that “it” refers to “his country.”
b. Based on your analysis and that of the unnamed user cited above, I think that it means something like:

Mr. Hill is worthy of being considered an outstanding citizen of his country.

Do you agree?


P.S. That book is A Valency Dictionary of English edited by Thomas Herbst.




I agree. :slight_smile:

I agree. :)[/quote]

***** NOT A TEACHER *****

Thank you for your confirmation.

When you get some extra time, you may wish to google “deserve well of.” (Be sure to type the quotation marks, too.) When the results come up, click on “More” at the top of the results page and then click on “books.”

There are hundreds (thousands?) of older authors using that phrase.

I found one that I thought would interest you. It comes from a 1935 book called Deserts on the March by Paul B. Sears.

  1. “Man, if there were no grasses [such as rice, wheat, maize], would be just one of the animals.”

  2. “No one would deny to the grasses the credit they deserve for their role in elevating mankind from the beasts.”

3." Yet there is another reason why the grasses deserve well of man."


Thank you James,

I’ve found the book you mention – I understand it’s just a preview (if that’s the right word), not the whole book. Anyhow, I intend to look at it again tomorrow – it’s rather late where I am and I’m a tiny bit too tired to think straight. :slight_smile: