The prince and princess leave without saying "I do"

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Language Log did of course have correspondents at the royal wedding of Prince William (now also the Duke of Cambridge) and Catherine Middleton (now the Duchess of Cambridge). And linguistically, our judgment is that all went well. Or at least, well enough.

One point to be made is that all the songs that use "when we say 'I do'" as a metonymy for "when we marry" (and that phrase even appears in some UK newspapers this afternoon) are plainly not in conformity with the language of the wedding service in the Church of England. There may be forms of the service where "I do" is said, but nobody said "I do" at this ceremony, and nobody was supposed to. When Prince William was asked the long question beginning "Wilt thou have this woman to thy wedded wife…", his answer was of course, "I will". Or to be more phonetically precise, a very quiet and swift gulp from somewhat dry and nervous lips that sounded something like "Uh-wull".

No clear mistakes or departures from the proper text were immediately noticed by Language Log observers (of course, closer acoustic phonetic analysis has yet to be undertaken in our technical headquarters at the University of Pennsylvania).

The once standard phrase "to love, to cherish, and to obey" was altered: the "to obey" part was removed from what Kate had to repeat. But the Church of England has treated that minor edit as an option for some time, as you can see here.

In the first version of this post, I mistakenly charged the presiding minister, the Archbishop of Canterbury, with a slip of the tongue: he very clearly asked both the prince and the soon-to-be princess if they would live together "forsaking all other". This is just not grammatical in modern English: forsaking every other would be grammatical, and so would forsaking all others, but *forsaking all other is not. (Compare with loving every child, loving all children, and *loving all child.) However, it turns out that at least some versions of the text of the wedding service do actually contain the now ungrammatical phrase: see this thoroughly official Church of England site, for example. I confess I had never before noticed this wording (thanks to James Martin for pointing it out to me). It seems that the archbishop (an extremely clear-speaking man) did not misspeak. However, many more modern versions have updated the language and contain "forsaking all others"; that is now by far the most commonly heard version. (Dave McVey suggests to me that Will and Kate chose the most traditional version of the service that avoided the words "and to obey".)

The only errors I heard were the tiny flubs and departures that you always get in spoken language: listen closely to video clips now available all over YouTube and the British press, and you'll find Prince William elided a syllable or two occasionally in his slightly nervous repeating of the vows that Archbishop Rowan Williams enunciated so clearly. But it doesn't matter. It was always close enough and the intent was entirely clear. The organ played, the bells rang, and the prince and princess are duly married. There will be no extra run-through of the ceremony tonight in a room at Buckingham Palace (the way President Obama's inauguration was re-done back in January 2009); it's not necessary. "Close enough for government work," as the saying goes in the construction industry.

The tricky bit will be living a long married life in the public eye and keeping up a punishing schedule of appearances and travel, and forsaking all others. Good luck to them. Congratulations, Will and Kate.

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