I beg (of) you

First came one character (a well-spoken FBI agent) on the television show Criminal Minds saying to another:

I’m begging of you. [to do something or other, which was supplied from the context]

Me, I would have used the transitive variant:

I’m begging you. [to do this]

(In the simple present and with an overt complement, the intransitive and transitive variants both suit me, though they strike me as subtly different semantically, and perhaps stylistically as well: “I beg (of) you to leave immediately.”)

OED2 has the intransitive pattern BEG OF SOMEONE TO DO SOMETHING from 1604 and the transitive pattern BEG SOMEONE TO DO SOMETHING from 1675 (plus BEG SOMETHING OF SOMEONE — “beg a favor / two favors / it of someone” — from 1711), and both continue in use today, with (apparently) some variability as to who uses which patterns and in what contexts.

That was this morning. Then this afternoon, I was reading Terry Castle’s The Professor: And Other Writings, and in the title chapter (pp. 213-4) there was a reference to Dolly Parton’s song “Jolene”. Castle quoted some of the lyrics, but didn’t quote the beginning:

Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene
I’m begging of you please don’t take my man

(which I came across in a Criminal Minds-inspired search on {“I’m begging of you”}.)

“Jolene” has been recorded many times by many different singers, and “I’m begging of you” occurs in various other songs as well — and in plenty of writing on the net. So though it’s not something I think I would say myself, it’s out there in significant numbers.

Ain’t variation grand?

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