behoove » be who of

Classification: English

Spotted in the wild:

  • It would be who of us all to stand behind our great leader in this tough time of war. (FreeAdvice forums)
  • Phillips told the council members she felt it would “be who of us to try to do this.” (Sand Mountain Reporter, November 13, 2003)
  • As for patches, who knows, but I think it would be who of any game company to recall a game with major bugs and replace it rather than require a patch to be downloaded, especially on a fixed hardware setup. (Sharky Games forum, January 16, 2001)
  • Doing a little more research online, I found out that it would be who of me to get service pack 2. (Tech Support Guy forum, March 1, 2005)
  • Elementary school is the grade level in which I will be looking into and I felt that it would be who of me to learn a little about Elementary Schools before I start talking about certain topics like bullying. (link)

Analyzed or reported by:

This astonishing reanalysis was just suggested by Wes Munsil, who “wonders what mental model this usage reflects”. Indeed. It’s not even that rare.

ADDENDUM, following orionrobots’ question in the comments.

The eggcorn is puzzling: Most of our collection involve not more than a misunderstood lexical item, or maybe change morphemes or function words. This one, though, takes a rare but perfectly normal transitive verb and creates a) a predicative structure “(it would) be X”; b) an indirect question “who of (you, them, us …)”, which takes the place of the predicative complement X; c) the preposition “of”, which takes what would have been the complement of “behoove” as an argument. The result is grammatical. “Who of me” doesn’t seem to make much sense, but I’ll come to that later.

There are of course irrelevant (non-eggcorn) examples of this:

* We are waging a presidential election in this country at this very moment, the major issue of which seems to be who of these two men is the greatest warrior? (link)

For “would be who of”, the eggcorn takes over, but some examples are still perfectly commonplace:

* An interesting one would be who of our players has consistently failed against the Kangaroos (under Pagan). (link)

Here’s an example I didn’t include — I think it is the eggcorn, but maybe the passage shows how it might have arisen: imagine the question being asked provocatively: “Who of you would consider it?! Well, you should.”

* I have compassion for the plight of those who’re suffering in the hell hole that is New Orleans. But I have very little sympathy. From this time forward, when you’re advised about a “mandatory evacuation,” it would be who of you to consider it, especially if you want any moral consideration of your “Monday Morning Quarterbacking” after the emergency.(link)

For “it would be who of me to [do something]” to make sense, the new structure must have crystallized into an idiom for some speakers. I nearly wrote that it would be unlikely to find eggcornified “it behooves you”, but digging a little further…

* The doctor doesn’t know the Mafia’s choice, so it is who of him/her to protect valuable townspeople and hope the others do not get shot. If somebody asks and you are the doctor, you MUST say so.(Google cache link, from the description of a role playing game)
* This is also why I try to stay current on what the afroementioned nine wise in Washington do. Their case law changes all the time, and it is who of us to keep abreast. That is good civics. (link)

| link | entered by Chris Waigl, 2005/10/20 |


  1. 1

    Commentary by orionrobots , 2005/10/20 at 7:37 pm

    I dont get it! What exactly does “be who of” actually mean?
    If I am inferring the context correctly - it reads as “be wise of”. I am not sure I like it…

  2. 2

    Commentary by Bil Munsil , 2005/10/20 at 11:27 pm

    “be who of” is an ignorant corruption of “behoove.”

    Bil Munsil
    Mesa AZ

  3. 3

    Commentary by pat schwieterman , 2005/10/21 at 4:53 pm

    After “lack toast and tolerant,” I didn’t think I could be surprised anymore. But this one — to quote a rare reanalysis — really bakes the cake.

    The amazing idiom “it is who of us/etc.” has structural and semantic similarities to “it is incumbent upon us,” but I’m not sure whether the latter phrase could have supplied part of the mental template.

  4. 4

    Commentary by Wes Munsil , 2005/10/21 at 7:11 pm

    I first saw this usage a couple of years ago in an email from a colleague, and attributed it to an isolated case of ignorance. When I found this site, I recalled the incident, and was inspired to do a web search. I was amused to see the prevalence.

    The occurrence in the Sand Mountain Reporter is, I think, notable in that the writer presumably transcribed what she thought she heard, and, being unfamiliar with the word “behoove,” came up with “be who of.” I think she probably quoted it precisely (she thought), just because she considered it an odd expression!

    The aural connection is related to the fairly common erroneous substitution “ve” -> “of,” as in “should’ve” -> “should of.”

  5. 5

    Commentary by Adrian Bailey , 2005/11/10 at 10:44 pm

    Once again, spellcheckers/grammarcheckers must take some of the responsibility. By now they should be souped-up (sic) enough to be able to spot errors like “be who of”. Writers rely on such software to help them, not to make them look stupid.

  6. 6

    Commentary by Marcos Benevides , 2005/11/28 at 1:18 am

    If only for the sake of my faith in people, I would prefer not to rush to call this an eggcorn–at least it may not be a semantic re-evaluation. For one thing, it strongly reminds me of the type of mistake speech-recognition applications consistently make. Is it not at least possible that that is where it all started? And if so, would that still be a ‘pure’ eggcorn?

  7. 7

    Commentary by Lucien Holmes , 2005/11/29 at 2:48 am

    Dreadful. But “be who of” it does invite some revisionist thinking, doesn’t it. Something like taking a mathematical antiderivative. How do people grammatically justify this particular construction to themselves? I liked Pat’s comment, and it got me thinking.

    One thought: Loosely, “to behoove” is to be morally or situationally appropriate, right? If, in a frighteningly aural world, a speaker wrote, “It would be who of us to be empathetic,” isn’t it conceivable that what the speaker envisions is that the “who” is a archetypal person? As in the chiefly moral and situational rhetoric, “Who among us will be empathetic?” It would, it follows, be that “who” among us of whom one “of us” would need to be in order to be appropriate.

    I’m not trying to be turgid here. Nor am I trying to make a case for the defense. As I say, it’s dreadful. (And points tangentially to the loss of “whom,” but I’ll see you all on that page later.)

    Pownal, Maine

  8. 8

    Commentary by Bruce , 2006/02/16 at 11:35 am

    This one is scary, but it supports my theory that many eggcorns are mis-hearings that are assumed to be idioms. We have so many idioms in English that the average speaker/hearer knows he is unaware of many of them, so expressions like this can develop easily. When you consider the wild use of apostrophes these days, it isn’t difficult to believe that many people don’t think about what they are saying and writing.

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