Thee Grate Reveler

In Gibbon's indignant account of the destruction of the Pagan temples by the Christians under the reign of Emperor Theodosius, he repeatedly uses the phrase "levelled with the ground" - so frequently indeed that it seems to have already been a cliché when Gibbon was writing.

Today, the phrase has become "levelled to the ground". This is possibly because of the existence of the verb "to level", and the frequent late middle ages description of Death as the great leveller. (I'm told this description was often seen on common depictions such as in Almanachs and even on MA13 of the Tarot de Marseille.) The original cliché seems to have been confounded with "burned to the ground", resulting in the grammatical nonsense of the modern idiom.

The abstract correctness of Gibbon's version makes it rather more acceptable, modern idiom notwithstanding. "levelled to" deforms either the dative pronoun by giving it a genative meaning of (relative to), or deforms the verb, transforming "making level or flat" into "destroy".

I'm going to see if I can slip "levelled with" into the conversation at some point and see if it passes unremarked.

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