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What does "Oh to have..." mean, as in "Oh to have a song in a national campaign" in Jon Lajoie's song "Please Use This Song"?

Can somebody explain the origin and meaning of this expression? In what contexts can it be used?

closed as unclear what you're asking by phenry, oerkelens, Ronan, Matt E. Эллен, Mari-Lou A Jun 17 '14 at 10:07

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    Can you give an example of this expression being used? – phenry Jun 16 '14 at 22:46
  • I asked myself this question when I heard : "Oh to have a song in a national campaign" in "Please Use This Song" a song of JON LAJOIE. – Friedrich Jun 17 '14 at 14:14
  • I was wondering how to understand this sentence and more generally what was the origin of this expression that I find a bit weird in the construction (as a french). – Friedrich Jun 17 '14 at 14:21
  • I've added the example to the question and nominated it for reopening. – phenry Jun 17 '14 at 19:40
  • This is strictly General Reference, because this means exactly what the dictionary says it means. It is a standard word, used in a standard way. Please consult a dictionary for the interjection oh or o, which are the same thing. – tchrist Jun 17 '14 at 23:42
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Richard III could have used the phrase rather than:

"A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!"

For example:

"Oh to have a horse!"

It expresses a desperate desire to posses something that cannot be possessed.

  • Found more often in poetry. – Centaurus Jun 16 '14 at 23:26
  • I agree....it is not a conversational idiom. – Gary's Student Jun 16 '14 at 23:27
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"Oh, to..." is a common poetic expression, indicating that the idea of something arouses the author's feelings.

O, TO have a little house!
To own the hearth and stool and all!

- Padraic Colum

O to go back to the place where I was born,
To hear the birds sing once more,

- Walt Whitman

Oh, to be in England
Now that April's there,

- Robert Browwning

Oh! to see his tartan trews,
Bonnet blue, and laigh-heeled shoes,

- Alexander Geddes

Oh, to feel the wild pulsation that in manhood’s dawn I knew,
- William Edmondstoune Aytoun and Sir Theodore Martin

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The interjection oh can have a number of meanings, one of which is to signal strong emotions.

When followed by an infinitive, it is often used to signal whistfulness or longing. This may be because the infinitive construction has a hypothetical characteristic, and the yearning expressed is for what could be rather than what is.

When the interjection is used to signal more immediate and pressing emotions, other forms are more common, such as simple nouns or imperative verbs

Oh, the humanity! [expressing horror at the loss of life]

Oh, please save me!

Oh, go to hell!

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OED s.v. oh, int. and n.1

A. int. Expressing (according to intonation) surprise, frustration, discomfort, longing, disappointment, sorrow, relief, hesitation, etc.

Here the expression is of longing. The relevant OED example is from the Hymns of Isaac Watts (1707): “Oh! could we make our doubts remove.” A closer parallel of the exact usage in question, with infinitive, though not explicitly mentioned in OED, is the opening line of Browning’s “Home Thoughts from Abroad” (1845): “Oh, to be in England now that April’s there.”

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