Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Very Common and Very, Very Wrong


The above picture will illustrate how I feel about a certain ubiquitous grammar meltdown. In my last blog I warned that I would be exposing the most egregious language mistake this side of Mima Williams, my "Advanced American Grammar" professor at ACU. Mima was an old, unmarried former Marine officer whose stare could drill holes in titanium. On my first day in her class, she paused while calling roll and said, "Is Jimmy Milstead present?" Seizing the opportunity to brown-nose a tough teacher, I pointed to a guy who had just stepped out into the hall and said, "That was him!". Well, dark thunderclouds instantly appeared on her brow and she was trembling as she shouted to me, "THAT WAS HE!". So began a tough semester.

Well, I digress. Everywhere Carole and I go, every time we are watching SportsCenter or listening to a game, we are beaten down by folks who don't know which pronoun to use as an object of a preposition. Ministers, teachers, congressmen, and athletes succumb to this train wreck of usage. Here are some examples:

"It was a secret between her and I."

"A very nice dinner awaited my girlfriend and I."

"There was discord among he and his friends."

Very simply, the object of a preposition must be of the objective case. That means you simply cannot use pronouns like "I", "he", or "she" in those situations. The funny thing is that some folks confidently toss in an "I" because they faintly remember from their early schools days that it is wrong to say, "Lester and me went fishing." "I"is given unnatural powers, becoming the always correct pronoun to use in any circumstance. So they assert, "Just between you and I, I'm getting married in June." And then they relax in the quiet satisfaction of knowing that they are grammatically superior to their audience.

Listen, folks. This isn't hard. You will always use the correct word if you use the following test. Merely drop the other half of the prepositional phrase and see how it sounds using only the other pronoun. Let me illustrate:

"There were instructions waiting for Billy and (I/me)". You wouldn't say, "There were instructions waiting for I", would you? Naw, man. Hopefully, you would say, "There were instructions waiting for me". Aha! Bingo! There's the pronoun you need to use!

Let's try a second example: "The hosts were especially gracious to my wife and (I,me)." You have serious issues if you think , "The hosts were especially gracious to I." We all know you would use "me". So, then, "me" is the absolute correct choice in the original sentence.

Work on it, America. If we don't strive to save the King's English, our descendents will be speaking some conglomeration of mish-mash, disjointed ebonic code words that will bear no resemblance to our proper tongue. Speak and write correctly, America! Take pride in being linguistically pure as the driven snow.

Don't throw Mima under the bus.

6 comments:

Blake Perkins said...

Again, get me a gun!

Heather said...

I'm so guilty I guess and I DID think I was linguistically superior. Because it always bugged me when the FOX 4 news promo would have Clarice Tinsley say, "Join Baron James and me at the news at 10". I always think she should say, "Join Baron James and I". But I guess I am wrong.

Brett and Jenny Perkins said...

Jenny and me will start working on this immediatley.

bigwhitehat said...

I have also had problems with the misuse of the English language. I speak this language the way God and Sam Houston intended it.

You might enjoy this little post.

Tim Perkins said...

Big White: That is a great discussion of "y'all" you have there. I have only heard "y'all" used in a singular sense one time and that was in an old Harriet Tubman documentary.

I guess I need to travel deeper into the Deep South to hear it more often in that sense.

And what does Sam Houston have to do with appropriate language?

Becky said...

hey- i actually knew this!
AND i am happy to see you put the apostrophe in the right spot in y'all.