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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Little Help With Ye Olde Pronouns

I'm no grammar maven. That might be obvious to you if you are, in fact, a grammar expert, and also a regular reader of this blog. I'm overly fond of the comma, fearful of the semicolon, and I have never met a run-on sentence that I didn't like. But I'm also never one to turn away an opportunity to learn something new and to correct myself (before I can be corrected by snooty others).

So needless to say, I enjoy a good piece of writing about grammar, and this week the New York Times was happy to comply: "The I's Have It" by Patricia T. O'Conner and Stewart Kellerman is an article explaining the proper usage of "I" and "Me," a distinction I confess to never quite having gotten right, except in the most obvious of circumstances.

In particular the article focuses on the common error "you and I" as opposed to the correct "you and me."

But if your grammar is anything like mine, O'Conner and Kellerman assure you not to fret. According to them:
It wasn’t until the mid-1800s that language mavens began kvetching about “I” and “me.” The first kvetch cited in Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage came from a commencement address in 1846. In 1869, Richard Meade Bache included it in his book “Vulgarisms and Other Errors of Speech.”
Vulgarisms? Hrmph. Well go ahead and lump me in with the other vulgar writers like Shakespeare and Byron. Because, well, between you and I, I'm perfectly content in that company.

3 comments:

Jessica said...

That's funny. I learned that a couple years ago, but I still can't say "name and me" vs. "name and I" because the former does not sound right to me, and I fear other people will think I'm stupid and correct me. When really, it's just the opposite. blargh!

Erika said...

You fear the semicolon? Oh, that makes me sniffle. You've read Eats, Shoots and Leaves, right? That book made me a champion of the semicolon. Humor + proper punctuation = good times. Oh crap. I am person I hate.

stu said...

I'm perfectly happy in that company so long as there's no drink around. At that point, I suspect things might go horribly wrong.