"What a wonder life I've had! I only wish I'd realized it sooner." Colette

Aug 21, 2018

Grammar School

“You don’t end a sentence with a preposition.”

My boss’s son, an Ivy League graduate, was telling a story of being admonished by some smarty in college; so Doug corrected his original statement to:

“I don’t know where they're from, Asshole.”

That story’s 30 years old yet remains within; emerging every time I hear a similarly-constructed sentence or when I’m composing one myself. This morning a broadcaster make a similar mistake, which of course brought up the anecdote I’m tired of replaying inside my head.  Aren’t these ‘professionals’ hired, in part, for impeccable English which the rest of us needn't be as concerned with? Whoops, ...with which the rest of us needn't be as concerned?

Mini gourd pelicam
I don’t know about you but I can’t remember all the rules from grammar school, like ‘dangling participles,’ which always sounded dirty.  But it doesn’t matter, since rules we learned a half-century ago, along with reading and writing Script are going the way of the Dodo bird.

My recently deceased aunt and I shared a degree of irritation with a particular speech impediment which is so common nowadays as to be considered correct.  Unfortunately, I’ve no longer a soul to gripe with (with whom to gripe); therefore, as usual, it’ll have to be you.

A, B and C
Aunt Cathy was of Greek heritage, born in Marseilles and married to my G.I. uncle since the 1970’s. Fluent in three languages at least, she was proud of her English, which retained a darling French accent throughout her life.  Funny how accents aren’t really lost: Aunt Barbara never managed to lose her Queens accent despite a lifetime in Southern Cal; and people will occasionally pick up on my own New York accent, which I joke, Mom beat out of us as kids.  Some words I simply cannot pronounce phonetically, like kaw-ner for corner and samwich for sandwich; which some find objectionable, too.  

So let me demonstrate that which (to us) are like fingernails on a chalkboard:

“Me and Billy went to the store.” Oooo...makes me shudder.

The formal explanation I was taught as a kid included something like, Ask yourself: if you remove one of the nouns or pronouns, how would the sentence best sound?

“Billy went to the store,” yes.

“Me went to the store,” ya think? Or, “I went to the store.” Better?

Therefore, “Billy and I went to the store,” preferably in that order.

Here’s another: “They wanted to speak to Michele and I.”  Options?

“They wanted to speak to Michele.” Right. “They wanted to speak to I.” ?? “They wanted to speak to me.” ahh...

Therefore, “They wanted to speak to Michele and me.”

I don’t know why this bothers me but it bothered Aunt Cathy, too, so I suspect there are others out there who share this particular pet peeve. You can throw any manner of possibilities together and the same rule (should) apply. I'm no English teacher, but as Mom would say, "Two plus two..."

“Can me and Bobby go with her and Davy?"  OK, choose:

“Can me go with her? Can me go with Davy?” No, but, "I can go with her or Davy."

What about Bobby?  “Can Bobby go with her?” Yes.  “Can Bobby go with Davy?” Sure.

“Can Bobby and I go with her and Davy?”  It's not great, but oddly enough, it's correct; because, “Bobby and I can go with her,” alone or with Davy.

Someone will undoubtedly piece this together:  “Can Bobby and me go with Davy and her?” No, but, “She and Davy can go with you and Bobby.”  Enough already!  Just leave Bobby and Davy at home.

I worried I’m exaggerating, until I read this online:

“When I go camping, usually it’s just my dog and I.

Makes me want to vomit, but whaddaya say, one final quiz?

“When I go camping, usually it’s just (with) my dog,” or, “When I go camping, usually it’s just I.”

How ‘bout, “When I go camping usually it’s just my dog and me,” or, “me and my dog.” It's possible to rephrase that even more.

Thank you for letting me speak my piece. It's freeing to unburden this at last. Trust me, I make plenty of linguistic faux-pas, such as confusing urethral with ethereal, as in, "It was such a urethral moment"; or asking if a client's CEO, who snoozed during one meeting, suffered  from necrophilia rather than narcolepsyThat's awkward.

At least I know Aunt Cathy is laughing, and applauding, in Heaven.

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