Recently I heard someone say something along the lines of “Tell her to meet Dave and I by the front of the store.” It’s not the first time I’ve heard this mistake. It’s caught my attention on several reality TV shows I like and it seems as if it’s becoming more and more common. But what interests me is the reason I believe it’s becoming more common.
The blame lies squarely at the feet of prescriptivist linguists (affectionately known to some as Grammar Nazis) who have gone around for decades chiding people saying “Don’t say Dave and me are going to the movies. The correct phrase is, Dave and I are going to the movies.”
Of course the prescriptivists are correct in pointing out that it is technically incorrect to use the objective phrase “X and me” as a subject, but the problem is that, instead of teaching people the correct rules of usage they’ve left people with the impression that “X and I” is more proper than “X and me” in all cases.
I think part of the problem lies in the enforcement of the rules of written language in the context of spoken language. Whether or not you think it is proper to end a written sentence with a preposition, it is never proper to correct a spoken sentence that ends that way. The same goes for most of the rules of written grammar. Speaking and writing are not the same thing. I know that seems obvious, but I wonder how much confusion and general snobbery could be avoided if English teachers pointed out the differences between speaking and writing more frequently. The linguistic rules in our heads are soft and gooey and they don’t always match up exactly with the sharp, adamantine rules in our English textbooks. The simple truth is, people speak differently than they write. And I for one am fine with that.