Tag Archives: language

“X and I”

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.

Exception to the Rules

I’ve always hated English. Not the language mind you, the subject. The thing I always hated about it was the fact that there were so many “rules” that I was told I was supposed to follow. But the real problem was that is seemed like there were nearly as many exceptions to the rules as there were rules themselves. It didn’t make sense to me. There were no exceptions to the rules I was taught in math. I never had to deal with “2+2=4 unless the preceding problem is 7-9.”
Now that I’m older I realize why my younger self was so frustrated with the system. Because the truth is, there are no “rules” to the English language; there was never a time when a bunch of professors got together and said, “So we’ve got all these words floating around, and maybe it would be nice to develop a framework of grammar for them to fit into.” Language became what it is through usage. That isn’t to say that there’s no right and wrong way of using language, but the heart of good usage is structure.
For instant, this sentence aren’t going to works in your mind because it ignore basic subject/verb agreement structure.
But the thing is, you don’t need to be taught that what you just read is wrong. You sense it intuitively, because that simply isn’t how people use language. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that English as a subject shouldn’t be taught at all. But I do think there should be far less emphasis on the so-called “rules.” To quote Captain Barbossa “They’re more like guidelines, really.”

Word Salad with Ranch Dressing

Today I saw a newspaper with the headline “Teen Remains Jailed” and my first instinctive reaction was, “They jailed the dude’s remains? Man, that seems a little harsh.” It’s weird because the more I write and think about language, the less sense it all seems to make.