As you may recall from two of my previous posts about language and word use, Writing Wrongs and Caring Less, I get annoyed very easily when I hear or see the English language being abused. I'm not talking about slipping into some regionalisms on occasion, or using slang when it makes sense. I'm talking about when people have absolutely no idea of how the language works. Ironically, many of the people I hear abusing English the worst are often the ones screaming loudest about making America an English-only country. They should take some remedial lessons before they open their mouths on the subject.
My focus today will be on pronouns. You know, those words that substitute for nouns, like I, me, she, they, and so on. Some of these words are subjective pronouns; they are doing the action in a sentence, like "I wish this stuff didn't annoy me so much" or "She should learn to speak properly before she says another annoying thing." Then there are the objective pronouns, that have the action done to them, like "Give the remedial English lesson book to her" or "I'm going to smack him in the head if he uses the wrong pronoun again". These are sentences I have said more than once.
I think the most common error is using I when me is called for. It seems like people were scared away from ever using the word me when they were kids and being constantly corrected for saying things like "Me and Jimmy are going to the liquor store" or "Me and Jimmy will be in the garage smoking a joint". First of all, stop worrying about the pronouns and get your kid away from Jimmy!
Now that Jimmy's in a Juvenile Rehabilitation Center, you can tell your child that me is the wrong word and that I is the correct subjective pronoun to use. But since this is probably the most common incorrect use of me, and it gets drummed in constantly to use I instead, me has become a four-letter word. I can count, you know what I mean. So the result is people use I as both a subjective and an objective pronoun, because they are either afraid to say me, or because they sometimes feel using I sounds more sophisticated.
The mistake usually occurs when there are more than one objects in a sentence, so you'll hear something like "Give the money to Jimmy and I" (apparently said after a drug deal - Jimmy was released too early) instead of "... Jimmy and me". The best way to get it right is to assume Jimmy isn't there (which he wouldn't be if the court system were any better). You wouldn't say "Give the money to I" so why would you use I just because Jimmy is involved? You know every time Jimmy's around something's going to go wrong!
Also, people use a phrase like "Jimmy and I" as if they were inseparable words and place them anywhere, as the subject, as the object, or in the absolutely worst usage I have ever heard, as a possessive. I have heard numerous people say something like "That is Jimmy and I's haul from the bank job". Again, how would you say it individually? "Jimmy's haul" and "my haul" so combined it would be "That is Jimmy's and my haul". Easy, right?
And for crying out loud, could someone please do something about Jimmy?
To be continued....
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