I Couldn’t Help Myself: the ‘I’ or ‘me’ Conundrum


I must be on the pronoun bandwagon this month.

That “other” addiction, so lovingly called FB for short, well, I read a comment that was grammatically wrong this morning. I couldn’t help but respond to it as a mini lesson (shrugs). The teacher in me is never fully closeted. The error is so common that it needs further attention. First, though, I’d like to back up a step and explain why I think that it is taken to be so normal or correct that it lies under the radar. Not my radar, though. Mine just bleeped rapidly. The error? Oh ya, don’t let me forget to even mention it. The statement was “My cousin and I.” That’s it. Short, huh? But, everything in context.

As to why it doesn’t bleep for most people is that it’s in our every day speech. Did that example “sound” wrong to you? No? Exactly my point. And before those prescriptivists out there wave their dutiful little forefinger at me about beginning a sentence with a preposition, or writing in snippets, let me defend my writing in saying that I’ve adopted a conversational style myself. FB does that to you, among other avenues that cater to talk-like quips and speak-ese. Being that this is a blog, I can get away with it, and so I fully understand that I’m picking out a minor point here in my example. It’s exactly those little quips and dotted quotes we narcissistically promote via Twitter and such things that probably have encouraged the opportunity for all kinds of expression; it’s just that some things (she says a tad apologetically) stand out. And going back to the “sounds wrong” idea, it does to me. It’s a faint attempt at keeping English communicative in respect to writing. To be sure, I think starting a sentence with “and” is more forgivable, and I long think it’ll become standard by the next generation. Think not? Write me!

So, we end up writing how we speak. Guess what, though? We speak wrong! (momentarily has a flash of a very funny Steve Martin skit on how to teach your kids to speak wrong…know it? The mambodogfaceinthebananapatch bit? Yeah. Classic.) Our writing reflects that. In some cases, writing how we speak is necessary stylistically. Like how I’m writing this blog right now is that it is almost simultaneously coming out my mouth as I’m typing…I don’t always do that (and probably looks pretty silly so I’m glad I’m alone at the moment), but in a conversational style in writing, as might be needed in presentations, or speeches, that’s when we can add that bit of informality and it’s fine. The audience would expect it, and probably not even notice for the most part that it was completely deliberate. Here comes the “however”.

However, the “I” and “me” are often confused, so here is my response to the “My cousin and I” statement.


Rachel Peterson


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