Wednesday, July 17, 2013

It's All About "Me"

Why have so many people stopped using "me" after prepositions? Instead they say, "This is just right for you and I," or "Ted went to the game with Tony and I." Friends do it, family members do it, TV news anchors do it, I've even heard an NPR reporter do it. OK, she was reporting from a battleground, so I'll cut her a break for stress, but still...

What's wrong with "me?" Could it be that some "I" misusers think "me" sounds babyish? "Me want cookies now!" Or maybe "I" seems more educated, more elegant, more formal than "me." "Me" certainly feels more sensual in the mouth. You have to press your lips together to produce the "m" sound, the vibration that begins a moan or a moo. "I" is unsullied by such an earthy consonant.

I bet the "I" crowd never had to memorize the 48 prepositions in alphabetical order and be ready for a pop quiz on them every single week, as I was required to do in 8th grade English. If they had, they'd think twice before using a subjective pronoun after a preposition.

But I'm guessing the main reason so many people say "for you and I" instead of "for you and me" is because the usage has become so common. You hear it all the time. My theory--which is probably not original although I can't recall reading about it before--is that Jim Morrison and The Doors share the blame for this. In 1968, they released a single called "Touch Me" that reached #3 on Billboard Hot 100 and has been playing on oldies stations every since. You must have heard it. Here's the refrain:

I'm gonna love you
Till the heavens stop the rain
I'm gonna love you
Till the stars fall from the sky for you and I.

The rhythm slows for the first three lines, which are sung gently, sweetly. Then the tempo starts to pick up and at the crescendo Morrison punches out "FOR YOU AND I!" Yeah, yeah, I know Morrison did it for the rhyme and that there are no grammar rules in rock and roll. And I think it's a great song. I'm just fascinated by the power of music, and by the idea that maybe the emphatic "FOR YOU AND I," heard over and over again on oldies stations, became so embedded in our brains that the usage spread like a virus. Personally, I hope we find a cure for this virus. I think the cure might have to do with memorizing prepositions and diagramming sentences.

What does this have to do with nonfiction for kids? For one thing, it reminds me of something Jim Murphy discussed in one of his INK posts. Faulty "facts"--like faulty grammar--can take hold through sheer repetition.

As for the poor old pronoun "me," I can't feel too sorry for it, since it appears to have usurped "I" as a subject. Me and my kids can tell you all about it.

1 comment:

Ms. Yingling said...

ARGH! Feel your pain. I think that since state testing doesn't cover grammar, it's not being taught properly. Either that, or the lack of Latin in the schools is causing people to have no concept of prepositions taking oblique cases.