Thursday, February 26, 2009

Her has won .. Me went .. Tarzan go get Jane

Following up on the Times column that whistled the President for the grammar foul of saying, "...between you and I," here are some other object object lessons.

In all the case cases below, the speaker has only to switch the order of the people to reveal the error. No one would say, "...between I and you," because it sounds wrong.

Someday the English language may make no distinction between the subjective and objective case in personal pronouns. But for now we're stuck with trying to keep things straight.

From John Adams' story in today's Knoxville News Sentinel, quoting Mississippi State hoops coach Rick Stansbury: "They made plays. Him [Bobby Maze] and [Scotty] Hopson made plays."

In an an earlier News Sentinel story, a sentence from a Karns High student's letter (absolving a teacher for allegedly offending her) reads: "Him and I have always joked around."

Another earlier story quotes a student saying, "Me and Zach try our best not to talk about football..."

Once, at halftime of a Lady Vols' victory over Georgia, the poised and articulate Lisa Leslie began a sentence about two great coaches in women's basketball with, "Her and Pat Summitt have won more games than anyone."

Many of our kids say, "Me and Janie went to the Mall." Would anyone (other than Johnny Weissmuller) ever say, "Me went to the Mall"?

A Jeff Foxworthy Harbrace Moment

Harbrace Section 5: Case charts the cases of pronouns, then adds, "Pronouns my, our, your, him her, it, and them combine with -self or -selves become intensive/reflexive pronouns.

[Basically, these are objective pronouns that have gotten somewhat big for their britches and are used for emphasis to refer to a noun or pronoun in the same sentence.] Formal English does not accept myself as a substitute for I or me." [I myself don't care.]

Then there's a note [perhaps revealing Harbrace's Tennessee roots] "Note: Hisself and theirselves, although the logical forms for the reflexive pronouns [durn tootin'!], are not accepted in formal English [dang it!]; use himself and themselves.

Bill lives by himself [NOT hisself].

They live by themselves [NOT theirselves]." [We might add: and certainly not "theyselves."]

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

That pesky "I" as the object of a preposition

From The New York Times
February 24, 2009

Op-Ed Contributors: The I's Have It

Since his election, President Obama has been roundly criticized for using "I" instead of "me." Here is a tip, Mr. President.

peripatetic -- just a ramblin' kind of word


peripatetic (per-uh-puh-TET-ik)

1. Moving or traveling from place to place.
2. Of or related to walking, moving, or traveling.
3. Of or related to Aristotle: his philosophy or his teaching method of conducting discussions while walking about.

1. An itinerant
2. A follower of Aristotle.

From Latin peripateticus, from Greek peripatetikos, from peripatein (to walk about, to discourse while pacing as did Aristotle), from peri- (around) + patein (to walk). Ultimately from the Indo-European root pent- (to tread) that also gave us words such as English find, Dutch pad (path), Hindi path (path), French pont (bridge), and Russian sputnik (traveling companion).

USAGE: "With his back to goal in a crowded space, the peripatetic Frenchman [Nicolas Anelka] deftly chipped the ball over his shoulder, and into the net for the equalizer."Rob Hughes; Michel Platini Set to Make Plea to Cut Influence of Money in UEFA; International Herald Tribune (Paris, France); Feb 15, 2009.

Friday, February 6, 2009





1. Quick-tempered.
2. Showing anger or resulting from anger.

ETYMOLOGY: From Latin irascibilis (quick to anger), from irasci (to grow angry), from ira (anger). Ultimately from the Indo-European root eis- (passion), which is also the source of irate, ire, hierarchy, hieroglyphic, and estrogen.

USAGE: "Mr. Weir concludes from his large experience that the erection of the feathers is caused much more by anger than by fear. He gives as an instance a hybrid goldfinch of a most irascible disposition, which when approached too closely by a servant, instantly assumes the appearance of a ball of ruffled feathers."Charles Darwin; The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals; 1872.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

That pesky comma before the conjunction linking independent clauses

From today's News Sentinel:

"The new head of the University of Tennessee’s main campus in Knoxville aims to minimize the harm of imminent state budget cuts with careful planning but he said effects will be felt at the classroom level."

Whoops! The prolific and talented Chloe White forgot the comma before the "but."

Harbrace 12a A comma ordinarily precedes a coordinating conjunction that links independent clauses.

as in --

subject + predicate, . . . . {not so yet} . . subject + predicate

The minutes would pass, and then suddenly Einstein would stop pacing as his face relaxed into a gentle smile.


13b Delete commas that immediately precede or follow coordinating conjunctions unless they link independent clauses.

as in (remove the parenthesized comma)

I fed the dog (,) and put it out for the night.

In other words, if there's just one subject and two predicates, no comma.