Archive for the ‘English language’ Tag

WHO CARES ABOUT I? ME DO.   15 comments

There’s been an interesting discussion going on in the “Definitive Serious Writer’s Group,” Terrence Brejla’s creation on LinkedIn, about the use/misuse of the English language. Mostly it’s people who love the language, bemoaning the contamination so common now in everyday parlance, including – even especially – in the media. I share the pain. I also remember my big brother’s argument. Absolutely meticulous in the use of language, he argued, nevertheless, that the purpose of speech is communication. If one grants that, then it’s important to avoid using language as a cudgel to shame others. It follows that one sometimes modifies usage to join with the other speaker(s) in a community of understanding.

I think he was right about the community-of understanding argument. On the other hand, the usage rules we’ve learned along the way are designed to facilitate just such civil discourse. How do we avoid cudgeling – assuming we adopt that purpose – and still uphold the beauty and purpose of the language? Let’s face it. Language is always changing, and some of the things that upset us now will be in the textbooks somewhere down the road.

Take, for example, something like, “Me and him went to the movies.” Who would say, “Me went to the movies,” or “Him went to the movies?” Yet when they go as a couple they become objects. How did that happen? What about community? Back in the olden days, there was a courtesy. “He and I went to the movies.” We’d never have said, “I and he went to the movies.” Does that say something about a general tendency to put ourselves first, reflecting a changing attitude toward community?

Then there’s the phenomenon that reminds me of the feeling of being the nasty person who wouldn’t allow smoking in my house. That was “rude,” preventing one acquaintance from entering my house ever again. The look I get is similar when I say something like “Mary went with him and me.” The classy version, it seems, is “Mary went with he and I.” Would that same person tell me “Mary went with he,” or “Mary went with I?” How did the change happen?

I mean, Just sayin’, ya know

Posted March 20, 2012 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized

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