Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Obama's Grammar: Michelle and I vs. Michelle and Me

I think bloggers have forgotten George. W. Bush's incompetence when it came to...well everything, but mostly when it came to giving a speech. According the New York Times' Op-Ed contributors President Obama's grammar has been roundly criticized by many bloggers.

"Since his election, the president has been roundly criticized by bloggers for using “I” instead of “me” in phrases like “a very personal decision for Michelle and I” or “the main disagreement with John and I” or “graciously invited Michelle and I.”

The rule here, according to conventional wisdom, is that we use “I” as a subject and “me” as an object, whether the pronoun appears by itself or in a twosome. Thus every “I” in those quotes ought to be a “me.”

So should the president go stand in a corner of the Oval Office (if he can find one) and contemplate the error of his ways? Not so fast. For centuries, it was perfectly acceptable to use either “I” or “me” as the object of a verb or preposition, especially after “and.” Literature is full of examples. Here’s Shakespeare, in “The Merchant of Venice”: “All debts are cleared between you and I.”

It wasn’t until the mid-1800s that language mavens began kvetching about “I” and “me.” The first kvetch cited in Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage came from a commencement address in 1846. In 1869, Richard Meade Bache included it in his book “Vulgarisms and Other Errors of Speech.” Why did these 19th-century wordies insist “I” is “I” and “me” is “me”? They were probably influenced by Latin, with its rigid treatment of subject and object pronouns. For whatever reason, their approach stuck — at least in the rule books.


First of all the American public must be suffering from selective Amnesia because it was only a couple of months ago when they had a president who spoke like this in public:

"I can press when there needs to be pressed; I can hold hands when there needs to be -- hold hands." --George W. Bush, on how he can contribute to the Middle East peace process, Washington, D.C., Jan. 4, 2008

Secondly, with big companies and banks closing, and people losing their homes and jobs, you'd think the NY times would have better things to write about. Thirdly, I'm totally confused, which one is it? I could have sworn I was taught by my grade school teachers to say so and so and I. Either way, kudos to President Obama, he must be doing a great job if GRAMMAR is the only ammo his critics have to use against him.

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