Hillary’s grammar flub

I have a pet peeve about grammar overcorrection, and it’s rampant in English around the world.

A recent example: In the Hillary/Barack debate the other night, the brilliant Ms. (formerly Rodham) Clinton referred to “the difference between Barack and I.”

Oh brother. The correct usage is “Barack and me,” because “me” is the object of the preposition “between.” “I” is the nominative case first-person pronoun. It is used when the pronoun is the subject of the verb. When the pronoun is the object of a verb or preposition, it’s “me.” (She gave me the book, He hit me, They gave the flowers to my wife and me. They took my kids and me to the theater” (please, not “theatre).

Americans (New Zealanders, too) regularly get this wrong because their mothers and fathers always corrected them as children when they said something like “Me and Barack are going to the Senate.” Mom or Dad would say “Barack and I,” so the kid would learn to say “Barack and I” even when “Barack and me” was correct.

Overcorrection bothers me because it’s an attempt to be good and smart that actually reveals someone’s misunderstanding of basic grammar. Simple mistakes (Me and Leif are going to the game) don’t bother me, because it’s informal speech that is appropriate in most contexts. It’s not an attempt to be a smarty-pants; it’s an acceptance of yourself and your neighbors who don’t always talk right. Overcorrection is for smarty-pantses who are trying to look good but actually don’t know how. I thought Hillary knew better.

When I was a kid, everyone said “Me and him are going to the store,” but nobody ever said “between you and I.” It’s all come from trying to please Mom and Dad without knowing how.

Enough grammar ranting for today. Next subject: “comprise.”


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