Saturday, September 29, 2007

me and you and you and me

Of the 22 replies about the "Fred and me" "me and Fred" thing waiting when I got up this morning, there were a few who said things like, As far as I remember from my parents' childhood teachings, it is considered sort of impolite to put oneself first when naming several people and I also grew up being told by my parents to always list myself last as well -- so you say my friends and I went to the store, not I and my friends... In terms of where it originates, I grew up in the States, but I think the grammar lesson came from my English father. But as far as I know it's a convention only - more about politeness than correct grammar. It's only the me/I distinction that's cold hard grammatical rules..

I can't imagine saying "I and Fred went to market" because it sounds wrong....

There was one that seemed to have got the whole thing a bit upside down, which I'm posting in case anyone else is puzzling over it...

Interesting about the me first or last thing, but it is somewhat irrelevant, because if one looks at the sentence and the dependent clause, "me" is incorrect anyway as it should be I as part of the plural subject of the word "chatting." So "Susanna and I chatting" or "I and Susanna chatting" is the object of "hear" but you made the common mistake of using "me" thinking of it being the object of "hear."

Not that you need a grammar lesson from a veterinarian, but I could not keep it to myself.


(Um, probably you should have done. You're suggesting that the sentence should have read And for those of you who want to hear we chatting (or who missed it because of the fire alarm...) or, removing Susanna from the sentence (an easy way to check your Is and Mes), And for those of you who want to hear I chatting (or who missed it because of the fire alarm...) which is slightly wrong unless you're in those parts of rural England in which it's perfectly fine.)

This was the most definitive of all the replies...

This is not a question but rather a response to yours. "Me and..." constructions are just as grammatically correct as "...and me" constructions, when usage suits them. Which, to be frank, yours did. I've never heard of citing "me" last as a preferred method of construction, and I've been a bona fide "Gloomy Grammarian" most of my life.

That said, in the "I could be wrong" vein, coupled with the "now I'll be up all night wondering" urge, I consulted a few books. "The Style Booklet" (David Sonstroem, University of Connecticut) says nothing useful, nor does the Associated Press style manual. Margaret Shertzer's "The Elements of Grammar" spends a great deal of time on nominative (I, you, she, he, etc) and objective (me, you, her, him, etc.) case personal pronouns but cites no preference for the specific order in which said pronouns should appear. "The Elements of Style," that Strunk and White classic, also speaks of the nominative and objective forms of personal pronouns but does not cite specific order as preferred. Finally, the college textbook "Analyzing English Grammar", fourth ed., Thomas P. Klammer, Muriel R. Schulz, and Angela Della Volpe, authors, examines personal pronouns at length and never cites a word order preference. I did not check the MLA handbook, but I imagine its focus is less on usage and more on proper citation (as it should be).

Now - one thing I did notice is that, by and large, many of the examples presented tended to be in the "she and I," "him and me" order. Perhaps your reader has used this prevalence to inform his (or her?) understanding that this order is, in fact, the correct usage? If so, that would be an error of quantity rather than kind - BUT "me and him" and "him and me" are equally grammatically correct, in their contexts as personal pronouns used in the objective.

In short (too late!), as far as I can tell, you and I are correct in our assumptions about when to use "me and Catherine," or "Catherine and me." It's a matter of personal preference, really.

And yes, now that it is 4:00 AM, eastern standard time, I can at last rest easy in my understanding of pronoun usage. Can you tell I am about to earn my Master of Arts degree in English?

Sincerely, yet somehow also Grammatically Yours-

Patricia Lafayllve

and this one, which made me smile, and may have something to do with it...

Sure, I've been told it's generally good form to put yourself last, but in this case, the sentence you wrote was iambic. Had the words been reversed, it would not be thus, and therefore less pleasant to read.

and finally,

Hi Neil,

The Oxford Reference Grammar(2000) states the following:

"Coordinated phrases

...In standard English, conventional politeness requires that in coordinated phrases, the second person comes first and the first person comes last:

my husband and I

you and your husband

you, Mary and me

you and me

In informal speech the first person is sometimes put first:

"This man suddenly fled past me and Martin and all these Falange started firing at him."

As a blog is generally considered to be informal, I think you can probably get away without being considered impolite!

Hope this helps,


It does. And is a good place to end this outbreak of grammar neepery...

You mentioned that they used CGI to ".... cover Charlie Cox's naked torso because it would bring down America." Do you know if they are planning to restore the scene (and any others they deemed too adult for us Americans) in the DVD release? ~lindac

I don't know. I'm sure there will be some stuff that was cut, but I have no idea what... (ghosts I hope. Lots of really funny ghost bits went away.)

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