My mind, my thoughts, my words

Me like I


a “me like I”

I noticed a strange phenomenon in the speech of a friend: Instead of “let my friend and me know” she would say “let my friend and I know”. So instead of the accusative case, she’d use the nominative case. I wondered why that was the case, where exactly she came from and whether this was a common phenomenon in her region.

My friend told me that she’d been taught English grammar by an old nun at a Catholic School in Connecticut who had insisted on the students using “I” instead of “me”. She said, after observing herself speak, she didn’t use “me” all that often, in conjunction with another noun she would almost always use the nominative case (as for the dative, she would use “(to) me” though).

Most data I could find (online) in terms of Connecticut-English was on accents and dialects. One website made me hope for an answer to my question whether this was the ‘norm’ for Connecticutians. However, the transcripts didn’t offer any utterances that could have suggested a (dominant) use of the nominative in the objective case.

Generally speaking, the use of the nominative in place of the accusative is either seen as very formal (more likely if then followed by a relative clause) or simply as ungrammatical (e.g. 1). It is more common to use the objective pronoun instead of the subjective one in various dialects (e.g. 2).

  1. Standard: They went to see Lucy and me.
    Nonstandard: They went to see Lucy and I.
  2. Standard: We are reading.
    Nonstandard: Us are reading.

I observed the latter one in a song the other day. Take “Me like the way that you hold my body” (thanks for not singing “me like I”).
Richard posted twice about ‘different’ constructions in songs (here and here respectively). Maybe some pop stars are trying to get a more friendly or whatsoever image by integrating dialectal speech in their music? Remembering that I kind of started learning English by listening to English songs, i.e. trying to understand the lyrics, I’m glad that back then not too many such songs existed, or at least that I didn’t come across them (no offence, but I think it might me more beneficial for foreigners to (at least first) learn ‘standard’ English 😉 )…

2 comments on “Me like I

  1. Elizabeth

    Personally, I would say ‘Let my friend and I know’, never “Let my friend and me know”, though conversely, I would say “Let me and my friend” not “Let I and my friend”. I’m Australian, native English speaker, but I don’t know if this is how I was brought up (and I was taught to use nominative rather than accusative) or if it is just a personal idiolect.

  2. Christopher

    This is a simple case of hypercorrection. Speakers have a vague memory of being taught that usages such as ‘me and Sophie had tea’ is wrong (which is false, since ‘me’ is a disjunctive pronoun, cf. French ‘moi’, and Scandinavian ‘mig’, where this usage is completely accepted. Incidentally, preposition stranding, as in ‘Hvad er du intereseret i’ (What are you interested in) is totally grammatical and normal in Scandinavian as well – they have not developed these silly Latin-based prescriptivist neuroses. They don’t really understand why ‘me and Sophie’ is incorrect (the prescriprivist argument is 1) in subject position nominative should be used and 2) they are in the wrong order because putting the other person first is more polite), and think that all cases of ‘me and…’ or ‘…and me’ are wrong. In fase, ‘me’ must be used in many cases even under the prescriptivist ruling because of case, and it can be used in all cases according to the grammar of English as it is actually spoken by most speakers.

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This entry was posted on 28/11/2011 by in Academia, Linguistic Musings and tagged , , , , , , , , , .
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