In Honor of National Grammar Day: It’s Between You and Me… Not I
Published in ChicagoNow, March 9, 2018
March 4 was National Grammar Day, so this is a belated rant about one of my pet peeves: the misuse of I when it should be me. Reading my morning paper last week (that should give you a clue as to my age), I came upon this Corey Lewandowski quote in an article about Hope Hicks. He was explaining how Donald Trump was a father figure to him as he “always called Hope and I the kids.”
Not again. Someone using I when they should have said me. I know. I shouldn’t expect Corey Lewandowski to speak the King’s English. But he has lots of good company in committing this grammatical error. An educated woman who sent me a carefully written email made the same error stating, “Thank you for emailing Jane, Mary, and I.”
Between you and me, what’s so hard about figuring out when to say me rather than I?
Mignon Fogarty, Grammar Girl, explains it this way:
“Most grammarians are sympathetic to people who say between you and I because it’s considered a hypercorrection. The theory is that people have been so traumatized by being corrected when they say things such as Ashley and me went to the mall instead of Ashley and I went to the mall that they incorrectly correct between you and me to between you and I.”
Well, that’s one explanation for this phenomenon. But I have another theory. Me no longer sounds important enough. We are living in an I world. Since this error most often happens when one or more names accompany the person speaking, being me is too humble. It sounds far more important to refer to oneself as I, no matter what grammatical rules tell us.
It’s actually very simple to choose the right pronoun. Just remove the other nouns in the sequence and ask yourself, it is correct to say “me go to the store” if the sentence is “Jane, Mary, and (I or me) go to the store.”? The error is more frequent in the other direction. Let’s look at Corey’s statement again. Would he say, “Trump always called (I/me) the kid.”? All he had to do was remove Hope (which had really happened, prompting his remark) to see the error of his ways.
What is disconcerting about the whole thing is that no one seems to notice or care about the “between you and I” problem. I never see “[sic]” inserted within these quotes to indicate that the grammatical error is intentionally reproduced, but that the journalist understands that I is being used incorrectly.
So here we are in 2018, evidently an era in which most people prefer to be an I, no matter where that word comes in a sentence. As a long ago former English teacher and a woman who grew up diagramming sentences (google that if you don’t know what it is), every time I see or hear this grammatical error, I cringe. Between you and I, most people my age and me just don’t see why it is so hard to get this right.