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Why you and I are over(used)

September 7, 2018

I'm not sure it necessarily comes with being a writer, as I've edited plenty of books that were beautifully yet incorrectly written. It possibly has more to do with where, when and how we were educated. 


Wherever it comes from, I have a confession.


I'm a grammaholic. 


I'm not totally obsessed with it. I write fiction, where it's hard to get away with using perfectly constructed sentences and avoiding all split infinitives the whole time. We've all relaxed a little in writing terms, to honour the story and our characters.


When it comes down to the basics, however, I am wont to get a little testy. It's or its' instead of its. Apostrophes in general. Should ofs. Shudder, shudder, shudder. On occasion, I have been known to stop in the street to point out the horrors on a shop's advertising to complete strangers, particularly if the offending store sells books. I mean, how? And why? And how? 


But now there is a new kid on the butcher's block of grammatical faux pas. (Yes, I know I'm not meant to start a sentence with but. Please see above about relaxing. Although it doesn't apply to the following.) 


What is this obsession with saying 'you and I' (or he and I, they and I, basically someone and I) on every single occasion? It is not posh. It is not correct. Sometimes it is actually 'You and me.' I suspect that, somewhere back in the distant past, someone got their wrists slapped for daring to say 'me', which sparked a conviction that it is always 'you and I', in any circumstance. Like 'May I' and 'Can I'. Ach.


The very worst offenders were the cast (and I use that word advisedly) of Married At First Sight Australia - another of my shameful obsessions. The contortions of he and shes and Is and theys were mind-bending. When Tracey whined about 'Dean and I's relationship', I nearly had conniptions. Things were chucked at the TV. I actually started to wonder if Dean was the smart one in that particular pairing. 


The trouble is, though, that unless you remember your Year 10 English Grammar lessons - and that's if you even had Year 10 English Grammar lessons -  it's tricky to spot when it should be 'me' and not 'I'. I obtained a much stronger grasp of it, not through English, but through A Level German, where we had to learn lists of particular words that sparked the dative and accusative tense, neither of which I'd even heard of in English lessons.


They were drummed into us so effectively that I can still recite them to this day: mit, nach, bei, seit, von, zu, gegenuber, aus. Dative. Me instead of I.


Well done to my A Level German teacher, Mr Mays. Ausgezeichnet, in fact (and for the other phrase I remember distinctly, which translates as Blackforest Gateau with whipped cream. It's really very useful for cake-related emergencies, as well as incredibly satisfying to intone as if you're saying something deeply intelligent. Although I have just learned that you can recite these words to the tune of the Blue Danube, and that could of ... ach ... have been fun). 


So how to translate this for use of 'me' instead of 'I'? Well, those words listed in my textbook - Sprach Mal Deutsch! - are prepositions. They denote place or movement to a place. With. After. By. Since. From. To. Opposite. Out. If you've used any of those words, then even if you were with Dean, it's Dean and me. After Dean and me. From Dean and me. Or, if it makes it easier, from me and Dean. 


In fact, that may be much easier. You wouldn't say 'This is a present from I', would you? Just take out the other person, and see what makes sense. Sean came after Dean and me. The relationship between (which is a preposition) Sean and me will last forever. Davina is the exact opposite of me. 


I hope that helps. I hope this can bring back the use of 'you and me' in all the right places. I hope, too, that I can find out soon whose baby Tracey is having, or the palpitations may begin again. 


And that's it from I. 

















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