Me and Him

Is this grammar goof just another reflection of our “me first” society, asks guest blogger KJ Elsdon

EXCUSE me if I sound even more irritable than usual, but I spent most of the night lying awake, listening to the merry sound of British holidaymakers screaming and shouting outside my bedroom window.
Living on the Costa del Sol, Spain, is a very mixed blessing in July, August and September, since the place reverberates day and night with the sounds of some of the most mind-bogglingly selfish, thoughtless and self-obsessed people on this unfortunate planet. Recent figures show that England is now the most overcrowded country in Europe and, even allowing for the hysteria of the more right-wing British papers, I do worry about the future. Lack of space means that we should be more, not less, considerate towards our neighbours and I fear that the Brits have totally lost the knack.
Tom Wolfe once described the 1970s as the ‘Me’ decade; if that was truly his opinion then I would love to hear his summation of today’s lunatic sprint towards solipsistic destruction. As the 21st century unfolds, the spirit of “me first” becomes increasingly overwhelming and, if any evidence was needed to posit such a theory, we need look only to the deterioration of the English language, in particular the prevalence of “me and him”.

A kick up the backside

I’m middle-aged – certainly not remotely elderly – yet I can recall a time when, as a sprog, I would have received a resounding kick up the backside had my parents heard me use such a construction. The fact that it’s now practically de rigueur to place oneself before one’s companion has also led to the abandonment of the grammatical niceties that distinguished between “me” and “I”. These days it’s no longer, “Dave and I are going to the cinema” but “Me and Dave”.
If there was ever an example of how grammar reflects the vagaries of modern life, then that is surely it. Not only does it invite those of little brain not to worry their empty heads about such subtleties as whether to use “me” or “I”, it also places them firmly where they feel they belong – in the pole position of life. No, don’t worry about anyone else, love; you go for it and damn the rest.
This new construction is the end of the linguistic cul-de-sac created by the confusion that many English speakers experienced between distinguishing “Dave and me” from “Dave and I”. It’s really not a difficult choice to make, although unfortunately hailing from that lost generation of schoolchildren who weren’t taught grammar at primary school, I always followed the rule of removing Dave from the action, which invariably revealed the correct usage.
American linguists have lately bemoaned a similar deterioration, noting the prevalence of “Dave and I”, whether used correctly or not; even President Barack Obama has been caught in the trap.

The Queen’s English?

Roughly 20 years ago, in direct opposition to their considerably less polite British cousins, American teachers of English began again to teach their pupils that “me and Dave” was impolite and it was far better to place the name of one’s companion first. Unfortunately, that campaign has not yet resulted in most Americans knowing which form to use.
Britain is currently trailing the USA in the linguistic etiquette department and I am sure that I’m not alone in wishing that it would catch up.
From the barely literate right up to experienced journalists and esteemed academics, it seems that everyone is falling into the “me and him” trap.
I can’t wait for the Queen’s annual address:
“Me and my husband wish you all a very Happy Christmas.” 

KJ Elsdon

Want to know what I think of life, the universe and everything? Visit

http://paellataffy.blogspot.com and find out. Looking for an experienced copywriter and features writer? Come and have a look at my wares on http://originalwelshdragon.blogspot.com and see what I can do for you! If you like fiction, please visit my writer’s page at http://www.completelynovel.com/paellataffy to see what I’ve been up to.

(Main picture by Piez on Flickr)

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This entry was posted by stevieg on Monday, September 6th, 2010 at 7:00 am and is filed under General, Tips & Tutorials . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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