Who’s teaching grammar these days?

I have a problem with prepositions. First, I can’t define what one is. Never been able to. But I can point one out with my eyes closed. I know they are used to connect and to relate clauses in a sentence (or something silly like that). But I don’t really know much else.

Second, I tend to use “on” when I mean “of” and “with” when I want to use “in.” So, “the cat left what was left of the plate” is a normal sentence for me. (You can imagine a bunch of cats running around with a pica disorder because of a sentence like that.)

There’s other grammar issues that I’m constantly looking to auto-correct (like, when to use “who” instead of “whom”… That’s such a tough rule!). But one that I doubt I’ll ever understand is the proliferation of my colleagues and friends who get two things terribly mixed up: putting a space before a punctuation mark like an exclamation point or question mark, and saying “him and I” when “him and me” is correct.

I’ve had a few conversation with my grammar and journalist friends about these topics, and we recognized that if the average Joe walked through the door during one of our rants, we’d look like the biggest bunch of losers on the planet who hadn’t gotten laid in 5.3 years. Don’t worry: I see the triviality and silliness of my gripes – and to answer the question that you’re asking in your head right now: yes, I do have a life. Not much of one, but I have one nonetheless.

For some reason, it bothers me that the average American thinks writing “What did you do yesterday ?” or “Please send the documents to him and I” are correct.

Here are some recent written examples of e-mails I’ve received that exemplifies this discussion:

“Could you provide Mike and I with 2-3 examples.” [There actually was no question mark at the end of this sentence either]

“I agree , can you send me all of them so I can what might be good ?” [This sentence killed me. The best part was at  least this person was consistent with putting spaces before the comma and question mark.]

“Thanks for the acknowledgement at the meeting !”

So if I haven’t sounded that sexy and cool with my above rant, this next example will undoubtedly propel me to the ranks of a Sports Illustrated cover model. I actually Google’d why people write “You and I” when they really mean “You and me.” (If you didn’t know why the latter is correct in certain cases, it’s because of the whole direct vs. indirect pronoun thing… Sexy, I know…). My Google search had people claiming that using “you and I” and its variations (e.g., “him and I” and “her and I”…) made them sound more intelligent. Apparently there’s a psychological thing about using the word “me.” People think that saying “me” sounds rednecky and backwardsy. So apparently saying “Could you provide Mike and me with 2-3 examples” (which, people, is CORRECT) sounds elementary and sophomoric. And inherently incorrect.

What kills me is that people actually think they are correct. And they are probably teaching other people this incorrect way. And those students believe it. It’s like some scientist telling people the sun revolves around the earth. Or that Pluto is a “real” planet. Ugh, what dumb scientist would ever do such things?


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