Kathy Tofflemire, Published January 14 2013
Parenting Perspectives: Readers feel downright peevish, too
A few weeks ago, I wrote a column about my pet peeves regarding grammar, and several readers wrote or emailed me examples of what annoyed them:
• “When did ‘me’ become a dirty word? I hear ‘I’ used as an object several times every day, and it annoys me no end.”
Another reader had the same complaint: “My major peeve is not banana’s or taco’s or even ‘your invited.’ What bothers me is when professionals seem to think using the pronoun ‘I’ is always better than ‘me.’ ”
And judging from the examples she submitted, the confusion occurs when you have I/me connected to another pronoun or name: Did you see Dave and I walk by your house?
There is a very easy way to decide which pronoun to use: Try out the sentence with just “I” or “me.”
You wouldn’t say: Did you see I walk by your house?
An anonymous reader wrote “pride goeth before …” and included a paragraph cut from my column. He/she believes I was incorrect in my usage of “me” rather than “I”:
“And I still have a letter in my desk drawer written by a reader in 1999 chastising me (although she didn’t know it was me) for using he instead of him (the objective case rule) in a headline over a photo.”
If you read it as my saying she didn’t know it was I who wrote the headline, then the writer is absolutely correct that it was wrong. But if you read it, as I meant it: She didn’t know it was me she was chastising, then I believe use of me was correct.
Nobody ever said English grammar was easy.
• A writer, educator and witty friend writes: “Oh, I have so many of these peeves. In fact, I’d say I’ve become downright peevish. But if I ever get to rule the world, I’ve decided my first official act will be to apply the death penalty to anyone who makes plurals with apostrophes. Or misuses ‘its’ and ‘it’s. Or uses ‘they,’ ‘them’ or ‘their’ in place of a singular pronoun when singular is called for. Or says ‘orientate’ …
“Next goal: To restrict legal access to ‘over’ (as opposed to ‘more than’).”
• “Another annoyance is the misuse of ‘less’ and ‘fewer,’ ‘seen’ and ‘saw,’ ‘don’t’ and ‘doesn’t’ ... oh where do I stop! Poor usage of grammar is everywhere, and it’s really frustrating for those of us who realize it.”
• “I hate the use of ‘you guys’ when talking to women or women and men. And don’t buy the excuse that it is so common. When men like to be called gals, I might reconsider. Women have come a long way in gender equity to give it up so easily.”
• “Sometimes I actually hear my old teachers spinning in their graves. Really! Things such as ‘that’ and ‘which’ were drilled into us starting from, I think, grade four or five. Oh, yes, I know everyone says it was different in ‘the old days,’ but it was. None of our teachers would have permitted the sloppiness that teacher friends of mine have to endure today.”
And I thought of another peeve that I neglected to mention in the previous column: It is “to try to,” do something, not “to try and.”
Of course, a column subject can strike a nerve as well as a chord. So, to the reader who advised me that no one cared what I thought and that the column was a waste of Forum space: Don’t look now, but I just wasted some more. Sorry about that.
Kathy Tofflemire is a copy editor at The Forum. Readers can reach her
at (701) 241-5514, or firstname.lastname@example.org