Grammar Day 2016: Two days later

I knew Greenbaum had to address the subject/object pronoun situation somewhere. It’s taken me this long to find it. (And if you think that means I’ve been tirelessly poring over the text, hunting for the entry, I appreciate your mental picture of me. I picked up the book again this morning, opened it, flipped a few pages, and there it was. Silly me, having tried to use the index the other day. What a maroon.)

In my copy of Greenbaum, on page 167, under section 5, it says this: “Non-standard dialects exhibit many variants. In some dialects the objective forms of the personal pronouns (me, us, etc.) are commonly used as subject, and occasionally the reverse occurs (e.g., I and he used as objects). The objective forms are common in all dialects when the subject consists of co-ordinated phrases, and they sometimes appear in the informal speech of speakers of standard English.”

His examples are “Because me and John said” and “Xepe and me have had . . .”. Both of these are noted to have come from “private dialogue.” (I am delighted that many of the examples in this text are from actual speech, not edited work. That perspective is beyond enlightening. Also, as this is British, there are many examples that I as an American simply would never consider anyone saying. As I said: beyond enlightening.)

I find it interesting that he and his editors did not include an example like so many people heard on Oscars night, from the speaker who used the construction “X inspired John and I” (or something along that line). Grammarian/editorial Twitter lit up in a horrified conflagration. “Can you BELIEVE he said that?” “How can he have said that?” “He should be mortified. I am!” I read the tweets and nodded to myself. No, I wouldn’t say that. I’d say “inspired John and me” because I would never say “inspired I.” That’s how I work. Why this particular construction isn’t given as an example of usage in Greenbaum’s book, I cannot explain nor have I any intention of guessing. It’s not in there. That’s all I’ve got, folks.

It’s also worth noting, I think, that this text does not include any usage notes like those contained in the Cambridge grammar I referenced in my previous post. Nothing here says anything along the lines of “Some people say this is wrong, but usage shows otherwise.” Nothing. The usage is pointed out as dialect and non-standard, and “sometimes appear[ing] in the informal speech of speakers of standard English,” but the explanation stops there. He does, however, say that the usage of subjective pronouns as objects appears “occasionally.” The objective forms as subjects, though, are “common in all dialects.” To me, that means “fewer people use subjective forms as objects than the reverse.” It’s less common. It’s WEIRDER. That’s probably why so many people gasped when the usage went out to millions of viewers on live tv.

I feel a bit vindicated, but only a little bit.

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