I’ve finally had it. Lost it. Completely. I’m afraid Henry Higgins was right about the English language. In America, we haven’t spoken it in years. What has finally led me over the brink is the improper use of pronouns, specifically I and me. These two pronouns are frequently misused, and I think it is due to an overcorrection that has occurred in our society over the last thirty or forty years. When I was a young child, I remember saying something to the effect of: “Me and Billy are going to the store.” My mom would dutifully correct me by saying “That’s ‘Billy and I’, dear.” No doubt this sort of correction was going on all over the country with millions of little kids, not realizing that we were using an object pronoun me when we should have been using the subject pronoun I. What I think we heard was that it was altogether wrong to use me in any part of a sentence. What this has lead to is the incredible overuse of the pronoun I in contemporary society until it will be impossible to change. Indeed, there is this inordinate fear of the word me that this author notes:
"In the old days when people studied traditional grammar, we could simply say, "The first person singular pronoun is I when it's a subject and me when it's an object,' but now few people know what that means. [. . .] The misuse of I and myself for me is caused by nervousness about me. [. . .] But the notion that there is something wrong with me leads people to overcorrect and avoid it where it is perfectly appropriate. People will say, 'The document had to be signed by both Susan and I' when the correct statement would be, 'The document had to be signed by both Susan and me.' (Brians, Common Errors in English Usage).
Perhaps most of us are afraid to sound like that 5 year old of yore, even when it is most appropriate to use me. Do we figure it sounds more sophisticated when we incorrectly use I when me is called for? Once you start to take notice you will find that this improper usage is rampant in our society. Music seems to be a bastion of incorrect me/I usage. Maybe you’ll never think of that Eric Carmen favorite “Hungry Eyes” in quite the same way again…Pay attention next time when you are at a party or listening to someone give a speech. You’ll be surprised at how often this rule is broken.
This problem is ironically more common in native speakers than those who learn English as a second language. That is likely because the ESL learners actually study grammar, an art lost in most schools these days. I remember having drills in English class about this and other fine points of the English language. Maybe they don’t teach that in school anymore. All I know is that if you don’t get it by now, me don’t know what to tell ya…