Monday, October 30, 2006

So, you think you're smarter than me?

You may be thinking, "Hah! That foolish woman has a faltering grasp of grammar. It's than I."

Au contraire, mon pest. A recent Language Log post linked to an older post explaining why either me or I is correct. Per the Columbia Guide to Standard American English:

"Than is both a subordinating conjunction, as in She is wiser than I am, and a preposition, as in She is wiser than me. As subject of the clause introduced by the conjunction than, the pronoun must be nominative, and as object of the preposition than, the following pronoun must be in the objective case. ...Some commentators believe that the conjunction is currently more frequent than the preposition, but both are unquestionably Standard."

So if you've been internally berating yourself every time you use "than me," cut yourself some slack. It's A-OK.

11 comments:

E. said...

As an English teacher and an English Ph.D. (not that getting a Ph.D. in English necessarily teaches you jack about grammar and usage), I must further weigh in and say that I like to make a distinction between spoken, casual language and written language or more formal spoken English. I often use "who" when I technically should say "whom," simply because I find that (in most cases) using "whom" in normal spoken English makes one sound as though one has a stick shoved up one's ass.

I also hate it when people think that "can" and "may" are two entirely distinct words with no overlap of meaning, and expect that as an English teacher I will or should enforce that distinction. I'm teaching my kid to say "Can I?" because frankly I think that in 2006 a child who constantly says "May I?" sounds like a little prig.

That said, please do continue to teach us these lovely little grammar points, Orange, because I still enjoy knowing what's correct and why.

Mona Buonanotte said...

I love it when you get all linguistic on me. Tell me more! Tell me about lay/lie....

Anonymous said...
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JoannaO said...

I am fine with the distinctions between colloquial and standard for conversation, but when I heard my daughter's kindergarten teacher say "Her and Megan really get along" I had to bite me tongue hard. Now it's "me and Megan me and Megan" with the occasional "Megan and I (see, mom, I KNOW)."

E. said...

"Her and Megan" - now that's wrong and it sounds ugly. I'm not saying we should throw all grammatical caution to the wind in casual conversation.

But I think Orange's post is especially interesting because it shows how sometimes people are so worried about sounding correct they'll use the wrong word or construction because it sounds more prissy, so it must be right.

Maggie said...

I agree. Using good grammar is of course important but not to the extreme of being prissy. I once was lectured by a teacher friend about using the term starfish because they are not "fish" and "seastar is the PROPER way to say it". Hey, I know they're not fish, but that's just what we grew up calling them. I mean, you know, sea horses aren't horses either! This is sort of on topic...*grins*.

Orange said...

"Just between you and I..."

"They invited my boyfriend and I..."

"I have never drank so much in my life!"

"Have you went to the store yet?"

All of those are examples of trying to priss up language to sound "correct" but mangling it. No, we don't want to hear "You and me are going to..."—but using "you and I" as an object rather than a subject...oy vey. Apparently, people in court on DUI charges tend to say how much they "have drank," presumably because they're striving to avoid any sense of having been intoxicated—but I can't imagine poor grammar encourages the judge to go easy on them. The "have went"/"have wrote"/etc. formation seems to be popping up more often these days—or else the people who talk and write that way are increasingly outing themselves on the internet.

/vent

There, I feel better now.

Feral Mom said...

Is it hot in here, or is it just I?
I heart me (or, as my daughters might say, I heart "my") some Orange-style grammar schoolin.

Anonymous said...

Since when is "than" a preposition? According to the Oxford English dictionary "than" is a conjunction. I must say that I understand it in the universally accepted "than whom." But "than me" cannot be correct. I think this is the case of a descriptivist!

Orange said...

Feral Mom, you and me should get together sometime.

Dharma said...

My mother is doing a happy dance and wishing it were me writing this post.