5 abr. 2008

I heard on an NPR newscast yesterday: "HIllary Clinton released tax returns for she and former president Clinton."

The classic hypercorrection. Nominative pronouns sound more formal. We are taught not to write "Him and me don't get along so good." So "for she" sounds more correct than the more natural (and grammatical) "for her." To avoid a grammatical mistake you make a grammatical mistake, since the correct form sounds too informal, somehow. People who go around saying "it is I" don't trust their own grammatical instincts as native speakers. Imagine you're looking at a police line up. You identify the subject. What do you say: "That's him" or "*That is he"? Only a misguided urge to be more "correct" leads to the second option.

But for some reason in compound nounphrases there is more tolerance either way. "For my father and I,... " That sounds almost ok. Nobody says "For I..." in place of "for me." Nobody says "Me went to the store," even though almost everyone says "Me and my dad went to the store."

"My family and I live in..." that sounds good. But not "*I and my family..." "*I and you have to talk" = ungrammatical. It has to be "You and I" or, colloquially, "Me and you."

So the hypercorrection "For she and the president" is the mirror image of the use of me, him, her, them, as nominative pronouns in longer noun phrases in colloquial speech.

2 comentarios:

K. Silem Mohammad dijo...

Of course, the difference between "it is I" (or "it is he, she, etc.") and "for she and Clinton" is that the former is right, whereas the latter is a clear error. Whether one is "misguided" in choosing the correctness of the former has more to do with decorum than grammar. For instance, you probably wouldn't want to say "it is I" in a cell full of lifers.

CLAY BANES dijo...

I made the mistake in boot camp with a substitute drill sergeant, when asked whether I was wearing my government-issued eyeglasses, of answering, "Sir, these are they!" (I used to talk like that in those days.) It did not kill me. It was misguided, and I felt immediately self-crushed by my error. This was an intimate conversation, our faces a hand apart. Kind of like intelligent bloggers who never learnt the difference between "a while" and "awhile."