Tuesday, August 24, 2010

It is I

It drives me crazy, but there is nothing I can do about it – the whole thing is bigger than us (oh, excuse me… the whole thing is bigger than we!)
by Charlie Leck

It is I, here again, posting another blog. Thank you for visiting and reading my work.

This morning I am remembering the many times, when I was a young lad, coming home from somewhere and bursting into the house, only to hear my mother’s voice calling from another room.

“Who is it?”

“It’s me,” I’d say.

“Did I hear you correctly, Charles Henry? It is I! How many times need I tell you?”

“No, no,” I’d respond like a wise guy, “it isn’t you. It’s me!”

At that point I would hear her heavy footfalls on the stairs, heading down to confront me. I knew I was in for a good ear twisting.

How many times I hear this mistake these days from otherwise very articulate and well-spoken folks. A radio personality I like very much, with a big, booming voice, is always saying things like: “Well, those guys are supposed to know better than us!” (That’s a direct quote from yesterday’s show.)

I scream at the radio at the top of my lungs: “…better than we, you idiot!... those guys are supposed to know better than we!”

It doesn’t matter anymore. I see the error in books by outstanding writers. I hear it from the leading talking heads on radio and TV. When I complain to my daughter, who teaches English at the college level in Chicago, she just shakes her head and explains that the language is changing – evolving!

Evolving, schmolving! It still grates on my nerves like fingernails on sandpaper when I hear it.

Back in my second single days, when I got lonely and needed an injection of family life, there was one wonderful, Serbian friend, Mary, whose home I could always visit and feel welcomed. She was a stickler about the proper use of pronouns, however, and she reminded me very much of my mother. We would sit at her lovely dining room table, having a mellow and comfortable family moment, and she would not stand for grammatical errors in the dinner-time conversation. Her children reminded me of me in my youth. They loved to toy with their mother and often erred intentionally.

I remember having to memorize the entire English preposition list and being tested on it. I don’t think kids do that today. I don’t think they know what a preposition is – aboard, about, above, across, after…. et al. A preposition is a linking word and it links words (nouns, pronouns) and phrases in a sentence. The word introduced by the preposition (them) is called the object of the preposition. When the pronoun is not an object of the preposition it is then, instead, “they.”

John called Sandy and talked about me.
The truck was moving between us.
The books were written particularly for them.

I write better than he (does)

In the latter example, there is no linking preposition and there is an understood verb (does). When I hear this particular example spoken incorrectly in grates on me because I instinctively hear the understood, but missing, word.

I write better than him (does)!

Urrrrrgh! How awful the sound of that. How lovely when spoken correctly.

I’ve gotten as bad as my mother. I am constantly correcting people – even sales clerks – when I should simply keep my big mouth shut!

I was in the bookstore – a learned, little shop with very sophisticated and actual readers as clerks – when one clerk stood at the computer and struggled.

“Who made this entry?” She asked.

“Oh, that was me,” a younger lady, standing back in a small aisle, shouted.

“No, no,” I shouted back to her. “That was I.”

“No, it wasn’t,” she said, surfacing from behind the row of books. “It was me.”

We could have stood there, arguing all day long about whether it was she or I. I remembered my mother, calling down the stairs.

“Who is it?”

“It is I, mother. It really is I. It would only be ‘me’ if I were an object of the preposition, mother.”

“Oh, how nice,” I hear my mother saying. “The good King’s language shall be preserved!”

If she had a grave, these days, my mother would be rolling over in it.


Was it all such wasted time?


You can email Charles Leck
or you can sign-in to post a comment on the blog
or you can click on “follow” in the top right hand corner

1 comment:

  1. If I didn't know better thou must have learned grammar from a nun wielding a ruler. The high primal was and she's constantly correcting my poor grammar.