Tag Archives: colloquialism

Slang dunk

Here’s a little quiz. In Paul Simon’s song, is “Me and Julio down by the school yard” grammatically correct? The answer: It depends.

This isn’t a post about song lyrics peppered with poor grammar; we’ve already covered that. But let’s take a lesson from me and Julio.

It’s frustrating for us wordies to stand by and witness blatantly bad grammar sliding by as accepted slang. Where are the authorities?

Many parents have given up on correcting children who say “Me and Brittany are going to the mall.” No one is around to apprehend young adults, having graduated from prestigious universities, who say “Me and Justin went out last night.” It seems a lost cause, gone the way of “where are you at?”

That’s because such horrendous violations have gone colloquial. They’re trendy. They’re socially accepted. Some may think they’re cute, but they’re wrong and no one’s doing anything about it.

Assuming anyone cared enough to take this on as a cause, there’s one caution–let’s be careful not to allow history to repeat itself. Many of us learned long ago that “me and [anyone]” is wrong. The truth is that it’s wrong only half of the time. The problem is that some people who took this lesson literally as children are now committing an equally egregious violation as adults. Just as “Me and Brittany went to the mall” is incorrect, so is “She sent the invitation to John and I.” (“Me” is the object and “I” is the subject; it’s that easy.)

I’d like to issue three simple pleas to parents: One, don’t let your babies of whatever age get away with beginning a sentence with “Me and…” Two, don’t let your babies believe that “me” is inherently bad. Three, take the time to teach your children the difference between subjective (or nominative) and objective pronouns. I’d rather hear a kid say, “My Mom took me and Brittany to the mall” (which is technically correct) than “My Mom took Brittany and I to the mall,” which is not.

Still confused? That’s okay. Here’s a place to start if you need a primer. 

Just between you and me, in the context of the song, I think “me and Julio” is correct. We’ll discuss why in the comments, if need be.

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Disastrous dialect

Something has been bothering me and I wonder if I might run it by you.

Has anyone else noticed that people who are interviewed on television after witnessing a disaster or other extraordinary occurrence often use horrendous grammar?

I don’t know if it’s television news media exploiting innocent bystanders, whether disasters tend to occur more often in places inhabited by the less educated or if the combination of trauma and a news camera causes people to bungle their speech.

It seems to me that, far more often than not, when asked what they saw, these witnesses begin with “I seen it…”  Whether it’s a tornado coming at them or a crime taking place before their eyes, they say they “seen it comin’.” 

I have noticed this consistently over time, on local stations, major morning programs and network evening news. It pains me to be so judgmental but the pattern is too prevalent to ignore.

You might have heard that yesterday severe storms hit the Washington, D.C., area, crippling much of the Metro region with fallen trees and power lines. As one of the fortunate few who had electricity, I was able to watch the news coverage on television. I heard “I seen it” from multiple witnesses on multiple channels throughout the day.

Not only do these witnesses say they “seen” something, but some also use “come” as past tense, as in, “it come up behind me.”

One doesn’t have to travel far to find pockets of people who either never learned the basics or have chosen to abandon them. It troubles me enough that I find such poor speech distasteful, but it troubles me even more to see the spotlight on people who speak this way. I can’t quite pinpoint why.

Please don’t dismiss “I seen it” and “it come up” as colloquial because frankly, I’m tired of colloquialism being used to condone poor grammar. Admittedly, I am the first to begin a sentence with a conjunction or end one with a preposition when style authorities allow it in certain instances. It’s a fine line but, if we accept “where are you at?” before long every violation of good grammar will be embraced in the name of popular culture. 

If any members of the media happen to read this, perhaps they’d be willing to offer insight into why the witnesses they interview so often seem to speak this way. Perhaps they could also explain why, when people appear in the studio after seeing someone fall into a well or take a steak knife through the temple, they almost always appear in t-shirts and ball caps. If you were being interviewed on national television, from a studio in Midtown Manhattan, would you show up in shorts and a cap? Do producers believe this lends some particular folksy charm and, if so, are they intentionally making witnesses look like bumpkins? Worse, are they coaching people to say “I seen it?” 

I doubt this is the case. Either way, if anyone has answers, I am eager to put these haunting thoughts to rest.

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Filed under All Things Wordish, News