Tag Archives: slang

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.


Filed under All Things Wordish

Ironic, my dear Watson

Perhaps you have read the news that in February, for the first time ever, a computer will compete on Jeopardy!

You might remember when an IBM computer beat chess world champion Garry Kasparov in a six-game match in 1997. IBM’s latest challenge was to build upon that feat by taking technology to an even more difficult and complex level—building a computer that processes natural language, complete with humor, irony and sarcasm, as well as nuances, regionalisms and slang.

Having apparently met that challenge, Watson will compete against Jeopardy! champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter February 14 through the 16, 2011.

The computer, named Watson after IBM’s founder, was developed by technologists and researchers from around the world.

While its debut on Jeopardy! will make a big splash, the goal of the technology is ultimately to forge more advanced communication between humans and computers. This goal undoubtedly will harvest scientific and societal benefits in fields ranging from healthcare to customer service.

However, I cannot help wondering what practical applications Watson might offer if ever the technology became available at the consumer level.

How long before the next software release coming out of Redmond, Washington, will include Microsoft Irony, an application to detect, interpret, even insert rhetorical nuances in interpersonal and corporate communications?

Could Watson displace humor columnists and language bloggers? Will we turn on our televisions and see Watson sitting behind Andy Rooney’s desk on 60 Minutes?

If you were a member of IBM’s global research team, what real-world application would you be itching to create for Watson? Or, as a consumer, what application would you want available for purchase?

Personally, I am hoping Watson will be smart–and courageous–enough to tell Jeopardy! clue-writers to put the periods and commas inside the quotation marks, where they belong.


Filed under All Things Wordish, Movies, Television and Radio, Technology and Social Media