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Monthly Archives: January 2013

Grammarphobe: Charlie and I

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Something happens to us in grade school. We lose our natural sense of what’s right or wrong in English and come to rely on rules instead. One of the first rules we learn makes us do crazy things for the rest of our lives. Maybe you just came in from outside, flushed and excited.

“Me and Charlie were down by the creek catching nightcrawlers,” you begin.

“Charlie and I,” says your Aunt Mildred, a retired second-grade teacher from Mt Sterling, Ohio.

This has happened before. You suddenly know that any hope of communicating the enthusiasm, the unmitigated joy, the pure delight, of looking for nightcrawlers and finding instead a three-foot serpent has been lost. Aunt Mildred launches into a lecture of which you hear only one refrain: “Never use ‘me’ when speaking of yourself and another person, and always put yourself second.”

“Charlie and I,” you repeat dully. The moment is forever lost.

Even Aunt Mildred, shocked as she was at hearing such disgraceful grammar from an eight-year-old, would have to admit that “Charlie and I” is not a catch-all for speaking of yourself and Charlie. You might have been pursued by a dragon, for example, while you and Charlie were playing with your little sister. ” The dragon chased Charlie and me,” you say, “and we led it far away from Sally.”

But somehow now it doesn’t sound right. Somehow you’ve got it into your head that “I” always follows “and” no matter what role the words play in the sentence. How can you tell when to use “I” and when to use “me?”

Simple. Drop “Charlie and.” If it’s a sentence you would still say, then you’re probably on the right track.

The dragon chased Charlie and I.

The dragon chased Charlie and I.

The dragon chased I. Oops!

The dragon chased Charlie and me.

Just between you and I me, if you apply this trick to your writing, you will rarely go wrong. And you will save yourself some embarrassment when the grammar cop pulls you over for using the wrong case pronoun for the object of a verb or preposition.

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A Lack of Grief

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My mom died on April 2nd of last year. Before she died, I used to wonder how I would react to news of her death. I never thought I would have the deep and terrible sadness that I’ve seen in some people. I’m just not like that. But I did imagine missing her and grieving in my own way. Instead, I’ve hardly grieved at all.

I shed a few tears at her bedside when she was dying. I even got dewy-eyed at her funeral. But it was hard to be really sad knowing that she herself was ready to go and even looking forward to it. She was the one who insisted on not being kept artificially alive, who told the doctors to disconnect the machines that could only prolong her death rather than bring healing or hope. She was the one who welcomed death.

What sadness I did feel seemed more like self-pity.

Of course, I miss her. I always enjoyed talking with her, although our conversations had become less and less frequent. In recent years we were not close, not because of any rift between us but because I lived 9 hours away and had a family of my own who needed me more. I have grieved less than I thought I would. I don’t know what to make of it. Perhaps I really am Mr. Spock.

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