Back to you and I (who went to row the boat ashore)

Robin Hamilton robin.hamilton2 at BTINTERNET.COM
Fri Feb 19 02:44:59 UTC 2010

I have to say that between them, James' post in response to my original one,
and Jon's addition to James's, clarify a worry that was partly behind my
original intervention late in the You and I debate --  that somewhere there
was an assumption around this question that either there wasn't a real
problem or that there was a clear answer to it.

James' story of the encounter of the Linguist, the Young Lady, and her
Escort perfectly illustrated, it seemed to me, the utter screw-up that
language is in, in this area, at this moment in time, and further, how there
is a problem with language at the moment when a native speaker has to worry
about whether or not they are being grammatically correct.

So the Young Lady's dilemma couldn't have better illustrated my own

Jon's empirical data confirmed my sense that this isn't actually, when it
comes down to it, a linguistic problem -- if Jon's data can be generalised,
and I see no reason to doubt it, language has already decided, and decided
in favour of you and I.

Unfortunately, reality seems to be struggling to catch up with language, as
the Young Lady exemplified in her perfectly understandable and plaintive
doubt as to whether or not what she was saying was correct.  There is a
problem at the moment, and there's no way round it -- maybe a register
problem, maybe a context problem, maybe even a class problem.  When James
concluded his earlier post with the assumption that I might have further
data to contribute, he was too generous too me.  All I had in my head was a
muddle of questions, and a doubt as to what I'd actually utter myself in
this context.

Then the class thing -- for some reason, I remembered the first line of  of
a nineteenth century ballad about five young men who set out on an evening's
poaching, run into the squire's keepers, are captured, tried, and
transported.  Can't get more us-and-them than that.  It begins:

            Me and five more, we all set out ...

Try singing that with the grammatically correct, "I and five more" -- the
tongue revolts.

After reading James' post, and before reading Jon's, I was excitedly trying
to describe James' anecdote to a fellow member of the list, and explain why
I was so delighted with it, when she suddenly stopped me and said, "Did you
hear what you just said?"

I looked at her blankly -- I'd been trying to express my sense that somehow
James and I were at least engaged with the same problem -- and couldn't for
the life of me work out what she was on about.

She quoted the words I'd just said back to me: " never occurred to he
and I that ... "  Uh, oh, so *that's my default register in this area when
talking excitedly.  Now I know.

Then she and I decided that we agreed on one thing, at least, taken from
James' story -- that the Young Lady should ditch her Escort as soon as
possible, as he sounded like a real know-it-all pain in the fundament, and
obviously wasn't worthy of her.

So my thanks to James and Jon, and to Joel.  I don't in the least think any
of you are lamebrains, more that (at least at this moment) you inhabit an
area of linguistic certainty, perhaps even of innocence, that I seem to have


> I've been monitoring "between you and I" on TV for years, and I
> guaran*******tee that it's been almost as long since I've heard anybody,
> on
> TV or off, say "between you and me."  In fact, AFAIK, I'm the only person
> I
> know who stilll says "...and me" - because long ago I was taught that if I
> didn't I'd be thought to be a lamebrain.
> Now James and I are the lamebrains. That's irony for you.
> JL
> On Thu, Feb 18, 2010 at 6:07 PM, James Harbeck
> <jharbeck at>wrote:
>> I have a related, though not quite identical, case: I was walking
>> down the steet one day last year when a young woman came up with her
>> camera and said, "Can you take a picture of my friends and me?"
>> indicating herself and another woman and a man. And then she said,
>> "Sorry about the grammar." I said, "What about the grammar?" She
>> said, "You and me... you and _I_..." I told her that actually in that
>> context "you and me" was correct. She seemed surprised. After I had
>> taken the picutre and was walking away, I heard her ask the man with
>> her, "Is that correct, 'you and me'?" And he said, "No, it's 'you and
>> I.'"
>> I find in general people who use phrases such as "between you and I"
>> use them with the idea that "X and me" is always incorrect and "X and
>> I" is always correct. I can't say that I've ever encountered anyone
>> who uses them both distinctively within the same register (as opposed
>> to using "you and me" when speaking unselfconsciously and "you and I"
>> when trying to be correct). That makes it different from, for
>> instance, "split infinitives," where a given person may use "really
>> to do" and "to really do" to mean different things.
>> It's also a little different from double negatives, which are
>> sometimes used as a deliberate overt register marker: "wrongness" in
>> quotation marks, as it were. I don't see people using "you and
>> I"/"you and me" used to mark out deliberately "wrong" colloquial
>> speech, probably because "everyone knows" that double negatives are
>> "wrong," whereas this usage is still contentious and will tend to be
>> taken as a marker in earnest of incorrectness.
>> But, Robin, it seems you have data that contradict my own
>> observations... I'd be interested in further details. It may well be
>> different in the usage contexts you encounter.
>> James Harbeck.

The American Dialect Society -

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