Ready for my biggest grammar pet peeve?
Oh. I know, from the title, you thought this was going to be a self-pity piece about what a friendless loser I am. Don’t worry (especially you, Mom) — people like me. I know this because I say it in front of the mirror every morning.
Technically, I should’ve called the post Nobody Likes “Me.” Or, “The Pronoun Nobody Wants To Use.” But would you have clicked on that?
I’ve had to let go grammar mistakes that drive me nuts. “literally” when they mean “figuratively.” As in, “My head literally exploded when I heard the news.” Or “I was so excited, I literally shit my pants.”
(Remind me not to get you excited.)
And then there’s people who relentlessly spell it “your” when they mean “you’re.” Especially cringe-y at the start of an accusation. You don’t make a great case writing “Your an ignorant moron” in a comment thread.
Before I tell you the mistake that bugs me most, let’s get something out of the way:
I’m all for loose grammar.
I like to break rules. Keep it casual. Witness above: “there’s people.” There are grammar mistakes all up in this piece, but they’re not really mistakes since I know I’m doing it. And, sometimes I make actual, accidental, mistake-mistakes, because mind no worky so good. I’ve written “there” when I meant “their,” and felt terrible shame for it.
But this isn’t about being grammatically correct.
It’s about being incorrect while trying to sound extra smart.
So, in those terms, what’s the most annoying mistake?
Using the subject pronoun, “I,” when it should be the object pronoun, “me.”
- “Do you want to come to the movies with my boyfriend and I?”
- “This info stays right here. Between you and I.”
- “It’s a very illustrious panel of speakers and thought leaders, featuring Malcolm Gladwell, Ariana Huffington, and I.”
Who wants to pay a thousand bucks a ticket to see “I” speak? Not I.
Why do smart people do this? Why are they so afraid of the word “me”?
I have a theory, because I’m smart.
When we’re kids, we get the “me” drilled out of us.
We say, “Me and Jenny wanna eat all the pills in the medicine cabinet that look like candy and then run in the street naked in front of cars! Can me and Jenny do that?” And the first thing a parent will say is, “Jenny and I.”
And so, we grow up thinking the word “me” is always wrong.
I never had this problem, because I had special training: listening to my parents watch the news. “Ha! Did you hear what Reagan just said? ‘Between you and I.’ Our president. He’s an idiot.”
I’m every bit as self-righteous on this point as my mom and dad. Or, you might say, murderous. When I hear someone say “between you and I” I want to kick the shit out of them. I’m not proud of that.
I try not to correct people, at least not loudly enough for them to hear me. (Hear I?)
But I have to get it out somehow. Hence this blog post.
[2022 UPDATE – while I came close to buying a tee that said *you’re* on the front, I’ve given most of it up. Why do I care about someone else’s grammar? I mean, I still flinch or maybe tighten my sphincter, but I’m no longer on a crusade to point out to everyone why they’re wrong.]
So while we’re on pronouns, I’ll throw in some other offenders:
“Whom,” “whomever,” and “myself.” Overused and abused, all of ’em.
Almost any time I hear someone use one of these, it’s un-called-for.
- “I can’t wait to find out whom is going to be my husband!”
Yikes. It’s “who.” Unless you’re thinking of marrying a dude named Whom. Don’t. Whom has a sad, thin ponytail, and will cheat on you with I.
- “Whomever left all this hair in the shower drain better clean it.”
Don’t hold your breath. Whomever you invited (correct use, object of “invited”) to crash on your couch for a few days while looking for a job, they won’t answer to “whomever” and they won’t admit that wad of pube shavings is theirs. Also, they will never, ever find a job and leave your house.
- “Sandra, her girlfriend and myself will be brunching at around noon.”
NOW it’s time to use “I.”
I know, you think “myself” is the kind of person who brunches.
No, myself does not go to brunch. Unless I invite myself. I can text myself, meet myself there, order fluffy German pancakes for myself, torture myself debating whether I should’ve gotten savory instead of sweet, feed myself, drop food on myself, and pay for myself. Or, if you really want to pay for me, you can, and you can pay for yourself, too. But I can’t say that you paid for myself, or that you and myself split the check.
Does that make sense? If not, me sorry!
At camp (the spoiled-kid one, not the naked one) there was a girl in my bunk who would ask to wear everyone’s best Izod and Polo shirts to co-ed activities by saying, in a baby voice, “Me can borrow? Yay, me can borrow!”
She was annoying as shit, and I hated her wearing my favorite Polo, but I’d take her trying to sound dumb and cute over all these people trying to sound smart by sticking “I,” “whom” and “myself” into everything and sounding even dumber.
Enough about I. Now yourself.
Got any grammar pet peeves? What makes you angry? (You’re beautiful when you’re angry.)
TELL ME IN THE COMMENTS.
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