Me, Myself, and Sigh: A Grammarian’s Plea

4 Mar

Happy Grammar Day, everyone! That’s right, once again it’s the Word Nerds’ favorite observance, March 4th, the only date on the calendar that’s also an imperative. This is the one day of the year, aside from National Punctuation Day, when I can risk letting loose the annoying grammar critic I keep bound and gagged in the recesses of my brain.

You see, on most days, it takes all I’ve got to NOT correct people’s grammar. I like my friends, and I hate it when they look at me in that mathy way that says, “Keep away from me with that preposition stuff or I’ll cite an algebraic equation!”

So, for the sake of friendship and social protocol, throughout the rest of the year I seethe in silence when I see ads for “grass-fed steak,” and cringe quietly at news reporters when they rant about the “scarce” shelves at the grocery store. And, although, when I read on the side of the restaurant hot sauce bottle, “All sauces made on premise,” I might show it to those at my table, I don’t bring it to the manager or post a picture of it online accompanied by a snarky sneering comment.

Okay, those examples are not about grammar, but word choice. I’m not sure I should pick on poor word choice, even if there were such an event as National Word Choice Day (I checked. There isn’t. Yet.), because my own vocabulary is diminishing at a fear-inducing rate. Every day, words that have been trusted friends in my brain for decades leap overboard into the River of Old Age and float away like dead leaves along its fast-moving current. One day soon I’ll forget the word for, er… what’s that thing that makes the thingy noise?

Word choice aside, true grammar errors would be more like the Buffalo Bills’ announcement in January that they’d hired their “first full-time female coach.” To me, that’s personal information irrelevant to the story. The aspect of this press release that hurt my heart most deeply was that so many media venues repeated it verbatim; NOT ONE thought to change it to “first female full-time coach,” or better (word choice issue again), the team’s “first woman full-time coach.”

However, I’m not going to waste this year’s soap-box time on the usual rant about misplaced modifiers; the “they’re, their, and there” battle; “it’s” vs. “its”; or even “that” vs. “which,” an oft-made error that grates on my nerves like knuckle skin across asphalt.

Instead, this year’s fulmination (snatched that word out of the river because it got hung up on a mid-stream boulder, heh-heh) is about three simple pronouns we learned before Kindergarten that for some reason we have no idea when to employ: Me, myself, and I.

We seem to have developed a phobia around using the words “me” and “I,” and we’ve started boldly inserting “myself” into statements the way one might push forward a socially awkward niece in hopes of hooking her up with a blind date:

“See Martha or myself after the meeting and we’ll take your information.”

“Give your surveys to myself before you leave.”

“You’ll get an e-mail from Bob or I about that.”

Well, to all of you who have fallen into these habits, I say…

Stop it.

Stop Myself-ing

Give myself a rest, wouldja?

I blame your mom and grandma, bless their hearts. They screwed you up back when you were a wee one running into the kitchen yelling, “Can Danny and me go out to play?”

“Danny and I,” they chastised, sliding the chicken in the pot.

Did they stop to explain that it had nothing to do with referring to yourself as me, but that, as the subject of the sentence you use the pronoun “I”?

They did not. Nor did they explain that you use “me” as the object of the preposition. They were too worried about that stupid chicken to consider the long-term effects of their incomplete correction.

Over the years, their failure to explain left you not only fearful of the word “me,” and unsure when to use it, but oblivious and untrusting of “mysterious” grammar terms (fess up, seeing the words “object,” “subject,” and “preposition” there made your brain shudder).

Frankly, your friend, Danny, didn’t help either. If he hadn’t been there, you would have had no problem asking, “Can I go out to play?” And Grandma wouldn’t have corrected you.

So, here’s the secret: You don’t need to know the grammar terms. When you want to know whether to use “me” or “I,” get your friend out of the picture. Hence, the e-mail example above would be “You’ll get an e-mail from me,” which is correct. Once you’ve determined the correct pronoun, bring the friend back into the sentence and relax; it’s still correct.

But what about “myself”? For the most part, you can toss it. In fact, the only time one would use that word would be in a sentence that also has the word “I” in it, such as, “I gave myself a raise.” Simple, right?

There ends today’s grammar lesson. I hope I’ve made a positive difference in your grammar, and not worsened your brain-shudder effects. I’ll get off my soap box now until Punctuation Day, and then, boy, is your serial going to get it!

Now, I’m going to celebrate by erasing all the erroneous apostrophes in the grocery store. Could take all day.

Piece!

——

Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still; teach the righteous and they will add to their learning. –Proverbs 9:9

6 Responses to “Me, Myself, and Sigh: A Grammarian’s Plea”

  1. Elaine Beachy March 4, 2016 at 12:35 pm #

    Rosemarie, I simply adore this “piece!” LOL I love your humor and the way you write that makes one laugh. You’re such a good writer. I need to share this on my author page on Facebook!

    • Portrait Writer March 4, 2016 at 12:40 pm #

      Thank you, Elaine, and thanks also for the share. You just can’t spread good grammar awareness too far! 😉

  2. Allyn Bamberger March 5, 2016 at 5:42 pm #

    Rose,
    Hilarious and true! You, as well as I, need the T-shirt that says, so succintly, “Silently correcting your grammar.”

  3. Allyn Bamberger March 5, 2016 at 5:43 pm #

    Oh, wow! I sure messed up “succinctly” didn’t I?

  4. Kathleen Grunden March 21, 2016 at 11:18 am #

    As a former teacher of high school English, I thank you and applaud your efforts!

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