Make no mistake about it: When it comes to words, I’m a huge fan!
I’m pro-noun, and I love verbs. I’m all over prepositions. I’m bonkers for adjectives and dig adverbs deeply. There’s no question I think interrogatives are great, … is there? As for interjections, … Bam!
But let’s stick with pronouns, shall we? At least for the purposes of this one column. To the dismay of some readers and the delight of others, I’m always on the lookout for wisdom in the sports section of the paper. Pearls thereof have been known to lurk in the strangest of contexts.
Take for instance a recent college football game wherein the Vandals were routed by the Cougars 42-0. The Vandals’ coach, it seems, took exception to the Cougars’ coach’s letting his starters play well into the fourth quarter. Thus, either running up the score or ensuring a defensive shutout.
Harsh words were exchanged between the coaches as they met after the game. There being no microphone to capture the dialogue, reporters asked each coach what was said.
One of the coaches was quoted as saying “That was between me and him.”
The other was quoted as saying “That would be strictly between he and I.”
Which raises the question: Who’s correct in this pronoun showdown? Was the correct answer “between me and him” or “between he and I”?
Email me your choice, and explain your answer please. I will print the best explanations in a future column.
If you need to research the issue, don’t overlook “Me and her” meets “he and I”: Case, person, and linear ordering in English coordinated pronouns by Thomas Grano. This is a 70-page 2006 honors thesis that the author wrote while at Stanford. I judge it’s otherwise unpublished, but it’s available as a PDF online for free. Just google the title.
In it, the author offers quotes from other sources, all of which are analyzed in some detail. Among the quotes so offered are these:
“Turns out me and some of my boys are heading down to Boston for the long weekend …”
“Nine-year-old: Give it to me and Cindy.
Nine-year-old: Give it to me and Cindy.
Father (sternly): What?
Nine-year-old: Give it to Cindy and I.
Father: That’s better.”
“I and everyone around me noticed the strange noise.”
Or you could consider the lyrics of a certain well-known song:
“I believe in the power that comes
From a world brought together as one.
I believe together we’ll fly.
I believe in the power of you and I.”
Well, at least the last two lines of the song excerpt do rhyme. Which is more than can be said for the first two. Comes doesn’t rhyme with one. Never has. Never will.
That topic, however, will have to await another column. This is the pronoun showdown (those two words do rhyme, by the way, in both of their syllables).
I await your learned guesses and explanations.
Vic Fleming is a district court judge in Little Rock, Ark., where he also teaches at the William H. Bowen School of Law. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.