Sunday, January 14, 2018

Her and I can't be friends.

Her and I can’t be friends.

Oh, there are so many reasons why! First of all, her can never be the subject of a sentence. That’s reserved for she. Her can only be an object, as in “I’m not friends with her.” Secondly, her and I can’t do things together. They can’t appear in a sentence together like that. Ever.

If there’s her, then her friend has to be me. “Mary went to the store with her and me.” Both objects.

Only “she and I can be friends.” Subjects together. Happily.

I promised here, once before, that I do NOT correct other people’s grammar. But this is a story about being in my Third Third and suddenly confronting a revolution in the English language.

It’s everywhere! In movies, on radio, on TV: “Her and I went on vacation.” “Him and I missed the bus.” But this is the real horror: I shared this discovery with my daughter, who prides herself on her grammar, too. And she said, “I say that, too. I’d never use it in writing, but I do use it in spoken English. Sometimes I even say, ‘Me and her went out to eat.’”

Aiiiieeee! Me and her can’t do that!

Am I failing to evolve?

Why am I suddenly feeling like the supports of civilization are crumbling? I could handle it when Mick Jagger cried, “I can’t get no satisfaction!” No part of me wanted to counter, “Mick, it should be ‘I can’t get any satisfaction.’” It was a song lyric; it wasn’t spoken English. It’s to dance to, not to talk like. It’s not role-model English.

But role-model English appears to be right up there with walking to school and penmanship.

Am I showing my Third Third-ism?

I have another one: explainer. “Explainer” made its appearance and rapidly multiplied like rabbits. Even on NPR, they introduce “explainers” to clarify something that’s in the news. The explainer is not a person; the explainer is the explanation. See? There was a perfectly good word – explanation. If you don’t understand gravitational waves, then you just need an explanation, not some new-fangled explainer.

Listen to me! Soon I’m going to be talking about the length of skirts.

Speaking of which, didn’t women learn that miniskirts were a restrictive, restraining hassle requiring too much squirming and readjusting – why did they come back again? But I digress….

I know that we don’t say “thee” and “thou” in regular old English anymore. I know that languages change over time. I know Shakespeare invented a ton of words, and Lewis and Clark misspelled mosquito a dozen different ways. I have no problem with changes to their English, but this is my English. Am I upholding standards … or failing to evolve?

Some of my supposedly good English could be wrong. Like how I spent almost my whole lifetime thinking that dilemma was spelled dilemna, with an “n” like condemn. I shudder to think of places I must have used that. I bet I even argued with someone about it. I bet I even taught someone else my version!

A few years back, I started noticing the word woken in books, when I thought the only right way to say it was awakened. Who would ever say “You have woken the patient” rather than “You have awakened the patient”?

Turns out there are really four different verbs about opening your eyes after sleeping: awake, wake, awaken, and waken. When things go into origins in Old English, ‘strong’ and ‘weak’ verbs, transitive and intransitive, my eyes glaze over. I have my grammar limits. Ultimately, they advise going with what sounds right. Like, for instance, only woken or woke can go with up. One person suggested he “would go with ‘I was done woke up by that there alarm clock.’”

I laughed at that because it’s a joke. Because it’s funny.

Me and him might have the same sense of humor.


  1. I feel exactly the same way! I cringe inside.

  2. I'm right there with you. My current peeve is the use of "times" as a verb. I have even heard teachers use it. (Example: Now take that number and times it by 3.) Ouch!

  3. It did used to be spelled 'dilemna'. Sometime in the 70s or 80s aliens changed in it all the dictionaries and books and newspapers overnight and it was suddenly wrong. There was no announcement, no explanation. It just happened.

    I didn't understand why her and I can't be friends until I learned German. Your dismay is not simply old age. Randomly using pronouns means we lose grammatical clue about the meaning of a sentence. If she is always used as a subject, then when we here it, we know the role it plays in the sentence. Her should only be possessive or objective. It's like using a flathead screwdriver to get a phillips head screw out. It works, but it messes up the screw, and possibly the screwdriver. I just ask people, "Would you say 'give I the book?'"

    1. I KNEW there was a dilemna once! Thanks for the clarification!

  4. First the bad news for you: it was NEVER spelled dilemna. Even GrammarGirl confirms that. But you are not alone, here's a website about it:
    Now the good news: As the person who was probably taught the most untrue things by you, I can assure you that you never taught me to spell it with mn instead of mm! Thanks! xx

  5. Allison, once again, your research skills overwhelm me! I can't believe I'm part of a whole population of people who will swear we were taught it in school. And if I didn't teach it to you, it's because I was teaching you other untrue things.


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