No, I don’t mean all rules are conditional

This will be short, if I have anything to say about it. I’m not feeling very well. One swollen gland (on the left side of my jaw, in case you’re making a diagram), and feeling run down. I chickened out of work a little early today, and hope to spend the evening on my back.

My renter has moved in, and so far he has made himself almost invisible. That’s how we like our renters around here. He’s even found a couple things in the house he thinks he can upgrade for me.

Of course that’s how it would start, wouldn’t it, if this were a slasher movie? The quiet, helpful tenant moves in and proceeds to gradually take over the house, and then my life, until the moment when he finally reveals his horrid, unspeakable plans for me…

However, I’ve noticed that real life generally resembles horror movies only in this regard, that if you feel under your seat you’ll find dried gum.

Dennis Prager had a guest on the other day who’d written a book on grammar. One subject they brought up was the common “John and I” mistake, where the person says, “He delivered the pizza to John and I.”

In fact it ought to be “John and me” in this sentence. You can figure out what to do by simply dropping John (and believe me, honey, you should have dropped the bum long ago) and seeing how the sentence goes without him. “He delivered the pizza to me” is obviously correct. Adding John to the mix does not change the matter.

But I know where the problem comes from. It comes from overextended rule-following. I remember even today my mother hearing me say, “Moloch and me went out into the grove,” and she corrected me. “It’s ‘Moloch and I went out to the grove.’”

She failed to add (and I probably wouldn’t have understood it if she had, at that age) that this only applied to the objects of sentences, not the subjects. (Or is it subjects, not objects? I always get them confused. Look it up? I’m sick, you sadist!)

Anyway, many people never get past that lesson and believe that “X and I” is correct in all situations.

Thus do we try to apply as absolutes rules which are only conditional. No doubt there are many such situations, in grammar and life.

But I’m too tired to think about it.

9 thoughts on “No, I don’t mean all rules are conditional”

  1. It’s subjects, the villians of the sentence, not objects, the victims of the sentence, so the dual subjects, Moloch and I, dealt a dirty blow to Sven and me, their victimized objects.

    Or to put it another way, “Because I could not stop for Death, He kindly stopped for me.”

  2. I think that’s why I was confused about subjectivity so long. Since the subject of a sentence is the active, tangible thing, I assumed subjectivity must be concerned with tangible, hard-nosed stuff. So confusing…

  3. What bugs me even more is when someone doesn’t know whether to use “John and I” or “John and me,” and so leaps to the conclusion that they should use “John and myself.” “John and myself went to the movies yesterday.” I feel like saying “And did yourself have fun?”

    Oy.

  4. Screaming reminds me of something James Thurber said about what you should do when your date gets silly at the dinner table and begins to speak with poor grammar, scream suddenly, or climb on the table. He said the best remedy for this is to give her a sharp, downward blow to the head. She should settle into a general contentment afterwards.

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