It might not be tens of thousands of years old like its nominative English counterpart, but the accusative/objective pronoun me is hardly a neologism, much less a confining Victorian corruption. So wrote Benjamin A. Plotinsky earlier this week, over at City Journal . You might be rolling your eyes: Isn’t that obvious? Apparently not, judging from the linguistic defenses recently made on behalf of our commander in chief:
Patricia T. O’Conner and Stewart Kellerman, writing in the [ New York Times ‘] op-ed section today, point out that Obama often makes a common grammatical error, using the word “I” when he should properly use “me”as in the phrase “a very personal decision for Michelle and I.” But it turns out, the authors continue, that the president isn’t really guilty of grammar crimes. “For centuries, it was perfectly acceptable to use either ‘I’ or ‘me’ as the object of a verb or preposition, especially after ‘and,’” they write. “It wasn’t until the mid-1800s that language mavens began kvetching about ‘I’ and ‘me.’”
Plotinsky doesn’t mince words: “O’Conner and Kellerman are utterly wrong.” He goes on to give an assessment of me ‘s grammatical history, but what I found more interesting was his assessment of the politics in play:
Unfortunately, the New York Times ‘s motive for printing the op-ed is also clear. How disappointing to hear that Barack Obamajust like his predecessor, whose linguistic slipups the media pounced ondoesn’t speak English perfectly! How delightful to find two experts willing to argue that Obama’s mistakes are actually remnants of a purer, more natural form of the language! And how sad, for those of us who love both America’s press and its language, that English itself has become the latest sacrifice to the cult of Obama.
“Obama and ‘Me’” is the title of Plotinsky’s essay. A suitable subtitle?”Being Objective.”