With He and I???

That did it…I just heard it again. The TV was turned on to the 6:00 news–apparently nothing earth shattering was going on. A reporter was talking about a dispute between a suburban mayor and his city council. What I heard the reporter saying was something about a problem “between he and the council members”. Between HE…?????? My hair stood on end for perhaps the tenth time so far this week. Where did this reporter–as well as what now seems to be a majority of the American population–learn English? Obviously they have not learned it correctly.In this week’s Sunday paper there was a similar error in a nationally syndicated column. Here, the columnist said that it had taken “two weeks for my wife and I to pick out a new car.” I couldn’t resist. I wrote and asked him if his wife had not been part of the scenario would he have said, “it took two weeks for I to pick out a new car?” I doubted it then and I doubt it now. So question is, why did he, unconsciously perhaps, change the correct form of “it took two weeks for ME…” to the incorrect form of, “it took two weeks for my wife and I…”??? I cringe to think what he would have said if he had been referring to his wife in pronoun form….what do you want to bet that he would have said, “it took two weeks for she and I…”?????? I would put any amount of money on it. Yet, I highly doubt that he would ever say, “it took two weeks for she to pick out a new car.” At least I hope he would never say that.The disappearance of what used to be known as the “objective case” has reached epidemic proportions in American speech patterns. More often than not you hear people everywhere saying “with he and I,”  “for she and I,”  or “they told he, she and I “…next it will be, “it was sent to she and we.” (I haven’t actually heard that one yet, but I’m sure it’s just around the corner and the next step in the total annihilation of correct grammar usage in American English.)

If people would only stop and think and break down any compound like “she and I” to just one or the other and see what sounds right–then apply that same form to the other member of the compound and voilà, they would have correct English! I am putting great faith in that no one will think it is correct to say ‘with I,’ or ‘to he,’ or ‘for she.’ The happy result will then be that we will again start to hear the melodious ring of ‘with HIM and ME’ and ‘for HER and ME,’ and ‘they told HIM, HER, and ME.’ Wouldn’t it be wonderful?

To their credit, I am quite certain that the majority of people who are making this particular error actually think that they are making a heroic effort to speak correctly. They are hearing their mother’s admonitions ringing in their ears (and probably not melodiously) of the countless times when they were first learning to talk and were corrected when they said, “Him and me want some ice cream,” and, of course their mothers were right to correct them in this case. I only hope that mothers today are correcting their children when they say “for he and I”…but somehow I doubt it.

I can’t help it–every time I hear one of these glaring grammatical goofs on TV, or on the radio–especially when they occur in a prepared script–I make a note and eventually try to find the time to inform the speaker or the writer of what was wrong-as well as why it was wrong. Sometimes their response is most gracious and grateful. Sometimes there is no response at all. And sometimes, as with David E. Kelley regarding a script he had written for Ally McBeal, the response is downright hostile. (How could I dare to challenge his writing-even on a very obvious error?)

What I try to point out in each instance is the obligation that a writer has to the public to present correct English within a TV or movie script, assuming that it is consistent with the character being portrayed. When the fictitious character is a lawyer, as in Mr. Kelley’s case, one would expect that the lawyer would use correct English.

With TV reporters, even–or especially, those morphed from lawyers, one would assume (or at least I assume) that correct English would be used. But then again, maybe not.

One morning, during a much publicized trial of national interest, one of NBC’s legal correspondents–a high-powered, very hip lawyer from Miami who regularly offered his take on the day’s proceedings on the Today Show–came out with the worst grammar imaginable. Either his mother couldn’t get through to him way back when, or he has a faulty memory, or he just doesn’t care what comes out of his mouth. Whatever the reason, the results on that morning were most unfortunate.

Then, as if Katie Couric herself had landed in my living room, I was struck speechless and in a state of beyond disbelief to hear this man say, “Her and her mother told witnesses…” Yikes! Wonder if he would also say simply, “Her told witnesses…” I should have written and asked him, but I was incapable of picking myself up off the floor.


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