by Gene Owens
Edward N. Lambremont of Fairhope, Alabama, says he enjoyed Bubba's comments about choosing the right case when pronouns are part of compound subjects or objects.
It reminded him of a conversation he heard recently in Louisiana: "Him and her sure gave a nice present to he and I."
"All four pronouns wrong," he said. "Can't do any better than that!"
Somewhere back in kindergarten or first grade, we were taught never to say "Me and Buddy saw 'Batman' on TV." The polite way of saying it was "Buddy and I saw..." The "Buddy and I" lodged in our minds, and we figured that there must be something wrong with the pronoun "me." We began to associate "me" with bad manners. It never occurred to us that "me" is perfectly proper when used as an object, as in "She gave him and me a nice present." By the time we learned the difference between subjects and objects, the bias against "me" was fixed and we found ourselves saying "between you and I," and "She gave a ride to she and I."
Miss Prunella wishes today's teachers would put more emphasis on subjects and objects before correct English becomes extinct.
"Let's you and I go fishing," Floyd said to Bubba.
"No," said Bubba. "Let's you and me go fishing."
"Ain't 'you and me' the subject?" asked Floyd.
"No," said Bubba. "'Let's' means 'let us,' which is a request that 'You let us...' 'You' is the understood subject. 'Let' is the verb, and 'us' is the object of the verb. 'You and me' is an appositive of 'us,' which means that it takes the same grammatical form as 'us.' Since 'us' is in the objective case, 'you and me' must be in the objective case, too."
"You sure did give Floyd and I a good lesson in grammar," said Homer.
"Too bad it didn't take," said Bubba.
"More and more frequently, in the broadcast media, one hears the use of the phrase, 'even as we speak,'" said Dr. John F. Shriner of Montrose, Ala. "I cannot say it is incorrect, but 'we' are not speaking; only the reporter is. Would not the use of the word 'presently,' or the term 'at present,' or even 'now' be more desirable?"
Bubba reckons it's time to bring up the subject of the editorial "we" and the magisterial "we."
The editorial "we" used to be much in favor in newspaper editorials and columns. The magisterial "we" is used by monarchs and others of high dignity and authority. In both cases, what is normally a plural pronoun is converted to a singular pronoun.
The editorial "we" is used to show that an editorial writer is expressing the viewpoint of the entire newspaper and not of just one individual. A columnist may use it to lend a less subjective tone to the column.
Bubba reckons the broadcast journalist is entitled to use the editorial "we," and the network superstars may even be entitled to the magisterial "we." But he figures that if you're in a conversation with someone, it's OK to say "even as we speak," meaning "even as we talk back and forth."
The magisterial "we" is used by a sovereign to reflect the dignity and majesty of office. The most famous example is Queen Victoria's withering response when a groom-in-waiting did an imitation of her: "We are not amused."
"We're going to go up to that big wasp's nest, knock it off the limb, and use the grubs for fish bait," said Floyd as he crept up on the nest with a cane pole.
"You must be using the editorial 'we,'" said Homer, as he took off in the opposite direction.
Gene Owens has been around the Southern journalistic scene for 48 years. He has been senior associate editor of The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va., and editorial-page editor of the Roanoke Times in Roanoke, Va.
As senior editor for Creative Services, a management consulting firm in High Point, N. C., he ghosted more than a dozen published books for professional clients. For the past nine years he has been assistant managing editor, political editor and columnist for the Mobile Register. Register readers named him their favorite local columnist, and readers of the independent regional magazine, Bay Weekly, agreed. He was runner-up in the regional Green Eyeshades competition among writers of humor columns.
He has been on the board of directors of the National Conference of Editorial Writers and was editor of The Masthead, the NCEW’s national quarterly. He is in semi-retirement in Anderson, S. C.
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Write Gene Owens at 317 Braeburn Drive, Anderson SC 29621 or e-mail him at WadesDixieCo@aol.com
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