Just between…We?

I used to have a client who insisted on saying, “Between he and I…” And I would routinely change it to “between him and me.” And then he would change it back. I finally threatened to quit working for him if he didn’t allow me to make him look good. That kept him in line for a couple of years.

I don’t understand why mixing pronouns and prepositions seems to be such a tricky business for so many people. In part, I am tempted to say, it’s because the public schools in this country no longer offer Latin, and so most people manage to avoid learning the subtleties of grammar that Latin offers (which is a damned shame, too, because I suspected then, and I know now, that Latin was the most valuable subject I studied). But those of us who took Latin know that the subject form of the pronoun (I, he, she, they) appears only as the subject of a sentence. Except for the possessive form (mine, yours, his, hers, theirs), everything else is an object of one sort or another (me, him, her, them).

But (and this is another sore point with me) today, many people seem to feel that the rules of grammar are mere suggestions (like speed limits and good taste). Never mind nuance and precision; as long as “you know what I mean,” everyone is satisfied. Well, I am not satisfied. Indeed, I am appalled. And I will make my stand, with whoever* cares to stand with me, between my beloved English language and the barbarians at its gate.

* I’ll discuss the who/whom confusion tomorrow.

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