TV’s War on “Me” and “I”
Television scriptwriters — or perhaps actors who are failing to read what has been written for them–seem to be determined to reverse the functions of the pronouns “I” and “me” in American speech.
I is the subject form of the first person personal pronoun. It stands for the person speaking. This subject form is used as the subject of a sentence:
I am attending a conference in Chicago this week.
Charles and I are attending the conference together.
NOTE: The courteous way to construct a compound subject in which I is one of the subject words is to place the other person first: Charles and I are attending. He and I are attending.
Purists may insist on “It is I,” but in conversation, most Americans say “It’s me.” It’s safe to say, therefore, that the ONLY time to use the pronoun I is as the subject of a sentence.
Me is the object form of the first person personal pronoun. It is the receiver of an action or the object of a preposition. It is NEVER the subject of a verb. Examples:
Please invite me.
Please invite Tommy and me.
Give me the book.
Give James and me the book.
Object of preposition:
Dad’s riding with me. (object of “with”)
The children live with Sally and me.
In writing fiction I know enough not to put the same grammar or vocabulary in the mouths of a child, a garage mechanic, an ESL learner, and a college professor.
On the other hand, unless there’s something about the character’s personality to make him deliberately flout the rules of standard English, I would have a native English speaker who has completed at least eight years of formal education use the pronouns I and me correctly.
I might put the construction “Me and him went to the movies” into the mouth of a privately-educated teenager who wanted to make his parents cringe, but I wouldn’t give the line to an assistant district attorney–unless I meant for the reader to question her credibility.
See what you think of these gleanings from Prime Time:
Law and Order
“Him and Eric had words at the Baby Doll” —a young bank executive
“Did he ever confide in you what him and Kate have been going through?” —Detective Green
“Callng on Wong and I to attend” –Alexandra Borgia, Assistant District Attorney
Cold Case Files
“Vic and him stopped talking as soon as she moved out.” —a fireman
Without A Trace
“I was looking for a recent photo of Jimmy and I” —affluent, apparently educated girlfriend of a missing person
“Did he ever talk about a grudge between he and some of the guys?” —Jack Malone, senior FBI agent
“I made a reservation for Megan and I at an Ethiopian restaurant.” —Larry Fleinhardt, PhD
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