Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Being grammaticality correct is not easy

When it comes to reading material, we all have our favorites.
Some like historical novels, some like poetry, others like anything that’s within reach, for example, the side of a cereal box.
A friend of mine once read an insurance policy simply because there was nothing else at hand and he was desperate for something to read.
I have a lot of favorite reading materials, but nothing beats a list – any kind of a list – for a little light reading matter to brighten up the day.
The first thing I saw when I turned on this computer was “The Top 25 Most Played Stories of...” I couldn’t wait to find out what they might be.
The thing about most lists is, we can all think of items we’d like to add. For example, if you were to read a compilation of the most fabulous movies all time, I am sure you could think of a couple you’d like to include.
The best vacation spots? The ugliest haircuts? The dopiest politicians? There’s a list for everything.
I saw a list the other day of “The Most Annoying People.” A great topic!
It started off with Johnny Manziel and Al Sharpton. The lady of the house said lists like that are not fair, because their mothers undoubtedly loved them, and would be terribly offended to find their sons so “honored.”
Well, OK. But I thought to myself, I hope I never get put on a list by someone who doesn’t like the way I part my hair.
The laugh would be on that swell person, because I don’t part my hair. I just put a little grease on it and brush it forward so that it looks like a cross between Frank Sinatra and Mark Hatfield.
If the latter name doesn’t ring a bell, he was a long-ago U.S. senator who was my role model for the well-groomed look.
But let’s think for a moment about most annoying habits. What would your friends say is your most annoying characteristic?
Ranking right up near the top for me, people might say, would be my obsession for correcting the grammar of people who fracture the king’s English.
I’m sorry, but when someone fractures a phrase, I cannot help but to point it out. I’m sorry, but it must be done. The lapse cannot pass without taking note of it.
Case in point: We were at a rather large gathering the other evening occasioned by the anniversary of a gentlemen’s social club to which I belong.
The man next in line to become international president of the organization was introduced.
After the applause subsided, he said: “I am glad that you invited my wife and I to be with you tonight.”
I leaned over and whispered to the lady of the house: “My wife and me.”
She looked at me quizzically. “He should have said, ‘my wife and me,’” I said.
The grammatical test is simple. You break the sentence down into its basic parts. You wouldn’t say, “Thank you for inviting my wife and thank you for inviting I.”
Of course you wouldn’t. You would say, “Thank you for inviting my wife and thank you for inviting me.”
Thus: “Thank you for inviting my wife and me.”
The example just cited is probably the most frequent assault on the language that is heard on a daily basis.
I went over and mentioned it to my friend, who had introduced our next president. It was not my intention for me to be overheard, but of course I was.
I’m sorry that I put it so crudely. What I said was, “I’m sad to say that our next president is illiterate.”
That was most unkind of me. And of course, when he  got up to speak, he pointed out in a very kind and gentle tone of voice that he had been “corrected by the editor.”
From now on, when I am offering words of wisdom, I must be more careful, lest I offend someone or hurt a person’s feelings.
That is the very last thing I want to do.
All I want to do is correct small errors of grammar so that we can all go about communicating in a way that will not offend your high school English teacher.


1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim,
This misuse of "I" instead of "me" has bothered me for a couple of years. I have begun to wonder if the schools have revised the rules of grammar. I was discussing this with a very intelligent man. He said to me, "Does this really matter?" That floored me. I know he uses grammar correctly but is seems that it isn't so important for the rest of us. Pat Turi

January 11, 2015 at 8:23 AM 

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