Monday, September 29, 2008

Grammar Police to Prince: Come Out With Your Doves Up

When it is the object of "Dig, if you will, the picture / of," it is not "you and I engaged in a kiss"; it is "you and me engaged in a kiss." If your high school English teacher taught that it is always "you and I," then you've been misinformed. Please forgive me for correcting you when I sing along.


Th. said...


I'm surprised you still haven't noticed the obvious: Prince is working to undermine all that is holy about English spelling and grammar.

Which wasn't much to start with, but, dangit, we need to retain what little we have left!

Craig said...

Most commonly grammar "mistakes" aren't mistakes at all, especially when made by a native speaker. The rules taught in school are often prescriptive rules that have to do with a certain style level, but nothing with the actual correct usage of the language itself. In English, (just not perhaps in certain academic, official, or formal styles) prepositions appear at the ends of phrases, infinitives are "split", and "you and me" is perfectly correct (because of the heavy influence of French on English)

I think it's pretty interesting that so many people make a "grammar mistake" that isn't natural to English simply on the basis of mistakenly understanding explicit grammar instruction - or erroneous instruction. I wonder if this will have any lasting impact on how compound pronoun subjects are used, if "you and I" will (or already is) becoming more acceptable when not in the nominative case.

I wonder if this might start to carry over to plural pronouns as well. ("we and they" instead of "us and them".)

Yeah, I'm a descriptive linguist, and I love it.

Th. said...


I'm a descriptivist 2, but that doesn't mean I go 4 Prince's writing methods.

JB said...

I like to think I'm not a prescriptivist, but this is the one that *really* bugs me.

playasinmar said...

I haven't taken nearly as many English classes as Fob or iWonder but I was taught the rule was thus:

You and I go to the store.
You and me go to the store.

If the "you and" is dropped only one way sounds correct:

I go to the store.

He saw you and I.
He saw you and me.

Again, drop the "you and" and only one way sounds correct:

He saw me.

I guess I'm defending Prince's lyrics.

B.G. Christensen said...

Th.: You're right, you know. And Prince predates the IM/text revolution by a good decade and a half.

Craig: I'm a descriptivist too, except when people say things wrong.

JB: Really the point where I'm willing to cross the line to prescriptivism is when people are "correcting" themselves based on a poor understanding of prescriptive grammar rules.

Playa: You were taught correctly. Would you say "Dig, if you will, the picture of I engaged in a kiss"?

Mimsy Buttons said...

You've neglected to consider that Prince might be singing: "Dig, if you will, the picture of you. And I engaged in a kiss." The lyrics might be typed incorrectly everywhere.

Anonymous said...

Exactly! Yes! That is what I object to. But it's still a bit prescriptive, isn't it? ;) I actually don't mind nearly so much if people say me when they mean I because that seems a much more natural mistake.

B.G. Christensen said...

Mimsy: That is a possibility, but if so then Prince really needs to work on enunciating his periods.

JB: Me and you both.

Jonathan Langford said...

Okay. It's a year late. But I saw this, and it reminded me of possibly my least favorite grammar mistake in song lyrics:

I wonder, as I wander, way up in the sky,
How Jesus our savior did come for to die
For poor ornery people like you and like I...

B.G. Christensen said...

Oh, and it's even worse when the rhyme depends on the (prescriptively speaking) bad grammar!