Tim's World

Why even "educated" people stink at grammar: Me, Myself and I explain America's downfall

Why even "educated" people stink at grammar: Me, Myself and I explain America's downfall

News_English_grammar_for dummies

In addition to our recent debt downgrade and crumbling national infrastructure, it seems our country is also falling apart grammatically. I for one am mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found myself in a client meeting when someone (someone who usually makes 10 times what I do and has the power to make me jump through hoops) will say something like, “Please send a copy to Jim and myself.”

Cringe worthy. As you and I both know, the correct phrase should be “Please send a copy to Jim and me.” But that takes a grammatical commitment too risky for some.

You see, “myself” is not a “dressier” or “classier” version of “me." “I” is a subject, “me” is an object, and “myself” is a reflexive pronoun. But lately, I’ve found that people — even educated people — are nervous about using “me."

Since they can’t remember whether to use I or me, they overcorrect with the incorrect “myself” and then come off as pretty dumb. Witness the “Countess” LuAnn de Lesseps on Real Housewives of New York and you’ll see what I mean. Instead, save “myself” for times when you’ve used “I” earlier in the same sentence, such as: “I really made an ass of myself at the Burks’ house the other night. I wonder if I will be invited back?”

 In addition to our recent debt downgrade and crumbling national infrastructure, it seems our country is also falling apart grammatically. 

Another case where it is correct to use myself is when you are both the subject and the object of a sentence. For example, “I caught myself thinking about the deadline for this column again,” or, “I'm going to blame myself if it’s disappointing.” In both of these cases, you are the object of your own action, so myself is the right word to use.

So we’ve taken care of that situation. But the widespread grammar problems go much further (“further” indicates degree, “farther” means distance.). There is also near-universal confusion with the usages of "lay" and "lie”. Over time, non-standard usage has become more popular than standard in regard to these two odd verbs, but it doesn’t have to be that way — their survival depends on grammar warriors like you and “me” (but you knew that one, didn’t you?).

In short, “lay" is a verb meaning to put or place something somewhere. (It also has a sexual connotation, but I don’t need to tell you that, sophisticated reader). Lay takes a direct object. Its principal parts are "lay," "laid," and "laying."

For example: I lay the napkin next to the plate as I set the table. Yesterday I laid my iPad down on the floor at the gym and someone stole it. 

On other hand, “lie” means to recline. It does not take an object. Its principal parts are "lie," "lay," "lain," and "lying."

Examples: Every night I lie down on my sleep number bed. I lay down last night and passed out in my Pajama Jeans. I am lying down watching Law and Order: SVU as I do every night.

The common, seemingly harmless saying, “Let's lay out in the sun,” is not only incorrect grammatically, it suggests a shockingly public promiscuity that's out of place even in this age of sexual permissiveness — or even at the Hotel Zaza — because you're implying the existence of a direct object of lay: “Let's lay (her/him?) out in the sun.”

But I’ll forgive you on that one. And for God’s sake, don’t forget to invite “me”!