My Grammar Would Be Proud

Funny how people choose to fight the battle they think they can win when faced with a foe they don’t know how to fight.

My post on Monday proposing a National Service Corp for Accountability and Transparency, (tongue-in-cheek assigned the unceremonious acronym “NSCAT” by Dennis Howlett,) was met with quite a few interesting and thoughtful comments. But the most curious ones were the attack and defense of my choice of pronouns in my title. (Photo Source)

My grandmother, Frances Sanfilippo Loizzo, was of “hard as nails” Sicilian stock. My aunt Concetta seems to think I’m looking more and more like her as I age, and my mother says I’m an accountant because Fray, as my grandpa called her, was so good with numbers.  She ran a corner store, was an expert seamstress, and a wizard investor.  She kept detailed accounts on that beige-tone old fashioned ledger paper with the multi-colored lines separating the varying width columns. She also hid money and papers under the sink in the basement and my mother had to search the house to uncover the details of her investments after her early death from cancer when I was fourteen. Unfortunately, I inherited her habit of a disorganized version of organization that is indecipherable to anyone but me.

What my Grandma was not was careless. She may have seemed to snap and make decisions quickly, but there was a calculation, a thoughtful process, behind everything she said and did, even if it happened at the speed of light, too fast for many of those around her to appreciate.

You should realize by now that I don’t make decisions of titles, content, or the photo/video accompaniment to my posts in haste. I may make them quickly, but not without thinking. Before choosing the wording for the title of my Monday post, I thought for a moment, said it out loud both ways, and then called my personal grammar guru. He’s someone who prefers to remain anonymous for this purpose, since his Big 4 clients would not like the fact that he comports so closely with the likes of me. Rest assured he has the chops to give me good advice. I went with it, especially since it passed my “ear” test.

Within minutes of posting, I had a detractor. The comment was not a conciliatory one, not one that gave me the benefit of the doubt, but one that revealed what seemed to me to be a trigger finger, gunning for something to “catch” me on. I’m ready for that. I have no problem with that. And if those that did, or still do, think I’m a poor writer want to keep reading the blog and keep telling me so, well, it’s my cross to bear.

I hesitated before hitting the “Publish” button. I may be wrong once and a while, but I doubt it. On this I was fairly certain that I was right or that there was, at least, some room for a difference of opinion. I ended up with additional comments both defending my choice and reiterating the original critic’s criticism.

And so I consulted my official grammar guru, Daniel Tuell at the Feltre School, one of my favorite places and some of my favorite people in Chicago.

I consider this answer definitive. That is all.


I understand from Jason that you wish to confirm the choice of “I” over “me” in the title, “The answer is bigger than you and (I/me).” Recall from class that, with comparative adjectives, the nouns being compared are in the same case. The noun answer is being compared with the pronouns you and (I/me). And since answer is in the nominative case, by virtue of being the subject of the verb is, both pronouns should also be in the nominative case. Hence, one should choose I instead of me. This is of course according to standard formal English, but colloquially the mistake of choosing me in this instance is often forgiven simply because of its more conversational tone.”

And, so, I forgive my vernacular readers.
13 replies
  1. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    >She also hid money and papers under the sink in the basement<

    Oh… so she worked on the Satyam account for PWC, then?

  2. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    still wrong. “Answer” and “I/me” are not nouns associated with a comparative adjective. If the sentence were “The answer is you and I”, then it would be correct. You could reverse this sentence to say “You and I are the answer”, and the meaning hasn’t changed. That’s what nouns associated with a comparative adjective are.

    But, if you were to switch you actual headline to say “You and I are bigger than the answer”, well the meaning is completely reversed. Hence, not a comparative adjective. As I mentioned in a previous post, the comparative adjective example is the exception to the general rule that of sebject agreement.

    The answer is bigger than you or me.

  3. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Ironically, when I follow the link to the Feltre School and click on their current advertisement quiz, I’m presented with the following:

    “Between you and (I/me), isn’t it time that you learned the rules of grammar?”

    Answer: me

    Interesting, as your guru advises us to you “you and me” in this prepositional clause, but advises for “you and I” in the prepositional clause in your title.

    So the question becomes, if the headline were “The answer is between you and (I/me)”, which would be the proper grammar?

    I think you need a new grammar guru.

  4. Junior
    Junior says:

    For Christ’s sake, the world is falling apart and we want to argue about I vs. me?

    I am so glad we have our priorities straight. No wonder everything is in such great shape.

  5. Independent Accountant
    Independent Accountant says:

    I agree with you. However after seeing all this nonsense checked my copy of “Fowler’s Modern English usage”, 1965 edition. I realize in the intervening 44 years, standards of written and spoken English have fallen, but will now weigh in on this momentous issue. I read the Fowler’s entries for “I” and “me” and am forced to side with Anonymous of 4:37 PM, I say “me”.

    I think you’ve made a mountain out of a molehill. You’ve made your point, move on! By the way, when I first read the piece which gave rise to this dispute, I immediately concluded “I” was misused, but also decided as a “Grammar Police Commissioner” there were more serious crimes to investigate than this “parking ticket” level “infraction”. I’ve brought this to the “Grammar DA” who gave Francine a “nolle prosequi”.

    Did not the Master say, “Let he who is without sin … “.

  6. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    A few friends and I were watching the football games over the weekend. Discussing one of the offensive linemen, my friend said, “He’s a lot bigger than I”.

    I replied, “That’s sounds strange to I, but hey, you’re smarter than I”.

  7. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Anon of 1/22 8:40 AM —

    My mother, a high school English teacher for more than 30 years, explained to me one day that the absolutely correct grammar for your sentence would be “He’s a lot bigger than I am big.” Which is why the “I” works in the sentence … when used with the other words.

    But nobody speaks like that anymore, and good writing consists of finding one’s speaking voice and replicating it on the page.

    Oh, if you disagree with Mom’s position then know ahead of time that I shall never agree with you. She wouldn’t let me.

    — Tenacious T.

  8. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    i think of it this way. Using “me”, reverse the statement. “me is bigger than the answer”. well that doesn’t sound right does it? However using I we can form “I am bigger than the answer”.

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