Me and Him Say It That Way

June 19, 2012
Posted by Jay Livingston

Planet Money had an excellent podcast  about the natural experiment that Oregon created when it could allow only 10,000 additional people onto Medicaid.  Many thousands more qualified but had to be turned away, thus providing a control group for researcher Katherine Baicker.  The study showed that Medicaid does work.  People on Medicaid were healthier and happier than those who were turned away from the program.

That result did not surprise me.  But one sentence from reporter Alex Blumberg did. 
It is the perfect control group that Katherine Baicker had been waiting for her entire career.  Her and her team got in touch with Oregon and went about designing a study . . .  [it comes at about 3:25 in the podcast]
Not to go all prescriptivist or anything, but “her and her team got in touch”?

I’m not sure what other stories I might have heard by Blumberg.  But him and his team are getting pretty casual with English grammar.  Are them and other reporters also the kind to say “she told Alex and I about her research”? 

I’m from the generation that was taught to use the same pronoun in a compound form that you would use if it stood alone.  If you wouldn’t say, “Her got in touch with Oregon,” then don’t say, “Her and her team got in touch with Oregon.” Ditto, mutatis mutandis, for “she told Alex and I.”  But us and our kind are out of step.

Hat tip to The Language Log for the New Yorker cartoon, which is from 2010.  But the “between you and I” world is hardly new.  It has had a resurgence in the last 20 years, but as the Log’s Arnold Zwicky pointed out (here)
it’s safe to say that the rise of “between you and I” in Late Modern English goes back at least 150 or 160 years, not 20.
He wrote that in 2005, well before the birth of Google Ngrams, which now provide further support for his history of  “between you and I.”


(Click on the graph for a larger view.)

1 comment:

Amy said...

Normally, I put myself into the camp that says language evolves, and when a majority of the population has adopted a word or phrase, it's a legitimate word or phrase. But for some reason, this to me feels different. It's just WRONG. If you wouldn't say, "with I," then you don't say "with you and I." Rules of grammar are there for the purpose of enhancing clarity, and that's why I favor dropping the ones that obscure meaning (e.g., not splitting infinitives, not ending sentences with propositions, or not beginning sentences with conjunctions). But breaking this rule does not enhance clarity; if anything, it blurs it, since it's not clear whether "you and I" is now a subject or an object in the sentence. This has bothered me since I was twelve years old, and it's one of my grammatical lines in the sand.