The late Bill Walsh, Copy Desk Chief for the Washington Post and noted authority on the vagaries of language, once wrote, “The techies who brought us the point-and-click wonderland of the Internet are brilliant people, but they’re NOT the ones we should be looking to for language instruction.” He deplored the latest spelling tendency to turn the “language into one long word,” by employing the German method of merging adjectives with nouns and coming up with such “monstrosities” as cellphone, videogame, website (give me the proper Web site), and—God help us—the execrable and totally misspelled email (should be e-mail). I’m pretty sure these same people think it’s all right (never alright, which is NOT an English word) to say, “Me and my friend went to the store.” I grind my teeth a little every time I hear this abominable and disgustingly incorrect mangling of English grammar. I have, of late, been on a personal quest to help people avoid sounding illiterate by gently mentioning their linguistic miscue whenever I hear it uttered. So, my friends and readers, if you should happen to fall prey to this increasingly widespread shibboleth of the uninformed, and I am within earshot, you can expect to hear me utter, “My friend and I.”
One of my children once tried to slip the dreaded malapropism of “Me and Aaron went to 7-11” past me during dinnertime conversation, and when he heard Dad say, “Aaron and I,” he restarted his tale by repeating, “Me and Aaron . . . ‘ Again, Dad corrected with “Aaron and I . . .” He looked at me with complete exasperation and repeated, “Me and Aaron . . . “ When his persistent “Old Man” came back with “Aaron and I” a third time, he sighed with defeat and grudgingly capitulated by saying, “Okay. You and Aaron went to 7-11.” I had to throw my hands up and collapse with hilarity as did the rest of the family. It’s a tale that we tell at almost every family gathering, has now been passed down to my grandchildren, and is always good for a laugh. You may laugh too, but I hear this insult to my ears more and more in television scripts and now more often by broadcasters who should know better. At least, though, I’m comforted by the fact that the members of my immediate family know the correct and proper way to employ a compound subject, even if they still slip once in a while.