Categories
Writing

Sometimes so-and-so and me is okay.

Overcorrection.

It’s a natural human inclination. If you throw me a heavy ball I catch in my right hand and then throw me a heavy ball I catch in my left hand, I will lean right, lean left, and then balance myself to the middle eventually.

There was a time (I want to say it was the early 1980s) when everyone I knew said so-and-so and me regardless of whether it was appropriate for the sentence or not: Jill and me went to the comic book convention on Saturday or Bill and me lost our virginity on the doorstep of my parents’ house. Then I guess some hoity-toity wanna-be grammarians kept chastising others with “No, it’s so-and-so and I,” and eventually, instead of learning that it depends on the structure of the sentence, people learned that it was always so-and-so and I instead of so-and-so and me. Now, twenty years later, almost every college graduate I know who is between the ages of 22 and 35 will say so-and-so and I even if the sentence warrants a so-and-so and me.

Here’s a quick lesson for those who don’t want to burn my ears. So-and-so and I is just a more specific way of saying we. So-and-so and me is just a more specific way of saying us. So substitute in we or us as necessary and see if the sentence sounds funny to you.

Examples
That was just a secret between Michelle and I
Lawn bowling is something Gertrude and I enjoy doing every Saturday
Hester gave a thoughtful gift to Edith and I
Grace and I wanted to play bridge but couldn’t find the cards

Okay. Let’s substitute in we or us and see how the sentences sound now.

That was just a secret between we (wrong)
Lawn bowling is something we enjoy doing every Saturday (right)
Hester gave a thoughtful gift to we (wrong)
We wanted to play bridge but couldn’t find the cards (right).

Some people also recommend removing the so-and-so to see how ridiculous the sentence sounds (e.g., That was just a secret between I or That was just a secret between me), but that doesn’t preserve the meaning of the sentence, so I prefer substituting in we and us instead.

It’s not that complicated, really. So-and-so and I is the same as we, and so-and-so and me is the same as us. If you can keep we and us straight, you should know when to use I and me appropriately with a so-and-so.

Categories
Writing

The noun disconnect

The English language changes. It’s a fact of life. Much as grammarians and pedants would love for it to stay the same, it changes. I understand that change is inevitable—I don’t have to like the change, though.

I have finally embraced the verb impact, and I still cringe when someone says something was [insert adverb] unique (e.g., really unique, very unique, so unique). I realize, of course, I’m fighting an uphill battle. I’m not quite as extreme as some are, though. I don’t impose arbitrary grammar “rules” (no split infinitives, no ending a sentence with a preposition).

Shifts in usage irk me if I see no logical reason for them. I’m okay with calling stewards and stewardesses flight attendants, as it apparently gives their job more dignity, and it also saves me the trouble of distinguishing genders. I’m okay with people using the term sick to substitute for what used to be phat, bad, tubular, or groovy. Every generation has to have its “cool” words.

Why did, after Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas, harassment suddenly shift from being harassment to harassment? Why in 2002 did people start using the word disconnect as a noun? I swear before 2002 I had never heard a single soul say “There was a disconnect between….” All of a sudden, the past six years, I can’t go a month without hearing someone say “There was a disconnect” or seeing the phrase written in a blog or news article. I get a mental shiver every time I hear it.

I never thought I’d be a “Good old days…” person, but I do miss the days of disconnect as a verb, which I rarely hear now. Could you please disconnect the phone?

Categories
Computers Life Ubuntu

Anonymity on the internet

A recent discussion on the Ubuntu Forums (the link will work only if you are logged in) has got me thinking about the role of anonymity in online discussions. Is it a good thing? Is it a bad thing?

Well, the answer, of course, is that it’s both good and bad. And I think I would rather take the cons of anonymity for the sake of privacy than take the pros of full disclosure for the sake of civility.

Basically, the idea is that if (on discussion forums, for example) people gave their actual names, genders, pictures, geographic locations, and other personal details, then online discussions would be more civil and online communities would be better bonded. I think to a certain extent that would be true. If you’re Gertrude Chang from Cherry Hill, NJ with a picture to match, you’re far more likely to post something civil in response to a post you disagree with than if you’re lozahsux3583 with an Elvis Presley avatar. There are few people who would say Keep complaining. I’m sure the internet will listen to me in person, but someone felt it was perfectly okay to post that as an anonymous comment on my blog.

Of course, increasing likelihood is all you can do. After all, some people, even in person can be rude to you, no matter if they know what you look like, no matter how many personal details they know about you or how many personal details you know about them. Also, as anyone who has seen the post-it episode of Sex and the City knows, it’s far easier for someone to write something nasty to you than to say it to your face, so even if people have to disclose personal details, they may still feel freer to let loose their meanie inhibitions if they can type to you instead of talk to you in person.

This all is also on the assumption that you can force people to be honest about who they are. After all, I could say I’m Gertrude Chang from Cherry Hill, NJ and actually be Gemma Maguire from New Castle or Sanjay Gupta from Queensland. I could also post up a photo of my niece instead of posting up a photo of myself. There really isn’t a lot of gained trust you get from forcing people to reveal personal details.

And then there’s the issue of privacy. With identity theft rampant and many online discussions being open ones (Google searchable, browseable by anyone or any bot), there is a real danger in saying who you are and in giving out too many personal details.

In the end, I have found that ultimately anonymity isn’t such a terrible thing. Sometimes it brings out the worst in people, and they’d say things they wouldn’t ordinarily say in real life. Other times, it brings out the best in people and allows people the freedom to speak their minds thoughtfully about things they wouldn’t ordinarily be able to talk about in real life (for fear of losing their jobs or offending family members, etc.). I’ve recently been reading Yao Ming’s autobiography, and he said he likes to hang out on the internet to see what people are saying about him, because he knows the anonymous folks on the internet are likelier to be honest about whether he’s doing a good job or not.

At least on the Ubuntu Forums and on my blog, I’ve found most discussions and comments to be quite civil, despite the relative anonymity people are afforded. The exceptions are a few spambots and trolls that are quickly taken care of.