I made a big mistake a few weeks ago in the area of gramme ... gramarr... of using the right word. Today I am like to write about it and the people who corected... coracted ... korected ... who have nothing better to do than point out my stupid mistakes.
The mistake or "bobo" came in the very first paraggra, uh, the top of my column on our village forester, Jim McGannon. The sentence said that if you look up the word "friend" in the dixshun ... in the big red word book, "you'll find a picture of Jim and I."
Then the letters and e-mails started coming.
"Rich: In your latest column you referred to a 'picture of Jim and I' when you should have said 'a picture of Jim and me.' Shame on you." It was signed "Ralph Verno, West Chester, PA."
I called Jim and he said he had no recollection of ever having his picture taken with a guy named Ralph Verno. (Jim also insisted he'd never had his picture taken with New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey, even though I hadn't asked.)
Anyway, Ralph Verno also wrote: "You should be beaten with a wet noodle for making this very common mistake. When a personal pronoun is the object of a preposition or verb, it should be the objective form (me, him, her us, etc. not I, he, she, we, etc.)"
I think Ralph was maybe bitten last spring by Puxatawn ... Pucksatommy ... by Phil, that famous gopher or groundhog or something back there who was crucified for our sins, died, and then three days later came back to life, rolled the rock away from his den, came out and if he sees his shadow we get six more months of winter.
To be honest, when I was in school I didn't pay much attention to all that personal pronoun, object of preposition stuff. It bored me and took away valuable time from the real purpose of school: putting thumbtacks on Dave Fiske's seat just as he sat down so he'd leap back up, holler "Son of a bitch!" and pick a thumbtack out of his buttocks and get thrown out of class. (I'd often take that opportunity to thank the teacher for her decision to send him to the principal's office, telling her that Dave's behavior was distracting me and keeping me from learning. In my senior year I was voted Most Likely To Be Found Beaten To Death And Stuffed In The Trunk Of A Car.)
Anyway, I didn't get too involved in all that punctuation and proposing to a pronoun crap. Frankly, I just wanted to learn how to write. And if I don't mind saying so himself, I think I've did pretty darn good?
But it wasn't just Ralph Verno of PA who got all over me. People in our own commoonity ... coomooniti ... people right here did it, too.
Reader Jan on Magnolia Street cut out the column with skissors and wrote on it: "Rich, Rich, Rich. You do have a problem with I and me."
To which I would say, "I had no problem with either one of you, Jan. Not until one of you wrote the mean note."
She went on to write: "Remember, I -- subject, me -- object. Would you say ____ of I?"
Now why the hell would I ever say "____ of I?" It just doesn't make any sense.
Although a few weeks ago Doug Bruce, whom we're about to elect a county commissioner, apparently to find out once and for all if local government can possibly get any worse, called to complain about something I'd written and I said "____ you!" and hung up the phone.
And then there was Donna Bauer on Ridgeway Street, who is a member of the Society for the Preservation of English Language and Literature. (Footnote, Just To Show You I'm Not Stupid: If you take the first letters of each of those words, it spells out the word SPELL. This is known as an "aneurism" and in 1982 one of these things killed my uncle Chet.)
Anyway, Donna sends me a bright yellow postcard from this society for the preservation of something or other every time I make a stupid mistake in a column. This has, over the years, allowed me to reflect on my writing and, as a bonus, wallpaper my kids' bedrooms in a nice canary yellow.
Donna, like Jan, also skissored out my column. She used a red Magic Marker to outline the sentence about the picture of Jim, Ralph Verno and Gov. McGreevey and then she wrote: "A picture of I? Could you please add the pronoun 'me' to your vocabulary?"
I get the point. So here goes:
Dear Jan, Ralph and Donna: You should have put thumbtacks on Dave Fiske's seat. It was way more fun than objective or subjective pronouncing of propositions or whatever the hell you did in high school.
As my father always said about people like you: "There but for the grace of God go me."
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