1

TL;DR;

Has 'Me and whoever' long become acceptable usage in informal speech?


In the comments on this answer on ELL, I corrected the usage of "me" instead of "I".

"My boyfriend and I.. " 😁

However, the original answerer1 claimed:

in informal speech 'Me and whoever'2 has long become acceptable usage. I think we've gotten over that one now :)
Emphasis mine

Fumblefingers is "fairly relaxed about such things" as they mention here, however a sample size of 1 is not really authoritative. Most other answers I found both on ELU and other arbitrary Google searches seem quite set on upholding this rule rather than relaxing it.


This ngram seems to claim the opposite. The "correct usage" seems to be growing.

Is the ngram biased as its corpus is published works and probably less informal?

enter image description here


Have we really got over it? It seems that there are a good deal of people who are resistant to the change in my quick search but maybe I'm not looking in the right places.


1. A clumsy word to my ears, but apparently a real one
2. I'm dying to change this to "me and whomever"!

  • The ngram terms are not really comparable. – Robusto Sep 9 '15 at 16:37
  • Why do you say that @Robusto? – James Webster Sep 9 '15 at 16:38
  • It looks a bit different if you compare I/Me and my friend for the past half-century. – FumbleFingers Sep 9 '15 at 16:40
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    Only one of the three contains the possessive pronoun "my"; also the "friend and I" will register hits on sentences like "I saw my friend and I think he's sick," etc., etc. I take a somewhat jaundiced view of the use of ngrams on this site. – Robusto Sep 9 '15 at 16:40
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    I think Edwin Ashworth is just talking about the (lack of) agreement between "seems" and "people." – herisson Sep 9 '15 at 23:12
3

Yes, it’s acceptable in informal speech.

Given a phrase like “Me and my friend went to the movies”, I tend to think of “me and my friend” not as a subject but rather as a topicaliser, a natural shortening of “Me and my friend, we went to the movies”.

Topicalisation can be introduced explicitly with prepositions like “as for” or “speaking of”, but in English it’s usually done with fronting: stating a term at the beginning of a phrase rather than its usual grammatical position.

This can also be analysed in another way: compound subjects are not necessarily in subjective case. There are many peculiarities of inflection like this in English, in which inflections do or do not distribute into compound terms. For example, the tense of “reported speech” is usually changed to match the surrounding phrase, thus “He told me that he was ready” as opposed to “He told me that he is ready”.

Linguistics is a descriptive field, not a prescriptive one—that is, linguists study how language is actually used, and devise rules for describing patterns; they do not prescribe a particular usage as grammatical or ungrammatical. That is done by individuals. A native speaker would never say “Me went fishing” unless they were trying to sound like a caveman, but the same person would readily say “Me and Bob went fishing”. If English-speaking people say it, it must be English, or some dialect thereof.

-1

Your example from the other question does not include enough context to address your question here. Here's enough:

Me and my boyfriend broke up

In informal use, this use of the object form 'me' in place of the subject form of the personal pronoun 'I' is common, although formally incorrect. That the incorrect form is frequently used does nothing to make the form more correct. Frequency of use is only a likely indicator of acceptability in limited circumstances by a specific audience. Frequency of use says nothing about correctness.

So, you are correct, but the answerer is also correct in claiming that use is common and so is acceptable in the circumstances. A claim about acceptability does not contradict a claim of correctness directly. To say otherwise equivocates the words 'correct' and 'acceptable'.

  • Frequency of use says nothing about correctness. ... until it becomes used almost exclusively and becomes the "correct" version. – James Webster Sep 9 '15 at 21:48
  • Frequency of use determines correctness. There is absolutely no other factor than frequency of use and frequency of acceptability that determines correctness. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 9 '15 at 21:50
  • @JanusBahsJacquet, that's true in a technical sense with reference to one very narrow sense of 'correctness', that is, the sense imposed by adherents of descriptive grammars to the exclusion of prescriptive grammars. In a way, it's very much like, if not identical to, claiming that because the biological sense of 'adaptable' means 'capable of having offspring', that's the only possible use of the word. I find such claims destructively provincial. – JEL Sep 9 '15 at 21:55
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    No, it's nothing like such a claim. Adaptable has several other common meanings, as does correct. But when you describe a grammatical feature as being “formally (in)correct”, you're using a term that has no definition as if it did. There is no such thing as an absolute ‘formally correct’ in natural languages. There are different levels of acceptability/correctness, and the same construction can have different levels of that in different contexts. It makes no more sense to say that me and X as subject is “not formally correct” than to say it's “technically wrong”. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 9 '15 at 22:03
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    I’m not denying the existence of anyone’s point of view, nor the validity of other fields of study. Let me put it differently: if you believe frequency says nothing about correctness, but “me and my friends are going to the movies” to be “formally incorrect”, please include how you define formal correctness. What, if not whether and how speakers of a language use a construction, makes it correct or incorrect? For a standardised and to a certain degree artificial language like written French, there can be a definite answer; for English, I have yet to see one, at least. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 9 '15 at 22:27

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