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Why do we use the object instead of the subject pronoun in constructions like “stupid me”?

Is this correct:

Idealistic me decided otherwise.

Word thinks that I should use:

Idealistic I decided otherwise.

but it just doesn't sound right.


Me preceded by an adjective is a perfectly normal English construction. We say silly me, not *silly I. If we want to make that phrase the subject of a sentence, we can do so. It’s Silly me went and locked the keys inside the car and not *Silly I went and locked the keys inside the car. The OP’s example is analogous and there should be no controversy about this. The case is less clear with other personal pronouns, but I suspect that they are less likely to be preceded by adjectives anyway.

The point is that English personal pronouns remain in the state of flux that characterizes their history. As Pam Peters says in ‘The Cambridge Guide to English Usage’:

. . . the nominative / accusative distinction for English pronouns is increasingly neutralized in certain contexts . . . which suggests evolution towards a ‘common case’ (quoting Katie Wales, ‘Personal Pronouns in Present-Day English’).

  • Logically, we should accept "silly him", etc., but I suppose you're like me in thinking that's at least "iffy". There are plenty of written instances of Silly them!, for example, as an exclamation, but I can't find any for adjective - (pronoun other than "me") - verb. And judging by the votes, lots of people aren't happy with "me" anyway. Whatever - I'm not going to delete my answer, but I'm upvoting yours for going into more relevant detail. – FumbleFingers Dec 22 '11 at 0:23
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    @FumbleFingers: 'I' and 'me' seem to be particularly susceptible to variation in their use: 'between you and me' / 'between you and I', 'Who's there?' 'It's me' and the non-standard 'Me and my wife' as subject. – Barrie England Dec 22 '11 at 7:56
  • People think "John and me" is uneducated, because they know the Queen says "My husband and I". So even though most people usually say "me" there, they switch to "I" when they're being formal. But I suspect there is no "formal" context for "Silly me" (you certainly won't hear the Queen say "Silly I", for example). So although it's potentially just as "valid", in practice that form simply doesn't exist at all. – FumbleFingers Dec 22 '11 at 16:37

I believe Rimmer is technically correct, but whether you use "Idealistic me" or "Idealistic I" is kind of secondary, they both sound awkward.

I would suggest rewording the sentence, depending on how you intend it to be read. In my opinion a much more eloquent construction would be:

Being idealistic, I decided otherwise.

Or, you could say "my idealism" instead of "Idealistic me":

My idealism caused me to decide otherwise.

You could also use "my idealistic side" to be a little more causal, like:

I was tempted to cheat, but my idealistic side kept me in line.

As Eduardo pointed out the original construction only makes sense if this is a person describing his inner character to another:

Greedy me wanted to keep the money, but idealistic me decided otherwise.

  • I'm a bit surprised this gets to be a top-rated answer, given that you start off by saying OP's specific question is secondary, and then proceed to talk about something else. I believe you will not find any meaningful number of written instances for I being used as per OP's second example, but there are a lot for his first one. And he's asking about that distinction, not about whether some people don't like the construction in the first place. – FumbleFingers Dec 22 '11 at 0:09
  • The OP says: "Word says I should use... but it just doesn't sound right." My response is aimed at why it just doesn't sound right, and is trying to offer alternatives that sound better. It's kind of rude to go slamming competing answers in your own answer and in the comments, BTW. – Andrew Dec 22 '11 at 15:22
  • Sorry. I didn't mean to annoy anyone, but at the time I wrote my answer, his was the only one that had votes, and I (still) don't agree with it, so I felt I had to make the point. I'll knock that first bit out now - because @Barrie has made the same point, so it's not really important to specifically flag it up. – FumbleFingers Dec 22 '11 at 16:42

I guess it all depends on the original meaning of your words.

If you wanted to say that the idealistic part of you decided otherwise, I would say that it is correct, being "idealistic me" a reference to a subject.

If you wanted to say any other thing, well, I would dare to say it would be wrong. I just can't seem to find any other interpretation for it.

  • I don't think saying "Idealistic me" particularly implies this is only one of your many facets. Unless you put it in a sentence like "The selfish me wanted to take the money and run, but the idealistic me decided otherwise". Which I don't think is OP's context. – FumbleFingers Dec 21 '11 at 3:52
  • I'm not saying that this is the only possible interpretation, but if there are others I'm just not seeing them. – Eduardo Dec 21 '11 at 4:03
  • So you can't see how OP's "Idealistic me..." can be interpreted as "Being an idealistic person, I..."? I agree that something like "at that time" or "in that context" might be implied in some such usages, but I don't think that implication always has to be there. – FumbleFingers Dec 21 '11 at 14:56

Idealistic me decided otherwise is fine. It's the same as until stupid me {did something}, for example. There'll be plenty more in Google Books - just search with a suitable word in front, like when stupid me {did something else}.

Using I would involve a totally different sentence construction...

Idealistic, I decided otherwise (with an implied "being" at the start)

...which would also be fine. But I don't think that's the phrasing OP wants (it's a bit starchy / literary / declamatory), and there's no reason he should be forced to use it.

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