October 25, 2012

Vote for me

Colin Powell endorses Barack Obama, but with a case problem:

"You know, I voted for him in 2008 and I plan to stick with him in 2012, and I'll be voting for he and Vice President Joe Biden next month," he said on CBS' "This Morning."
This error (the use of nominative case after a preposition) is usually observed in coordination structures, as in "Jimmy bought the book for Harry and I." I think it's a case of hypercorrection, the use of a non-standard form resulting from a (misdirected) effort to use a correct form. In a subject position in a finite clause, strictly speaking, a pronoun should take its nominative form ("I go," not "Me go"), but in a coordination structure, many speakers find the accusative acceptable, at least in non-formal contexts ("Harry and me went to the party"). However, in formal contexts, nominative case is required ("Harry and I went to the party"). Speakers may generalize that "Harry and I" is better than "Harry and me"), but this is only true in the subject position of a tensed clause, it does not hold for the position of an object ("Sandy invited Harry and me", not "Sandy invited Harry and I"). The same holds for the use of nominative case after a preposition ("between you and I"), as reported hereThe effort to use the "better" form (the one with higher prestige) may in this case result in the use of an ungrammatical form -- hypercorrection. 

Rule of thumb: After "and," use the pronoun you'd use if there were no "and" and no coordination.

  • I left. --> Harry and I left.
  • She left me. --> She left Harry and me.
  • I'll vote for him. --> I'll vote for Harry and him.
An extra note on "for:" Unlike "between," for can also act as a subordinating conjunction (or "complementizer"). In this function, it introduces a clause, i.e. it must be followed by a noun phrase and a verb phrase. In this scenario, the noun phrase can be in nominative case. That's why we sing "For he is a jolly good fellow" rather than "For him...". 

October 16, 2012

Binders full of women

Tonight's presidential debate -- supposed to be "a free-flowing question-and-answer session between the candidates and a studio audience at Hoftra University" -- as been called feisty, rancous, aggressive and tense. Any phrase from the debate that stands out? Well, there are Mitt Romney's "binders full of women." A touch ... objectifying, no?

From CNN
Did Mitt Romney really request that as governor of Massachusetts, he be brought "whole binders full of women?" It was his response to a question – on gender pay inequality - which turned heads and started fingers tapping on keyboards. Before the debate was over, there was a Twitter hashtag, a blog, a series of memes, and a Facebook page with over 100,000 fans. The phrase was the third-fastest rising search on Google during the debate.

Here's the relevant excerpt from the debate:
And important topic, and one which I learned a great deal about, particularly as I was serving as governor of my state, because I had the chance to pull together a cabinet and all the applicants seemed to be men. And I -- and I went to my staff, and I said, “How come all the people for these jobs are -- are all men.” They said, “Well, these are the people that have the qualifications.” And I said, “Well, gosh, can’t we -- can’t we find some -- some women that are also qualified?” ROMNEY: And -- and so we -- we took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet. I went to a number of women’s groups and said, “Can you help us find folks,” and they brought us whole binders full of women.

October 11, 2012

A bunch of malarkey

If you followed tonight's debate of the two nominees for Vice President, John Biden and Paul Ryan, you agree that the word of the evening was "marlarkey," as in "With all due respect, that's a bunch of malarkey." Politico.com shows that Joe Biden seems rather fond of this word. He thinks it reflects his Irish identity: "We Irish call it malarkey.”

Alas, the word is considered an Americanism and was first recorded in the 1920s. Its supposed Irish origin? Pure malarkey, at least according to the OED:
Etymology:  Origin unknown. A surname Mullarkey , of Irish origin, exists, but no connection is known between any person of that name and this word.