Today is Friday, December 19, 2014

Casing the Cool Ones

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By ANNE DONNELL

I think you have mentioned that it’s incorrect to say something like, “…for Tom and I.” I believe I understand why, but still want you to explain this.  I hear this everywhere, even on television.  I try not to say this, but it’s so easy to pick up things other people say.  Why is that, by the way?. - One Who Appreciates “The Right Way”

RED FACE DEPARTMENT – A call on New Year’s Eve from an esteemed and kind friend set me straight on demean. Yes, it means “to lower in character, status, or reputation,” BUT it also means “to conduct or behave in a proper manner.”  The latter is certainly what we’d hope of any office holder. I apologize, readers, for misleading you.

Our QP of T (Question Person of Today) is on to something here – a drift in common usage toward dissolving the pronoun cases. If “pronoun cases” mystifies you, you’re not alone – the percentage of those mystified by the term is probably ninety something. Which leads me to ponder a TV series about ninety somethings – a scramble of racing wheelchairs, cussing grannies beating nurses with their dolls, streaking granddads, and pets lapping up pharmaceuticals, though never in a deadly way. I’m reflecting prejudice here against the very folk I hope to join. Well, there’s still a few years of wearing real clothes in public as opposed to house coats. With food stains. I have those now. As a friend of mine said, “My children don’t have to ask me what I had for lunch. I’m wearing it.” Well, babies do, too, and people think they’re cute and precious and adorable ad infinitum. For old folks the list is closer to ad nauseum. [Ad infinitum means “endlessly, without limit.” Ad nausem means “to the point of causing nausea.” You know – like when people say, “That just makes me want to throw up.”  Both ad’s are Latin.] 

Before I break my own heart feeling sorry for myself and my approaching ancientness, here’s ONLINE DEPARTMENT reminiscing. (Thanks, PW).• I came across this phrase yesterday "FENDER SKIRTS," a term I haven't heard in a long time. Thinking about "fender skirts" started me thinking about other words that quietly disappear from our language with hardly a notice like "curb feelers" And "steering knobs," (AKA) “suicide knob.” Since I'd been thinking of cars, my mind naturally went that direction first. Any kids will probably have to find some elderly person over 50 to explain some of these terms to you. Remember "Continental kits?" When did we quit saying "emergency brakes?" At some point "parking brake" became the proper term. But I miss the hint of drama that went with "emergency brake." Didn't you ever wait at the street for your daddy to come home, so you could ride the "running board" up to the house? • Here's a phrase I heard all the time in my youth but never anymore - "store-bought." Of course, just about everything is store-bought these days. But once it was bragging material to have a store-bought dress or a store-bought bag of candy. • "Coast to coast" is a phrase that once held all sorts of excitement and now means almost nothing. Now we take the term "world wide" for granted. This floors me. • On a smaller scale, "wall-to-wall" was once a magical term. In the '50s, everyone covered his or her hardwood floors with, wow, wall-to-wall carpeting! Today, everyone replaces their wall-to-wall carpeting with hardwood floors. Go figure. • When's the last time you heard the quaint phrase "in a family way?"  It's hard to imagine that the word "pregnant" was once considered a little too graphic, a little too clinical for use in polite company So we had all that talk about stork visits and "being in a family way" or simply "expecting." • I always loved going to the "picture show," but I considered "movie" an affectation. • Here's a word I miss - "percolator." That was just a fun word to say. And what was it replaced with? "Coffee maker." How dull. Mr. Coffee, I blame you for this. • I miss those made-up marketing words that were meant to sound so modern and now sound so retro. Words like "DynaFlow" and "Electrolux." Introducing the 1963 Admiral TV, now with "SpectraVision.” • Food for thought - Was there a telethon that wiped out lumbago? Nobody complains o f that anymore. Maybe that's what castor oil cured, because I never hear mothers threatening kids with castor oil anymore. • Some words aren't gone, but are definitely on the endangered list. The one that grieves me most "supper." Now everybody says "dinner." Save a great word. Invite someone to supper. Discuss fender skirts.

So PRONOUN CASE. Case is simply a designation (by a use in a sentence) for nouns and pronouns.

 Nouns, in English, don’t change form for cases other than possessive (showing ownership). The nominative case (subjects, predicate nominatives) and the objective case (direct and indirect objects, objects of a preposition) look the same.

 Personal Pronouns show case. The nominative (example I) and the objective (example me) are different words. The QP of T’s example (for Tom and I) communicates but in poor form.  The objective case is needed, because the pronoun is used as an object of a preposition. The phrase should read for Tom and me. Who or whom (relative or interrogative pronouns) are subject to the same error.

I suspect this widespread carelessness came about from misguided self improvement.  The nominative is strong (used as subject of sentence, for example, the chief job in a sentence if we start ranking) and sounds “educated.” In the past teachers endeavored to stop “It’s me” and enforce “It’s I.” Perhaps this is the source of the myth of the universal nominative. Anyway, its incorrect use shows carelessness, ignorance, or disdain -- like peppering your writing with misspelled words. 

Why do we pick up things other say and begin using them? That’s part of our built in learning system; we hear or read, accept or deny, use what we accept. It’s accelerated by our desire to be at least in the midst of the cool ones, if not leading.   

BW (Bigtime Word) thurification – the act of burning incense.  How to be hippy without looking like a barge.

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