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The French Solution 


Barry Evans confronts our confusion over the proper use of English, particularly in regard to pronouns ("Lord, is it me? [Or is it I?]", Dec. 27). He reminds us that according to traditional grammar, "I" is a subject pronoun, while "me" is the corresponding object pronoun. Saying "me" in the wrong place could mark a person as uneducated. To answer the question "Who's there?" we're more likely to say "It's me" than the formally correct "It is I," as only the queen herself might say. So we are uncertain when to use which word.

I'd like to accuse American English of regarding the innocent word "me" as very low-class, often replacing it with "myself." We further reduce the occurrence of "me" by using the frozen phrase "and I" no matter where: "They invited my wife and I to dinner," or "That was a surprise to Bill and I." Few Americans would notice anything wrong with those sentences; after all, "I" is such an intellectual-sounding word. Another frozen phrase is now often heard in political discussions, wrongly paraphrasing Lincoln: "Of we the people, for we the people, and by we the people."

But what to say when you knock at a door and someone inside asks, "Who is it?" I recommend an answer that was popular among certain classes of American young ladies in the past century. It is short, simple and perfectly grammatical, and it is French: "C'est moi."

Orr Marshall, Eureka

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