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A Word, Please:

Grammar snobs: There is no ā€˜Iā€™ in blowhard

April 23, 2008|By JUNE CASAGRANDE

There was a phone message waiting for me at my local bookstore the other day. I don’t work at the bookstore. I don’t have friends who work at the bookstore. I do live a short distance from this particular bookstore, but not so close that its employees would answer my home phone. But someone had called the bookstore to leave a message — for me.

Yet before the bookstore employee delivering the message had a chance to finish her sentence, I already knew what the message would be. “A lady who read the article . . .” the employee began. And I heard it coming.

“It’s about ‘than me,’ right?” I asked.

“Yeah,” the bookstore employee said.

My Vroman’s appearance had been preceded by a little write-up in a local paper — a lighthearted article that touched on everything from my new book to my new husband, my TV viewing habits and my cats. In the very casual tone consistent with the whole interview, the reporter had asked whether my friends worry about making grammar mistakes when they talk in front of me.

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“Oh, they don’t give a [darn] what I think,” I replied. “They’re all smarter than me, anyway.”

I didn’t expect those words to appear verbatim in my local paper, but they did. The next day, the reporter forwarded to me four e-mails she’d received.

“Surely,” one very cantankerous reader wrote, “Ms. Casagrade did NOT say, ‘They’re all smarter than me anyway.’"

“I wonder if she’ll correct herself at the book signing,” another wrote.

Their issue had to do with my choice of “me” instead of “I” following “than.” Technically, “than” is first and foremost a conjunction, and conjunctions introduce whole clauses — stuff like “I am.”

That’s different from the job of a preposition, which takes an object — think “with me.”

So, according to the traditional rules of formal grammar, I should have said “than I” instead of “than me.”

Yet I don’t feel chastened, because if any of them had read the book, they would have noticed that a whole chapter is dedicated to this issue. In fact, the chapter is titled “He is smarter than me.”

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