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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Revelatory argument

I had a revelatory argument with someone about grammar. The person had been taught by parents (high school teacher I think) that it is incorrect to say "bigger than me." You have to say "bigger than I." That is "correct" grammar.

The person is in a job teaching writing to students. Of course I was right, but it came down to an issue of respect: I was not respecting the person's expertise as professor of X, and the fact that my terminal degree was higher than theirs made me into the disrespecter. Of course, I was correct in terms of the grammar, but I turned out to be in the wrong socially, since I insisted too much, and in terms too absolute, that I knew what I was talking about. I had to apologize.

Every uneducated person says "bigger than me." Every linguist, along with everyone who has actually investigated it, also knows that this is correct. It is in that middle zone where people want to think they have an advantage over the uneducated where you have to say "bigger than I."





2 comments:

Thomas said...

"Of course, I was correct in terms of the grammar, but I turned out to be in the wrong socially."

Almost a Mayhewianism. Not quite, because, while Mayhewianisms may express anger, I don't think, formally speaking, they can express sadness.

Jonathan said...

It doesn't click enough to be a Mayhewianism.