Friday, 28 November 2008


Last month the universally admired playwright and author Alan Bennett, in an interview about the donation of his archives to the Bodleian, is alleged to have said, " no point did my parents or me have to pay anything for my education", and "Me and my partner, we're relatively well off..."

He was talking, not writing, and it is possible that the interviewer, Maev Kennedy, misquoted him.

But if he did say it, would it have been the writing on the wall? Should Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells turn his attention to more serious matters? Never mind the pedants who foam at the mouth when they see this sort of thing in print, is it now time that we all stopped bothering about the distinction between nominative and accusative?


Froog said...

I think there is an argument that the 'accusative' form can properly be used in a deictic clause such as this - i.e. as a demonstrative pronoun.

Though perhaps it is only descriptive grammarians who say this?

Tony said...

I daresay there is such an argument, but the last revision of Fowler has a whole column on this, noting that " is now tending to usurp the territory that logically belongs to the subject pronoun" and listing a number of ways in which this happens. Burchfield notes that "this is now a feature of modern English" but at least one of the ways Bennett did it is not among those recommended as acceptable.
Anyway, this may be a hot topic wherever descriptive grammarians foregather, but to me what AB said sounds dead common.
So there.

Froog said...

Yeah, well, I'm a man of the people, me.

Minerva said...

Absolute poppycock. Me and my mates all agree that you aren't talking up to the minute, in-depth, top of the range English, at the end of the day.



Froog said...

You don't object to the French using moi in the same way, do you?

I suspect that this usage probably has a very long history. And anyway, I don't object to innovations - of whatever vintage - so long as they are convenient, have a sound logical basis, can be consistently applied, and are not inelegant or unnecessary. On all these grounds, I'm perfectly comfortable with the use of accusatives as demonstratives.

Fowler began his great work 90-odd years ago; and in many cases he was, I think, trying to fight battles that were already long lost then. In a few cases, he was fighting battles without good reason, or without being right. This might be one of those.

It is unattractive and unconvincing - and untypical of you, Tony! - to invoke class prejudice as your decisive argument.

Tony said...

Minerva: Lovely to hear from you and the sound of your silvery laughter after such a long silence, even if you are having a go at me. As for the way you and you mates talk, at the end of the day it makes me think, like, wow, if only I could learn to talk with such precision and vigour!

Froog: Object, je? Who cares what the French say?
Long usage? So has We ain't got no money but that does not mean that I have to applaud its use. You are quite right to suggest that it's all a matter of class, or, I would rather say, of taste. It's a tribal thing—we ape the speech patterns of people we like to associate ourselves with, or, in my case, with whom we like to associate ourselves.