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De Guatemala a Guatepeor – he and she used as object pronouns

Most of us are familiar with the unfortunate but now common error evident in phrases such as “between you and I” and “with her and I” where the first person singular subject pronoun incorrectly replaces the corresponding object pronoun “me.” People should say “between you and me” and “with her and me” but folks have been corrected (appropriately) for using “me” in place of “I” when they say “Me and John are going to lunch. Want to come with us?” The reaction is to avoid the use of “me” at all costs. This kind of error is called hypercorrection. It is an overextension of the rule that object pronouns should not be used as subjects with the result that appropriate uses of the object pronoun “me” are considered wrong and result in phrases such as “between you and I.”

What we are seeing now is an extension of the error due to hypercorrection. What started in the first person is now spreading to the third person. It’s hard to believe that this misuse is spreading. While the confusion between “me” and “I” is regrettable, it’s also understandable. But what’s happening with the third person singular pronouns is mystifying because it does not even sound remotely right. Here are some examples of the third person singular subject pronoun being used in place of the object pronoun:

I met her and had dinner with she and her mother. (from E News!)

Ryan said that any comparison between he and Rachel’s movie and real life is imaginary. (E News!)

When Mexican officials cornered he and his bodyguard, they started firing. (Spring Break Nightmares)

For an exam copy, find out who your rep is and request that from he or she. (Voicemail from customer service representative for a textbook provider)

Maybe you’ve seen examples of this. If so, what are your thoughts? And if you’ve seen examples of this error, consider sending them in.

JULIA PALMER is an associate professor of modern languages at Hampden-Sydney College. Her email address is jpalmer@hsc.edu.