Literal-Minded

Linguistic commentary from a guy who takes things too literally

Between Me and the Pawn Shop, Not My Daughter and I

Posted by Neal on October 5, 2011

Doug has gotten into watching the reality TV show Pawn Stars in the past year. Yes, he and Adam are well aware of the word play in the title, which reminds me of a tweet from Bill Walsh that I retweeted a few months ago, to the effect that porn is more egalitarian than the rest of the movie industry, because every actor is a star. Anyway, I’ve gotten so I know by hear the opening monologue: “I’m Rick Harrison, and this is my pawn shop. I work here with my old man, and my son, Big Hoss. Everything in here has a story … and a price. One thing I’ve learned in twenty years: You never know what is gonna come through that door.”

Why did Snoop Dogg carry an umbrella?

Doug was watching an episode a few nights ago, and in one segment a man wanted to sell a doll-likeness of Snoop Dogg, still in the box, which his daughter had given to him. He and Chumlee settled on a price of $100. Out in the parking lot afterwards, the seller told the camera crew about what his daughter might think of selling her gift to him. He said:

That’s gonna be between me and the pawn shop, not my daughter and I.

This is an interesting new piece in the developing between you and me/I picture. There’s of course the standard rule, such that as part of the object of the preposition between, the first person singular pronoun should be in its accusative me form. Then there’s the politeness-based rule, which is by now just about standard for a big chunk of English speakers: It’s politer to use the nominative form I when it’s in a coordination. (And myself when it’s not.)

Then there’s whatever rule this guy is using. In the first coordination, he has me and the pawn shop; in the second, my daughter and I. Is his rule that in a coordination, the first person singular pronoun is me when it comes first, and I when it comes last? Me when it’s emphasized, I when it’s not? Me when it’s first and emphasized, I otherwise? Me when it’s about business, I when it’s about family? Or is it possible that he just uses me and I in free variation?

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8 Responses to “Between Me and the Pawn Shop, Not My Daughter and I”

  1. Jason Bontrager said

    I’d guess that he just uses ‘me’ and ‘I’ interchangeably. Many of the students I deal with, and too many of the faculty, don’t seem to be aware that there are rules for consistency in language usage, so I no longer expect proper grammar, or even a modicum thereof, from anyone with whom I interact. Alas.

    • Alex G. said

      So you’d expect many of your students and fellow faculty to say “Me am hungry?” Or “Me name is Bob?”

      I think you might want to tone down your disdain of the students and faculty you deal with, and have a long hard think about your own phantasmagoric delusions of grammatical superiority.

  2. Gabe said

    Oooh… a great example, Neal! I think that the proposed rule you offer is right on. In my own speech & writing, I would never use “I and Charlene”, but “me and Charlene” is fine. If I’m putting myself second, either me or I is okay, with “I” being more likely as formality increases.

    I think at least that first part is fairly universal in American English: I can’t think of any time I’ve heard anyone say “I and Charlene” intentionally, short of when a second name is added as an aside (“I, and Charlene as well, are going to the big game.”)

  3. Graeme said

    I thought the rule of politeness only applied to putting “me” or “I” after everybody else. To me, “I” is always the subject, and “me” is always the object. Any other usage just sounds wrong.

    • Kate Bunting said

      Any other usage IS wrong!

      The rule my mother taught me is – think how you would say it if another person wasn’t involved. You wouldn’t say “me went to the park”, so you don’t say “John and me went”. You wouldn’t say “He gave flowers to I”, so you don’t say “he gave them to Mary and I”.

  4. The Ridger said

    I imagine his rule is similar to many people’s I know: me and X but X and I. Always. Me and Bob went; give Al and I a chance. They’re anything but interchangeable.

    I can’t remember ever hearing “give I and Al” or “I and Bob went” – unless Bob is an afterthought as Gabe notes.

  5. Jonathon said

    “Is his rule that in a coordination, the first person singular pronoun is me when it comes first, and I when it comes last?”

    I think so. Perhaps emphasis determines which pattern is chosen, and the pronoun alternation is secondary.

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