Because your grade-school English teacher corrected two mistakes at once.
You’d say something like the first three words in this Jump Start comic by Robb Armstrong:
The first “mistake” is putting yourself first when you mention yourself and someone else. Putting yourself first is perfectly grammatical; doing so isn’t humble, though. In our culture, we think mentioning yourself last is more polite, but I have seen scientific writing in which the team leader put himself first. Something like “I and my colleagues performed a series of experiments,” which makes sense if the colleagues were only helping out.
The second mistake is a real one, using “me” as the subject. If you hadn’t happened to mention that other person, you wouldn’t have gotten it wrong—no ones says “Me went to the store.” Well, unless they’re being deliberately funny.
The problem is that correcting two things at once is a bit of overload for a young mind, so you don’t notice that you have a compound subject in the corrected sentence, and later when you mention your friend and yourself after a preposition, you follow the whole double correction and say something like “The teacher really gave it to Tim and I.”
I remember being in a car once with a bunch of students, and I happened to use “[someone] and me” after a preposition, and one of the students delightfully corrected me for saying “me.” I praised her for being alert, and explained my sentence with a short version of this post. I have no idea whether any of the occupants of the car changed their manner of speaking. Oh well.
PS—wouldn’t you know, I ran into this same mistake the same day I saw that Jump Start. This one is Rip Haywire. The mistake is in the middle of cell 5, though I think some of you can relate to the top row of cells…
…and here’s someone, The Norm, who made the “corrected” mistake. Cell 3:
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Some time ago I posted a series about figures of speech, which I invite you to check out if you like. Recently I ran into another figure of speech, called paraprosdokian. It’s Greek for something like “given against and alongside.”
A paraprosdokian is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence is unexpected and oft times very humorous.
I got a list of them from a contributor to a motorcycle enthusiast list I belong to. (Thank you, Joe Dille, for sharing.) I’m sorry, I don’t know where he got the list.
Here are a few:
– If I had a dollar for every girl that found me unattractive, they’d eventually find me very attractive.
– A man knocked on my door and asked for a small donation toward the local swimming pool, so I gave him a glass of water.
– My wife and I were happy for twenty years; then we met.
– Hospitality is the art of making guests feel like they’re at home when you wish they were.
– Behind every great man is a woman rolling her eyes.
– He who laughs last thinks slowest.
– Women sometimes make fools of men, but most guys are the do-it-yourself type.
– If at first you don’t succeed, skydiving is not for you.
– Sometimes I wake up grumpy; other times I let her sleep.
– Money is the root of all wealth.
If you’re brave, see if you can think up a few and share in the comments.
PS. Wouldn’t you know, I just ran into an example of paraprosdokian in a comic, Moderately Confused by Jeff Stahler:
The genius of Dan Piraro’s Bizarro strikes again. I hardly know what to say, except that I’ve written about every topic mentioned on the cover. Except the lips.
Well, The Writing Rag site has been around since January of 2009 (!), and more than 400 posts (!!) whaddya expect?
Not a lot of content in today’s lesson, but some.
The source of the humor in this Freshly Squeezed is the misalignment of contexts. Context is the framework you operate in. The bully has no interest in getting his language right, and the kid who’s being picked on wants to deflect the risk by changing the subject, from a bullying context to a learning one. He didn’t exactly succeed, but he doesn’t seem to have expected to, either.
Anyway, at least in a less intimidating situation, it’s a good idea to match your framework of operation with your reader’s. You’ll communicate better.
A Quickie today. I harp on split infinitives every now and then (they’re okay to use) so I wasn’t going to use this comic, but then another one on the same day touched on the subject, so I can’t resist.
Brooke McEldowney of 9 Chickweed Lane is an erudite writer and comic artist, one of my favorites.
Okay, maybe this last one is about being a grammar nazi, but it does use an infinitive…