“Tell it to Kim and I.”

“Tell it to Kim and I.” That’s grammatically correct, right?

Not to those of us who were traditionally trained: older people like me and younger people who were indoctrinated by people like me. But apparently it’s correct now. And not just as an alternative to “Tell it to Kim and me” but as the only correct way to say it!

Don’t gasp. Languages change.

If they didn’t, the French would still be speaking Latin, the Indians would still be speaking Sanskrit, and the Icelanders would still be speaking Icelandic. Oh wait: they are still speaking Icelandic. But that’s another story.

Anyway, I was startled — nay, astonished — to read the information in the second paragraph up above. How can that be true? Arnold Zwicky, in one of his characteristically excellent essays, explains it all. You’ll especially want to know the connection with The Big Bang Theory, a show that people kept recommending to me but I refused to watch after a single episode in which the laugh track drove me crazy. Laugh tracks should be banned! But that’s a matter for another day. Back to Zwicky and Sheldon, here’s a paragraph from the aforementioned essay:

From the point of view of the Big Bang Theory‘s characters (all in their 20s or 30s), including Jim Parsons’s character Sheldon, and probably for Parsons himself (who is now 46), and almost surely for the (mostly young) scriptwriters on the show, NomConjObj is not only acceptable, it is the (only) correct formal usage; they would take AccConjObj to be informal, unserious, low-class, and so to be avoided. (More on this point below.) The character Sheldon is exactly the sort of young person (with his prissy drive for correctness) who would use NomConjObj across the board.

I know, I know — since Zwicky is a professional linguist and you aren’t, you’re probably confused by “NomConjObj” and “AccConjObj,” although you’ll be able to figure it out if you’ve studied Latin or Greek: “NomConjObj” Is the name of the “to Kim and I” construction, and “AccConjObj” is the name of the formerly correct “to Kim and me” construction. So there’s not too much linguistic jargon to wade through, and the small extra effort will be definitely repaid by what you learn.

I’m still astonished.


Categories: Linguistics