Flash Card: Me Tarzan, You Gaga

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Though I accepted long ago that there's no grammar in rock and roll, it's always bothered me that the Doors' otherwise splendid "Touch Me" contains the lyric "Till the stars fall from the sky for you and I" (at the crescendo of the song, no less). Of course it should be "you and me." But I rationalized, as I like to think the hyper-literate Jim Morrison must have, that "me" does not rhyme with "sky." So what's Lady Gaga's excuse?

In "Bad Romance" she sings: "I want your loving/ And I want your revenge/ You and me could write a bad romance." Why? It's not like she needs something to rhyme with "me." She clearly lives to provoke, but I don't think she pulled this particular stunt on purpose; I think she just doesn't know any better (and almost surely doesn't care). And she's not alone.

If you want the down 'n' dirty nitty-gritty on WHY Gaga's use of "you and me" is caca, please consult Grammar Girl's typically lucid explanation, entitled "Between You and Me." The rest of you, read on.

Gaga is saying that she and the guy she's singing about could write a bad romance. If you separate her and the guy, you get:

Gaga: "I could write a bad romance." Sounds fine.
Guy: "Me could write a bad romance." Not so much. Unless the guy Gaga wants to write a bad romance with is Tarzan. Therefore it should be "you and I."

Then there's the "we/us" test. Above, I separated Gaga and her guy; below, I'll combine them — but how? In "Bad Romance," are they a "we" or an "us?" Hmm ... let's see.

"We could write a bad romance." Nothing wrong there.
"Us could write a bad romance." Definitely stinkin' up the joint. It should be "we"; thus it should be "I."

I know all this separating and combining sounds like a lot of work. Which is why I recommend writing the following on a yellow sticky and keeping it on your person at all times:

You + I = we.
You + me = us.

After a while, you'll just know (or at least be able to do the math in your head).

ImageI think this "I/me" business is a sensitive subject for some, more often than not people with low grammar self-esteem. They tend to use "I" or "we" when "me" or "us" is what's required because they feel "I" is just a more correct-sounding word than "me." There's something about "I" that suggests a place setting with multiple forks more than "me" does.

These folks also lean toward "myself" when "me" is actually proper and "individual" when "person" would do just as well (better, in fact). It's all part of a misguided linguistic gambit I like to call Trying to Sound Smart. There's a tendency to go too far, to bend over backwards, and end up sounding, well, NOT smart. To these people I say, "Stop trying to sound smart — you ARE smart."

But back to Lady Gaga and the Lizard King and all the other bad grammar role models we've been listening to for decades. Are your children safe? Probably. I've been hearing the following all my life and I generally manage to keep the "I/me" thing sorted out.

  • My buddies and me are gettin' real well known.
  • I'd like for you and I to go romancing.
  • You and me were meant to be for each other.

Enter Lady Gaga's NEW single, "You and I," which goes:

"There's something, something about this place/ Something about lonely nights and my lipstick on your face/ Something something about my cool Nebraska guy/ Yeah something about/ Baby you and I"

You know how I know "you and I" is wrong? Because you + I = we, i.e. "something about ... we." I suspect the song will still be a monster hit.

Any pop numbers make YOUR inner-grammarian cringe? This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Special thanks to Mara Schwartz, one of EE's favorite people, for suggesting we address this thorny issue.