Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old Today, 12:13 AM
Leaper is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: In my own little world...
Posts: 12,613

Has anyone ever actually heard an ESL speaker say “me” in place of “I”?


This is a trope for any fictional character for whom English is not their native language, and other circumstances, like cavemen in modern times and babies. Yet the more I think about it, the more unlikely (for lack of a better word) it feels to me. Is “me so horny” (to take an infamous example) something anybody of any non-English native language is likely to say? Or is it just one of those Hollywood things born out of racism?
  #2  
Old Today, 01:33 AM
DPRK is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2016
Posts: 3,833
Welcome to Jamaica.
  #3  
Old Today, 01:39 AM
guizot is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: An East Hollywood dingbat
Posts: 8,733
As fossilized usage? No, I don't know anyone who speaks like that. I think a couple times I've heard Arabic speakers who know close to zero English valiantly trying to communicate something use objective forms for subjective case, but even then they tend to correct themselves eventually. I took a course once in interlanguage and I don't think this particular usage ever came up.

It's just a stupid movie trope, as you say.
  #4  
Old Today, 01:55 AM
DPRK is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2016
Posts: 3,833
Quote:
Originally Posted by DPRK View Post
Welcome to Jamaica.
To clarify, "me" is the correct pronoun in Jamaican Creole.
  #5  
Old Today, 02:00 AM
guizot is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: An East Hollywood dingbat
Posts: 8,733
Quote:
Originally Posted by DPRK View Post
To clarify, "me" is the correct pronoun in Jamaican Creole.
Yes, so it's not "ESL."
  #6  
Old Today, 06:25 AM
Bayaker is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2016
Location: A town on Galveston Bay
Posts: 3,873
FWIW, I had one employee who was a Salvadoran immigrant and always said "me" when he should have said "I", but he's the only one(that I was aware of) out of the many Mexican and Central American immigrants I dealt with on a regular basis. He's not a recent immigrant either - he's been here since the mid-eighties, and I have been told that his Spanish grammar isn't much better.
  #7  
Old Today, 06:49 AM
excavating (for a mind) is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: In a canyon, in a cavern
Posts: 1,545
I hear people that speak English is their only language use "me" instead of "I" all the time. It' pretty common.

"Jim and me went to store."
  #8  
Old Today, 08:00 AM
Nava is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Hey! I'm located! WOOOOW!
Posts: 42,703
Quote:
Originally Posted by Leaper View Post
Is “me so horny” (to take an infamous example) something anybody of any non-English native language is likely to say? Or is it just one of those Hollywood things born out of racism?
Usually by the time people know "horny", they would know "I" from "me". There may still be occasional confusion along the lines of not remembering the exact word and fishing for it by going through similar ones. The trope is just a shorthand for other grammatical mistakes which are more frequent in reality but less obvious, and which wouldn't be present in every sentence while using the wrong pronoun as the subject will be.
__________________
Evidence gathered through the use of science is easily dismissed through the use of idiocy. - Czarcasm.

Last edited by Nava; Today at 08:02 AM.
  #9  
Old Today, 09:08 AM
wguy123 is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 2,104
Quote:
Originally Posted by excavating (for a mind) View Post
I hear people that speak English is their only language use "me" instead of "I" all the time. It' pretty common.

"Jim and me went to store."
Yep, hear this all the time. "Me and Fred are going fishing tomorrow, wanna come?"
  #10  
Old Today, 09:18 AM
pulykamell is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: May 2000
Location: SW Side, Chicago
Posts: 47,934
Quote:
Originally Posted by wguy123 View Post
Yep, hear this all the time. "Me and Fred are going fishing tomorrow, wanna come?"
Yeah, this is an interesting one. "I and Fred are going fishing tomorrow" sounds wrong, even though it is right. At least it sounds wrong to me. Sure, you can reword it as "Fred and I are going fishing tomorrow" which sounds perfectly fine to me. But with a compound subject headed by the first person personal pronoun, the nominative/subjective "I" sounds odd to my ears (and I assume many others, given the commonality of the construction) compared with the subjective "me." I wonder why that is.
  #11  
Old Today, 09:20 AM
digs's Avatar
digs is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: West of Wauwatosa
Posts: 9,979
Another example of this trope: "You can tell I'm foreign because I speak English except one word said in my native language."

I'm fascinated by "character A, as written by clueless character B". Back in the 60s, you'd have "With It" teens as written by middle-aged white guys. I grew up on Spider-Man comics, which were horrible at this. A hippie (who the artist drew with John Lennon glasses and woman's hair, so we'd know) would say "We young people take drugs because we hate uptight straights, man!" while Mary Jane Watson would ask "Isn't this mini-skirt just the ginchiest?"
  #12  
Old Today, 09:31 AM
Nava is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Hey! I'm located! WOOOOW!
Posts: 42,703
Quote:
Originally Posted by pulykamell View Post
Yeah, this is an interesting one. "I and Fred are going fishing tomorrow" sounds wrong, even though it is right. At least it sounds wrong to me. Sure, you can reword it as "Fred and I are going fishing tomorrow" which sounds perfectly fine to me. But with a compound subject headed by the first person personal pronoun, the nominative/subjective "I" sounds odd to my ears (and I assume many others, given the commonality of the construction) compared with the subjective "me." I wonder why that is.
I think it might be a case of cacophony, not in the meaning of "horrible-sounding noises" but of "difficult-to-make noises". "I and..." is more difficult to pronounce than "me and..."; in order to pronounce it clearly it seems to me that I end up with different intonation, I need to mark the "I" a lot more than when it's followed by other words.

It's the same reason why in Spanish words which are feminine gender and begin by a- take the definite and indefinite masculine articles in the singular: las águilas (f, pl + f, pl) is easy to pronounce, el águila (m, s + f, s) is easy to pronounce, but la águila (f, s + f, s) needs an unusual microstop in the middle or the two words merge into láguila.
__________________
Evidence gathered through the use of science is easily dismissed through the use of idiocy. - Czarcasm.

Last edited by Nava; Today at 09:36 AM.
  #13  
Old Today, 10:05 AM
DPRK is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2016
Posts: 3,833
Quote:
Originally Posted by pulykamell View Post
But with a compound subject headed by the first person personal pronoun, the nominative/subjective "I" sounds odd to my ears (and I assume many others, given the commonality of the construction) compared with the subjective "me." I wonder why that is.
I think that we agree that "I am going fishing" and "Fred and I are going fishing" are correct, and you cannot use "me". However, compare language like "it's me" and it seems like people do not always think of "me" as objective, at least in all cases in the spoken language, or at least it may potentially confuse even native speakers.
  #14  
Old Today, 10:11 AM
pulykamell is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: May 2000
Location: SW Side, Chicago
Posts: 47,934
Quote:
Originally Posted by DPRK View Post
I think that we agree that "I am going fishing" and "Fred and I are going fishing" are correct, and you cannot use "me". However, compare language like "it's me" and it seems like people do not always think of "me" as objective, at least in all cases in the spoken language, or at least it may potentially confuse even native speakers.
Oh, sure. "It is I" sounds needlessly stuffy. "It's me" is idiomatic, if not annoying to grammar pedants. You see similar structures in other languages. French, for example, has "C'est moi" and not "C'est je," which sounds especially bad to my ears. In English you can at least say "It is I" and just be thought of as someone speaking in an overly formal (or grammatically "correct") register. I'm not entirely sure "C'est je" can even be considered grammatical in French. (Then again, now that I think of it, is "it's I" okay in English? I've heard "It is I" and "it's me," but never "It's I." The last should be grammatically correct, but it's not a construction I've ever encountered.)

Last edited by pulykamell; Today at 10:12 AM.
  #15  
Old Today, 10:52 AM
DPRK is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2016
Posts: 3,833
Yes, I'll leave it up to the linguists, but "moi" as in "C'était moi" functions as a predicative attribute and "je" is not predicative, or something. "It was me" seems like it could be based on similar principles or perhaps even influenced by other languages. (OTOH cf. "es war ich") Of course, English is not French nor Latin nor German, and it may have its own thing going on.
  #16  
Old Today, 11:06 AM
ftg's Avatar
ftg is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: Not the PNW :-(
Posts: 20,297
Sure. Had students and guest faculty from all over. Some had very little time to prep before they came in and had a long way to go. The more different their home language from English was the harder it was to pick up the language. So Spanish/German speakers not so much. East Asians more so.

But people pick up a new language surprisingly fast in an immersive environment like a college. 6 months later and they're talking a lot better. But still the odd thing like I/me would be a problem in certain sentence constructs. And I'm not talking about the classic "Bob and me went to the store." type of thing.
  #17  
Old Today, 12:13 PM
iamthewalrus(:3= is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Santa Barbara, CA
Posts: 12,024
Quote:
Originally Posted by digs View Post
Another example of this trope: "You can tell I'm foreign because I speak English except one word said in my native language."[/I]
My experience talking to ESL people, and my experience trying to speak other languages is that this is quite common. You get partway through a sentence, realize you don't know the word for the thing in the other language, and you can either throw your native word in there, divert and ask a question, or try some meandering description of the thing you don't know the word for.

The word is often a more complex one that, at least between English and romance languages, is likely to be a cognate, so the sentence is often still comprehensible.

Last edited by iamthewalrus(:3=; Today at 12:13 PM.
  #18  
Old Today, 01:31 PM
gnoitall is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 5,983
Me.

Technically, English was my second language. Japanese was my first. But the difference is measured in days, since my Mom was Japanese and my Dad was American.
  #19  
Old Today, 02:57 PM
CookingWithGas's Avatar
CookingWithGas is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: Tysons Corner, VA, USA
Posts: 13,418
Quote:
Originally Posted by iamthewalrus(:3= View Post
My experience talking to ESL people, and my experience trying to speak other languages is that this is quite common.
Yes, but the trope occurs as a ham-handed device in entertainment media not to represent how people actually talk, but as a signal. For example, a German says to an American who speaks no German, "Everyone on my Straße has a BMW," because the thick German accent might not be enough for the audience to understand "This guy is German!"
  #20  
Old Today, 03:08 PM
Hari Seldon is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Trantor
Posts: 13,047
Quote:
Originally Posted by pulykamell View Post
Oh, sure. "It is I" sounds needlessly stuffy. "It's me" is idiomatic, if not annoying to grammar pedants. You see similar structures in other languages. French, for example, has "C'est moi" and not "C'est je," which sounds especially bad to my ears. In English you can at least say "It is I" and just be thought of as someone speaking in an overly formal (or grammatically "correct") register. I'm not entirely sure "C'est je" can even be considered grammatical in French. (Then again, now that I think of it, is "it's I" okay in English? I've heard "It is I" and "it's me," but never "It's I." The last should be grammatically correct, but it's not a construction I've ever encountered.)
Arguably, it ought to be "It am I", but of course no one says it. For me, "It's me" and "It is me" are preferred. The usage I really hate is "It is time for Mary and I to say goodbye." Not only sounds terrible, but is ungrammatical to boot.
  #21  
Old Today, 04:02 PM
Pantastic is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2015
Posts: 4,290
Yeah, I'm not sure offhand of specific examples of ESL people using 'me' instead of 'I', but I've heard and read plenty of native English speakers do so.
  #22  
Old Today, 04:40 PM
begbert2 is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Idaho
Posts: 13,252
Quote:
Originally Posted by wguy123 View Post
Yep, hear this all the time. "Me and Fred are going fishing tomorrow, wanna come?"
I'll do this sort of thing deliberately to sound more colloquial - you know, like the sort of guy who wouldn't use words like "colloquial".

I mean, me and the guys get along better if I ain't seen as too intellectual-like.
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 05:04 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2019, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@straightdope.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Copyright © 2019 STM Reader, LLC.

 
Copyright © 2017