Me, a name I call myself

I’ve recently become interested in languages. Not in a learn-the-vocabulary type of way, but rather in way languages have evolved; grammar and word etymologies, that kind of thing.

I’ve recently been reading Harry Mount’s Amo, Amas, Amat and all that, a book on Latin for those who ought to have remembered it. At school I did a year or so of Latin but not a lot of it stuck — “Caecilius est domus” is about all I can remember. Reading the book did bring a little back, but what struck me as interesting were the six cases of nouns in Latin. Basically, every noun has one of six forms, depending on how it is being used in the sentence:

Crazy concepts to us Brits, right? We just use other words to signify these relationships, like “to” and “with” or use apostrophes to signify possession. Then one day I was reading about another language (an artificial one called Lojban), and somewhere it made reference to the word “me” and its various forms in English.

I’d never really thought of it before, but of course the words “me”, “I”, “my”, “myself” are all essentially the same thing, in different cases (admittedly a lot are still “me”):

This also helps solve the grammatical challenge of whether to use “me” or “I” in sentences like “She told Ben and me to shut up.” I remember being taught that you always say “XX and I” instead of “XX and me” and recently got into a discussion with a friend over which was right. Now it’s easy to see that “Ben and me” are the object of the sentence, and thus go in the accusative, so “me” is right. However, turning the sentence around, it’s correct to say “Ben and I told her to shut up,” as “Ben and I” are now the subject and thus the nominative.

Filed under: Blog
Posted at 08:25:00 GMT on 30th November 2007.

About Matt Godbolt

Matt Godbolt is a C++ developer working in Chicago in the finance industry.