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David Bowie’s grammar again

January 11, 2016

In response the sad news about David Bowie I’m re-posting a piece from a couple of years ago. I spent many, many hours listening to Bowie as a teenager. I loved the strangeness of the lyrics. Often they were nonsense, but brilliant, inspired, evocative nonsense. (“Lay me place and bake me pie I’m starving for me gravy/ Leave my shoes and door unlocked, I might just slip away”… “Putting on some clothes I made my way to school/ and found my teacher crouching in his overalls”… “We passed upon the stair, we spoke of was and when/ Although I wasn’t there, he said I was his friend”… ” “Pour me out another phone, I’ll ring and see if your friends are home/ Perhaps the strange ones in the dome can lend us a book, we can read up alone”…) I feel I want to go and listen to all my old Bowie albums one after the other. Anyway, here is the post, written when I had no idea Bowie had less than two years to live:

Last night I was listening to Station to Station by David Bowie, and my attention was caught by the line: “Drink, drink, raise your glass, raise your glass high/ Drink to the men who protect you and I”.

Obviously, from a grammatical point of view, that should be “you and me”. As ought to be common knowledge, and as I have pointed out before, the simple way to check whether “you and I” or “you and me” is correct in any given instance is to remove the “you and”. One would never say “the men who protect I”. It has to be me because that’s the object of “protect”.

Usually, this error is the result of hyper-correction – people just have a feeling that is somehow more correct, in and of itself, than me, maybe because an English teacher corrected them when they wrote “Florence and me went to the mall” or some such. But that probably wasn’t the reason in Bowie’s case – is there to supply the rhyme, and perhaps it’s right that euphony trumps correctness in this instance. Anyway I don’t want to be too hard on Bowie because it’s a great song.

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