Johnson: Grammar versus meaning

Johnson: Grammar versus meaning

JOHNSON recently sized up the controversy that pits It’s me against It is I. Both exist in English: the first is common in speech, the second is preferred in writing. But Nathan Heller, a writer with the New Yorker, insisted that only It is I is correct. He argued that the verb to be and its forms (am, are, is, was, were) equate a subject (it) and a predicate (I). Therefore they should be in the same nominative case, because it = I. It’s me illegally breaks the equation, in Mr Heller’s view, because it is nominative and me is in the accusative case.

The amazing thing about this article is that it embodies the lack of understanding permeating non-linguistic realm of grammar elitists. Dialects are not significant if you read this article as it seems to have been intended – as if English is a monolithic static set of prescribed rules. Of course, this is not the case of any language. In fact, during the first few years of what has become the United States, there was a concerted effort to change the spelling of certain words, Benjamin Franklin even proposed a new writing system, and influence from native languages as well as French and Spanish had an overwhelming effect on General American. Failing to recognize that regional variation is not only inevitable but also a source of fascination is the reason these silly articles will persist.

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