I have been shouting at the television again. I've got to give it up, lie down with a damp cloth on my forehead, unclench my teeth, count to ten v-e-r-y slowly.
The latest cause for angst is all about Me. That is, the Me that bustles to the beginning of sentences where it has no business to be. The Me that something happens to, rather than does. The Me that small children use interchangeably with I until they learn better. The Me that too many people who are no longer children still use in places where they shouldn't.
You hear it all the time. "Me and Frank went to the pictures." "Me and the girls went out for dinner." It happens with we and us too, as in "Us girls had a great night out." There is also the confusion between her and him, and they and them, and much, many, fewer and less.
It's illogical, because the funny thing is that none of the people who are confused, if they are grown-up, repeat the mistake by saying, "Me and Frank went to the pictures. Frank had a coke and me had an ice cream." Neither do they say, if they should go out alone, that "Me went out to dinner and the waiter tipped the soup over I." If Me does something by herself, she never says Me, she says I, as in "I went out to dinner." And if something happens to Me, she says "and the waiter tipped the soup over me." As for "Us girls had a great night out" they don't go on to say, "and us ended up in the cells."
It's simple. I do things. We do things. Things happen to me or us.
We pedants – not us pedants because we are doing something – are fighting a losing battle. We are gibbering in corners over such horrors as "Her and her husband went to Bali" and "there has been much delays" and "I've got less apples than you". If you can, theoretically, count the objects it's fewer, or many. Otherwise it's less or much. As in, less money, fewer dollars. Many delays, much delay. Fewer potatoes, less mash. Less ice, fewer ice cubes. Much rain, many rain drops.
There are anomalies – this is the English language after all. Take rice: much rice, many kilos of rice, much rice pudding, but while you could theoretically count rice grains, you can't have fewer or many rice. But the basics are clear.
However, I've yet to hear anyone say that he has fewer apple juice. But give it time. Things will undoubtedly get worse. Where's that damp cloth ...