A new rule for the Queen and I?

This is the title of an article by John Honey, published in 1995 in English Today. In the article Honey makes a plea for “agree[ing] upon [a] reasonable form of prescriptivism”, discussing as a case study the occurrence of pronoun usage in sentences like

  1. People are always askimg how two lunatics like Judy and I have such normal kids
  2. It is difficult for we chaps to put ourselves in a divorced woman’s shoes
  3. What will our successors think in a hundred yours of we who fill the De Montfort Hall today?

Since all the instances he had recorded for a period of fifteen years were produced by such authoritative speakers as former prime minister Lady Margaret Thatcher, lexicographer Robert Burchfield and journalist Malcolm Muggeridge, Honey advised greater tolerance for the construction, on the grounds of what he called its “frozen state”.

The article met with a virtual avalanche of criticism in the public press at the time, with articles called “Queen’s English is Greek to most” appearing in The Observer (1 October 1995), “Professor puts the cat among the pronominal pigeons” in The Times (2 October 1995), “English language being led astray”in The Independent (2 October 1995) and “Is Honey not so sweet on language after all?”  in The Leicester Mercury (6 October 1995).

If this criticism represents the view of the general public, what do linguists think of Honey’s article?

A new rule for the Queen and I? John Honey (1995). English Today, Volume 11Issue 04, October 1995 pp 3-8. http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?aid=1447216.
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1 Response to A new rule for the Queen and I?

  1. Paul Bennett says:

    I am not a linguist; I am a copyeditor. Mr Honey is on the right track: “Judy and I” against “Judy and me” and “we chaps” against “us chaps” are almost impossible to always get right when speaking without preparation. Even the best-spoken people get them “wrong”. It makes sense to me to forgive the grammatical mistakes when spoken but to edit them out in written works.

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