September 24, 2008

Weekly Language Usage Tips: Me, Myself, and I, predominant/predominate

Posted in me/myself/I, predominant/predominate at 8:00 am by dlseltzer

Just wondering

Off subject, but I was just wondering. There has been lots on the news of the economic crisis and associated financial repercussions. One item I heard was that Bill Gates lost a couple of billion dollars. This is what I’ve been wondering: If you are worth $56 billion (as Bill Gates is) and you lose a couple of billion, would it bother you? Would you even notice? Just wondering.


1.) Thanks to Harold Pincus for this sighting.

From the New York Times:

With the new base, leaders of the Honors College see a turning point in a nearly decade-long effort by Matthew Goldstein, the university chancellor, to reinvigorate CUNY, whose graduates include Ira Gershwin, Colin Powell and nine Nobel Prize winners, and return some of the luster it had between World War II and 1970, when admission standards were relaxed.

Harold asks, “Were standards relaxed between WWII and 1970 or after 1970?” hmmm.

2.) Thanks to Jordan Karp for the sighting below:

What’s wrong with this picture?

Tip 1: Me, myself, and I

A reader writes:

I am going nuts listening to people say things like: “If you plan to attend, please respond to Mary or I.” People seem to think this sounds more educated.

It’s such a strange phenomenon, equating the use of “me” with dumbness. “Me” is a perfectly good word, and there is nothing about using it that should make the writer or speaker feel dumb…as long as it is used correctly. There are some definitive rules having to do with nominative cases, subjects, objects, etc. that you should know, but right now, the important thing is to learn how to use the words correctly. We’ll save the grammar lesson for later. The easiest way to determine whether “I” or “me” is correct in a given context is to remove one of the two pronouns or nouns, and listen to the sentence. The way it sounds will very likely lead you to choose the correct word.

For instance, using the above example, “If you plan to attend, please respond to Mary or I,” try leaving out the word “Mary.” You wouldn’t say, “please respond to I.” You would say, “Please respond to me,” thus, “me” would be the correct choice.

If you plan to attend, please respond to Mary or me.

Another example: “Bobby and me played scrabble all day yesterday.” You wouldn’t say, “Me played scrabble.” You would say, “I played scrabble,” thus, “I” would be the correct choice.

Bobby and I played scrabble all day yesterday.

Another common error is using the word “myself” to replace either “me” or “I.”

If you plan to attend, please respond to Mary or myself. WRONG

Myself and Bobby played scrabble all day yesterday. WRONG

“Myself” should only be used for one of two reasons: 1) to show emphasis or 2) to refer to the subject of the sentence.

For example:

I am going to finish writing this myself.

I hurt myself while trying to cross the quality chasm.

Tip 2: Predominate or predominant

Anonymous writes:
I keep seeing the word “predominately.”I always thought it was “predominantly.” Are they two separate words and how should they be used?

“Predominate” and “predominant” are both real words, and their meanings are essentially the same (having great power or influence or being greater in number). The difference is that “predominant” is an adjective, and “predominate” is a verb.

The mass of robed people predominated the scene.

The predominant opinion is that the vice president should have some knowledge and experience.

However, they both can be adverbs (“predominantly” and “predominately”) and have identical meanings. So in answer to Anonymous’s question, they can be used interchangeably.

The question may then become: is there a difference between “predominant” and “dominant” and is there a difference between predominate and dominate?

My firm answer to this is “kind of.”

While many sources report “predominant” and “dominant” to be synonyms. Merriam-Webster makes a distinction.
Dominant applies to something that is uppermost because of ruling or controlling <a dominant social class>. Predominant applies to something that exerts, often temporarily, the most marked influence <a predominant emotion>.

And this is what I found re: dominate and predominate:

Predominate means something like “is important because it outnumbers the others.” Dominate means something like “is important because it controls the others.”

Finally, while both terms are used in the UK, “predominant” is used much more frequently in the US, and you may run the risk of being viewed as a poor speller if you use “predominate” here.


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