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Teenage girl (Creatas Images/Getty Images/Creatas RF)
Teenage girl (Creatas Images/Getty Images/Creatas RF)

Warren Clements

Problematic pronouns: Me can’t believe my I’s! Add to ...

Word Play is keen to join in the hoopla surrounding the London Olympics. Fortunately, the Tenors (formerly the Canadian Tenors) have offered the chance. For Canadian coverage of the 2012 Games, the group recorded a new version of I Believe, the anthem that, as sung by Nikki Yanofsky, was ubiquitous during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

More from Warren Clements

As others have noted, one line continues to make mincemeat of standard grammar. “I believe together we’ll fly,” they sing. “I believe in the power of you and I.” The inconvenient fact remains that “of” is a preposition and requires an object (me) rather than a subject (I).

Pop singers have been torturing us for years with variations on the theme. Consider Spice Girls alumna Mel C (“So things will never be the same between you and I”), Susan Aglukark (“There’s a place for you and I”) and Eric Carmen (“I feel the magic between you and I”).

But surely, before the Tenors wrapped their powerful voices around I Believe, they might have arranged with the songwriters to revise the lyrics to ease the pain. For instance: I believe in the power of two/ I believe in me and you. Or, I believe in unity/ I believe in you and me. Or, on the heretical grounds that there are already enough “I believes” in the song: There is power in harmony/ I believe in the power of you and me. Or: There’s strength in solidarity/ I believe in the power of you and me.

Okay, I’ll stop beating a dead chorus. Let’s tackle other slow-moving targets.

Diana Tyndale reports hearing the following sentence on a CBC Radio newscast: “Most economists were unanimous that interest rates would stay the same.” She comments: “Unanimous (except for the ones who weren’t).”

Dozens of sharp-eyed readers contacted Word Play after seeing a July 7 photograph illustrating a story about summer school. In the photo, a hand-written sign mounted inside a school said: “Welcome! Summer School Office. Accelerated courses (posted on pillers).”

William Vance said the spelling error “conjured up the image of notices pasted all over a doctor (or a stoner?).” The surprise is that whoever wrote the sign – let’s hope it wasn’t the English teacher – was able to spell “accelerated” but was tripped up by “pillars.”

Maureen Fisher was startled to read, in a Globe letter to the editor last Saturday, that former U.S. vice-president Al Gore had once compared the search for unconventional sources of oil “to the behaviour of advanced heroine addicts.” Oh sure, they start off with Jane Eyre and Elizabeth Bennet, but soon they want the derring-do of Hermione Granger and Alien’s Ripley.

Charles Crockford was amused by a dangling modifier in this sentence from a June 11 story in the Waterloo Region Record. “The biggest challenge for the campers appeared to be the cockroaches that crawl about at night as they bed down in sleeping bags.” Crockford comments: “I can see it now – hundreds of cockroaches, each one carrying its own tiny sleeping bag!”

While others look after the roaches, permit me to grumble about a few bugbears.

“Centre around” continues to pop up, as in: “Arguments against Toronto’s bag-fee system centre around the minimal percentage (by weight) that bags contribute to landfills.” A centre is by definition in the middle. It can’t surround the middle. A thing may centre on something, but it can’t centre around it.

A correspondent on television’s eTalk said actors were sent to a boot camp in “conditions similar as” those in wartime. Similar to, please.

And an article about KFC’s Double Down said the chain’s food item was “replacing deep-fried chicken pieces for a bun.” No, it was either replacing a bun with deep-fried chicken pieces or substituting deep-fried chicken pieces for a bun. I believe together they’ll fry.

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