SIR: Please settle a dispute. In making a comparison between two people, which is correct, "He is older than me" or "He is older than I"? - Charlene H.
ANSWER: Here's a dispute that's been going on for many years, and no doubt will continue for many more. But I can give you an answer. Are you ready?Either version is correct, and I can even quote an authority.
The controversy has been over whether "than" is serving as a preposition or a conjunction. If it's a preposition, "than me" is correct, because "me" is the object of the preposition. But if it's a conjunction, "than I" is correct, because "I" is the subject of an understood verb: "He is older than I am."
Many writers on usage temporize, but Roy H. Copperud cut through the tangle beautifully in his book, "A Dictionary of Usage and Style": "Than is now standard as a preposition, in addition to being a conjunction; consequently, such sentences as `He is taller than me' are correct. So is than I."
Presto, your dispute's settled, and no one loses.
SIR: Tell me how you feel about this sentence: "The audience found his gestures to be very off-put-ting." I hear this sort of thing more and more often. It makes me feel like up-throwing.
Also, what about orientated? I thought the proper form was oriented. - Jeff
ANSWER: Oh, I can take "off-putting" or leave it alone. We got the word from the British and it can mean a variety of things, which may add to its popularity. But if it makes you want to up-throw, please free-feel. After all, we Americans have been up-chucking for years.
As for orientate, I much prefer orient. But orientate has been in the language for about a century, so we can't blame latecomers. Let's up-put with it.
PUZZLING QUOTE of the week, relayed by Mystified from a news article about Alaska:
"The farther north you go, the slower it takes to recover."
Send questions, comments, and good and bad examples to Lydel Sims, Watch Your Language, 366 S. Highland, Apt. 410, Memphis, TN 38111. If you quote a book, please give author, title and page number. Sorry, but questions can be answered only through this column.
- Lydel Sims of The Commercial Appeal in Memphis writes this column weekly.