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`TO NANCY AND I HE WAS A FRIEND’? EVEN PRESIDENTS OFTEN MISSPEAK

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Sir: I was appalled to read that former President Reagan said of Richard Nixon, "To Nancy and I he was a cherished friend." To Nancy and I? Has this become acceptable?

- Harriet R.Answer: No, not at all. "I" can never be the object of a preposition, even when it's part of a compound object. Don't be too harsh on Ronald Reagan, though; many public figures, including presidents of both major parties, have committed the same terrible blunder. I suppose it just shows what democracy can get us into.

Sir: The meaning of "long in the tooth" has eluded me, unless my dentist was right when I asked him why my gums didn't seem to come down as far on the teeth as they once did. He said it was natural for the gums to recede as one got older, and asked if I hadn't heard the expression "long in the tooth." Is that it?

- Jim K.

Answer: More or less, though horses rather than people like you are usually mentioned in explaining the expression. On your next visit to that dentist, you may wish to bite him.

Sir: Lately I have heard and read the word "deconstruct" in various forms. I don't think there is or can be such a word. I know "destruct" is a word, but is there such an endeavor as "deconstruction"?

- Vern W.

Answer: Well, yes there is. Deconstruction is defined as a philosophical movement and theory of literary criticism that - but no, it's too esoteric for me to go on. Believe me, if you've lived this long without it, you'll never need it.