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This Is Between You and Me

This Is Between You and Me

Tony Romo, the former quarterback, is a great football “color commentator.” He adds tremendously to the enjoyment of the game. But a few times every game, like nails on a blackboard, he’ll say something like, “He should have ran the ball on that play.” He means, of course, “He should have run the ball on that play,” “Ran” is simple past tense (“I ran yesterday in the rain”) but “run” is used as the past participle (“I should have run before the rain began”).

Our language is debased (like the currency is debased when we spend more than we make and simply print more money to compensate) when we use it incorrectly. As we listen to people in the media, especially, (“journalists” often say “between you and I” instead of “between you and me” and some people actually defend it as if to say “get with the program”) we believe that people in important positions use language that must be correct.

But it isn’t, all too often.

The more we use language incorrectly the more we lose nuance and the ability to communicate. If you don’t think that’s important, there was a news item in the Times this morning about someone being sued in Australia for omitting an apostrophe. He claimed that an employer wasn’t “paying employees retirement benefits” when he meant to say “employee’s retirement benefits.” The writer meant to say his own benefits weren’t being paid but the courts ruled his statement implied that all employees weren’t being paid, and that was a basis to consider a defamation suit.

So, Tony, please, if you can master a football playbook, you can master language, especially since no one is blitzing.

Written by

Alan Weiss is a consultant, speaker, and author of over 60 books. His consulting firm, Summit Consulting Group, Inc., has attracted clients from over 500 leading organizations around the world.

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