NomConjObj on the campaign trail

Ben Zimmer points me to this passage in Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech tonight:

Those weren’t the easiest of days – too many long hours and weekends working, five young sons who seemed to have this need to re-enact a different world war every night. But if you ask Ann and I what we’d give, to break up just one more fight between the boys, or wake up in the morning and discover a pile of kids asleep in our room. Well, every mom and dad knows the answer to that. (from the transcript)

In the bold-faced piece, a NomConjObj (nominative conjoined object), on which there is now a huge literature (brief account here). The structure is now widespread (especially in speech, but not only there), including among educated speakers: I have quotes from Barbara Boxer, Sonia Sotomayor, Prince Andrew of Great Britain etc., Ellen DeGeneres, Geoff Nuttall of the St. Lawrence String Quartet, and a huge number of linguists and other academics and professionals. In fact, some scholars of pronoun usage treat NomConjObjs as now the norm.

Still, many usageasters are appalled by them; see Bryan Garner‘s tweet about Romney’s usage above:

“if you asked Ann and I what we’d give….” this was a scripted speech!

Bad, bad, Mitt Romney! And this isn’t his first lapse; Mark Liberman reported here on Romney’s

I like he and Callista. (about Newt Gingrich)

I’d imagine that the structure is entirely natural for Romney (and for his speechwriters as well).


4 Responses to “NomConjObj on the campaign trail”

  1. The Ridger Says:

    For some reason, “I like he and Callista” grates on my ears in a way that “ask Ann and I” simply doesn’t.

  2. Brief mention: equal time for NomConjObjs « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] on here, along with an instance from Romney of the more frequent 1sg as second […]

  3. blue sky Says:

    Speaking of presidential campaigns: Bill Clinton’s 1992 run produced a famous NomConjObj. William Safire, in his column of Oct. 4, 1992, discussed George H.W. Bush’s slogan “Who do you trust?” and then turned to Clinton:

    “If you’re tired of being heartbroken when you go home at night,” says Bill Clinton in the peroration of his stump speech, “and you want a spring in your step and a song in your heart, you give Al Gore and I a chance to bring America back.”

    Safire’s quote is correct; it’s from Clinton’s campaign rally on Jul. 22, 1992, in St. Louis.

    The same line was quoted by James J. Kilpatrick in 1993, then by Steven Pinker (responding to Safire) in 1994, and again by Bryan Garner in the 1995 edition of A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage — but Garner misattributes it to Clinton’s nomination acceptance speech! I’m amused that Garner fact-checked the date of the acceptance speech but not its text. Garner’s 2011 edition omits this quote entirely and replaces it with all-new examples.

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