Me and Julio, or Julio and I?

This is something I still trip over in informal writing. I generally type out “me and so-and-so” and then the little grammar nerd in the back of my head tells me to correct it to “so-and-so and I”. Then I have a little debate over how stuck-up it would sound if I changed it, and whether it would even be correct. This is all ridiculous, of course, because 90% of my communication is via text message, and as long as the message doesn’t read “me n jim goin 2 da sho. c u 2nite” then nobody is going to question my intelligence. For the record, if you do use netspeak, I will question your intelligence. I’m not going to say I didn’t go through a serious netspeak phase, but c’mon, people. We have autocorrect and predictive text now.

So let’s review the rules, for when you want to sound smart.

First off, there’s the matter of manners. For whatever reason, it’s not polite to put yourself first, even in writing. Of course, it would sound weird to say “I and you”, but “me and you” is pretty common. Technically, the I or me should always come after the other noun, or nouns, in the list: you and I; my dog and me; Bart, Milhouse, and I.

Where people often go wrong is using I versus me. I think most of us were corrected enough times in elementary school that our brains just default to “you and I”, even when “you and me” is correct. For example “just between you and I” gets thrown around from time to time, even though it is grammatically incorrect.

We have subjective and objective pronouns in English. I, he, she, we, and they are subjective pronouns, meaning you would use them when you are describing the subject in the sentence:

  • I went to school today.
  • She went on and on about grammar.

Me, him, her, us, and them are objective pronouns, meaning you would use them to describe the object in the sentence:

  • My husband made me dinner.
  • Did you read her brilliant blog post?

When the subject or object in a sentence is singular, it’s usually natural to use the correct pronoun. You would never say “Me went to school today” or “My husband made I dinner”. But sometimes when the subject or object is two or more nouns it doesn’t sound quite as odd:

  • Lisa and me went to school today.
  • My husband made Ralph and I dinner.

These examples are incorrect, and the easiest way to tell if they are incorrect is to take out the additional noun. When you take Lisa and Ralph out of the sentences, you’re back to “Me went to school today” and “My husband made I dinner”.

Proper nouns, like Lisa and Ralph, stay the same whether they are the subject or the object. Likewise you, and regular nouns like the cat:

  • you drove us to the airport / we drove you to the airport
  • the cat followed him / he followed the cat

This is likely where the confusion comes in when you add I or me to the list. You can pair you with either I or me, depending on whether they are the subject or object. Other subjective pronouns need to be paired with I: he and I, she and I. Other objective pronouns need to be paired with me: her and me, them and me.

So back to “just between you and I”. This is incorrect because “you and I” is the object in the sentence. The subject is what is between the two people (a secret, an opinion) so “just between you and me” would be correct.

Like many of the other rules I post about, this matters most in formal writing. “Me and so-and-so” is common enough that you probably wouldn’t even notice it in speech or informal writing… or in songs.

Putting the “me first” rule aside, was Paul Simon using the correct pronoun in “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard”? The long answer: yes, because the lyric is “Seein’ me and Julio down by the schoolyard” so the subject is the one who is seein’, and the object is “me and Julio”. The short answer: of course he’s right… he’s Paul fucking Simon.


LGBTQ Terminology


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It’s been a little while (OK, quite a while) since I posted here. After this not-so-brief hiatus, I figured I’d come back with a bang and post something a little closer to my heart. Something a little more… important.

I had a conversation recently about asexuality. As soon as the topic came up, I realized I had very little idea what I was talking about, and that bummed me out. I consider myself an ally, in LGBTQ terms: someone who respects and supports the LGBTQ community. And honestly, the fact that this term even exists makes me want to puke because every human being should respect and support the LGBTQ community. How anyone could possibly care which gender a person identifies with or not, which gender they are attracted to or not, or which gender they engage in sexual or romantic activity with or not… is completely beyond me. It’s something I feel strongly about. So strong, in fact, that I have what feels like a big ole ball of rage in my throat, just typing about it.

Still, I wasn’t sure exactly what defines a person as asexual, nor was I sure if asexual was even the correct term. Language is constantly changing, and the language related to gender and sexuality is adjusted even faster as our society becomes more and more inclusive. This is not an excuse—it’s on me that my awareness was limited. But I thought that this would be a good opportunity to share some helpful terminology. If I’m going to call myself an ally, I better keep up to date with the language that supports people’s identities.

So I’ve compiled a small list of terms. This list is by no means complete, and the terms I’ve included are not necessarily embraced by everyone. It is merely an introduction to some of the more common terms. At the end, I’ve also included some terms to avoid.

On that note, I should mention the acronym LGBTQ. I’ve used LGBTQ because it seems to be the most common at this time, but there are many acronyms out there. LGBTQ generally refers to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (or sometimes Questioning). LGBT, LGBT+, LGBTQA, LGBTQQIA, and LGBTQ2S+ are among the other acronyms being used. The usually refers to Asexual (or sometimes Ally)I refers to Intersex2S refers to Two-spirit, and the + is sometimes added to be more inclusive. As you can see, it can be a bit of a mouthful, not to mention hard to remember all the letters! A few more succinct alternatives are GSM for Gender and Sexual Minorities, and DSG for Diverse Sexualities and Genders.

And finally, the list. Enjoy!

agender – adj. (agender people) : not identifying with traditional genders. Sometimes called gender neutral.

ally – noun : a, typically straight and/or cisgender, person who respects and supports the LGBTQ community.

androsexual/androphilic – adj. (androsexual people) : being primarily sexually and/or romantically attracted to men, males, and masculinity.

asexual – adj. (asexual people) : experiencing little or no sexual attraction to others and/or desire to engage in sexual relationships.

bigender – adj. (bigender people) : identifying with both traditional genders, or fluctuating between two genders.

bisexual – adj. (bisexual people) : being physically, emotionally, or sexually attracted to those of their own gender, as well as another gender. Sometimes shortened to “bi”.

cisgender – adj. (cisgender people) : having a gender identity that aligns with the sex assigned at birth. In other words, people who are not transgender.

female to male/FTM/F2M; male to female/MTF/M2F – noun/abbr. : a transgender man, who was assigned female at birth;  a transgender woman, who was assigned male at birth. Often used in a healthcare context.

gender-fluid – adj. (gender-fluid people) : having a gender identity that is not fixed to a single gender. A gender-fluid person may fluctuate between feminine, masculine, both, or neither.

gender identity – noun : a person’s innermost sense of their gender. Can be the same as or different from the sex assigned to them at birth.

gynesexual/gynephilic – adj. (gynephilic people) :  being primarily sexually and/or romantically attracted to women, females, and femininity.

intersex – adj. (intersex people) : being born with reproductive anatomy and/or chromosomes that do not fit into traditional definitions of female or male.

MSM/WSW – abbr: men who have sex with men/women who have sex with women. Used in a healthcare context to describe a person’s sexual behaviour, rather than their sexual identity. For example, just because a man identifies as straight, does not mean he does not engage in sexual activity with other men.

pansexual – adj. (pansexual people) : being physically, emotionally, or sexually attracted to members of all gender identities.

polyamorous – adj. (polyamorous people) : having, or being inclined to have, ethical, consensual relationships (sexual and/or emotional) involving multiple partners (ie., non-monogamous relationships).

queer – adj. (queer people) : an umbrella term used within the LGBTQ community to describe the entire LGBTQ community. Traditionally used as a derogatory term, but now being embraced by some LGBTQ members.

questioning – verb, adj. : the process of exploring one’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity, or describing a person who is in the process.

transgender – adj. (transgender people) : an umbrella term to describe people whose gender identity or gender expression is different from what is traditionally associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. As a noun, a person may identify as a transwoman (a male-to-female transgender person who is a woman but still affirming their male assignment at birth) or a transman (a female-to-male transgender person who is a man but still affirming their female assignment at birth).

two-spirit – adj. (two-spirit people) : traditionally used in some Native American cultures to describe a person who embodies both feminine and masculine spirits. Used today to describe a person who identifies as a member of the Aboriginal LGBTQ community.

ze/hir/hirs “zee/heer/heers” – pron. : gender-neutral pronouns to replace he/she, him/her, and his/hers. Some people also embrace they/their/theirs as gender-neutral, singular pronouns.


I assume all who are reading this know the particularly offensive terms used to discriminate against the LGBTQ community, and not to use them. But I’ve included some terms to avoid, that may not be thought of as offensive to some.


hermaphrodite: This term is outdated, derogatory, and inaccurate. The origin of the word is “having both sexes”, which is not necessarily true. The preferred term is intersex, and there are many more ways to be intersex than simply having both male and female parts.

homosexual: This is an outdated clinical term. Due to its history of use as a psychological disorder, many people considered the term offensive and stigmatizing. It is generally preferred to use gay as an adjective, and gay man/people or lesbian as nouns.

sex change: This term seems straightforward, but that in itself is what makes it problematic. Not only does it oversimplify a process that can take years, but the term also implies that a person needs to have had surgery to transition. Transition is the preferred term when speaking of the entire process a person goes through to change their bodily appearance to better reflect their gender identity. Sex reassignment surgery or gender confirmation surgery refers to a surgical procedure itself. Sometimes more than one surgical procedure is involved in a person’s transition.

sexual preference: This inaccurate term suggests that one’s sexual orientation is a choice, and if this is the case, that they could simply choose an alternative. Sexual orientation is a more accurate term.

transvestite: This is an outdated term to describe a (typically cisgender) person who wears clothing associated with another gender. It has a negative connotation due to its history as a psychological diagnosis. Cross-dresser is the preferred term.


I’ll say it again: not everyone embraces the terms on this list. Gender and sexuality are highly individual and personal. If you are unsure which wording to use in regards to someone’s gender or sexuality, just ask! Most people would prefer to answer a straightforward question than to have others assume on their behalf.

I’m excited to see the language that is commonplace 10 years from now. Or 20 years from now. I would love a world where people aren’t tip-toeing around topics, or stumbling over acronyms and pronouns. The generation of kids growing up today is getting so much more education around equality and acceptance than any generation before it, and that trend is just going to continue. We’re getting there, albeit slowly.

By all means, if there are any terms you’d like to acknowledge that I haven’t included, add them in the comments!






Further vs. Farther

I don’t think I had ever considered the difference between further and farther until I started getting into editing. There are a lot of things you take for granted when you’ve been speaking a language your whole life. Sometimes things just sound wrong. Further and farther can be a little tricky though. Not only because they have similar spelling and pronunciation, but because sometimes either could be correct. Think about that one for a moment.

Generally, we use farther to indicate physical distance (think far):

  • Earth is farther from the sun than Venus.
  • How much farther do we have to drive?

And further is used in a more abstract way to indicate a figurative distance:

  • I’m not taking this conversation any further.
  • Without further delay…

Also, further can be used as a verb, while farther cannot. You would not say “This promotion is really going to farther her career.” or “I’m going to farther my education.”

But as adverbs, the two words can be sneaky. For example, if someone says “further down the road” they might be talking about an actual road, or they might be talking about a metaphorical one, meaning “later”: later in life, later in a relationship. And what about books? “He’s farther along in the book than I am.”— Are we referring to where your physical bookmark is, or how much of the story you have read? “He’s further along in the book than I am.” works just as well. Does this example still work when we talk about a TV series on Netflix? Say you’re anxiously awaiting your friend to be caught up to you on Orange Is the New Black, so you can gab about it without letting any spoilers slip. You might say “Have you made it any further into season three?” Would farther work, even though it’s digital and we can’t see a physical distance?

Most sources will accept either word in the more ambiguous adverbial cases, and some even in the less ambiguous ones. Further is the more common of the two; 10 times more common, according to this video by Merriam Webster. And it is generally easier to use further in place of farther than the reverse. If English is your first language, you can probably count on what sounds more natural. There are plenty of hardcores out there who would argue that you absolutely must use farther when a physical distance is involved, so you still want to keep the “rules” in mind if you’re writing (or speaking) for something more formal.

I could go further into further and farther, but I’ll avoid that particular black hole of word-nerdery. Here’s a pile of puppies to reward you for making it to the end of this post.

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Whatever vs. Whatsoever

the simpsons, cartoons, and funny image

Another thing I noticed while reading Watership Down a while back, was the use of whatever. The word was used in a way I’m accustomed to, such as:

  • Whatever it was, it was only just outside.
  • Do whatever you like.

And this way, which is now less common:

  • … whatever do you mean?
  • Whatever are you doing…?

Neither of the above uses made me bat an eye. But it was the use of whatever in these examples (and more) that stuck out to me every time I saw them:

  • … they had no purpose whatever…
  • … a matter of no importance whatever…
  • … no one is to go outside for any reason whatever.

I’ve seen and probably heard whatever used this way before, but it’s so unfamiliar to me that it always sounds like a mistake. In my mind, it should be whatsoever: “no purpose whatsoever”, or “for any reason whatsoever”. So I did some digging. Not that I thought Richard Adams was wrong (not to mention the editors and publishers of the book), but more to see why it sounds so wrong to me. Is it a British/American thing? Is this an archaic use? Watership Down was written in 1972, so it’s certainly not that old.

I didn’t come up with much. Which was surprising to me… usually when an English word or phrase sounds odd to me, there’s a myriad of articles about it because it sounds odd to many other people as well.

The two words do have the same meaning. Often the dictionary definition of whatsoever is simply: whatever. Whatsoever is the older of the two words; the first known use dated in the 13th century, while whatever came about in the 14th century. Whatsoever is a bit of a mouthful, so it would make sense that we would cut it down to whatever. 

So why, in 2017, am I still hanging on to whatsoever, while Richard Adams, in 1972, had already kicked it? Some of what I’ve read (and perhaps my UK readers can chime in if this isn’t the case) claims that when it comes to the emphatic use combined with a negative (eg., none whatsoever) whatever is more common in British English, while whatsoever remains more common in American English. There are still Americans writers who prefer to use whatever in this case, and British writers who prefer whatsoever, of course. If whatsoever is indeed used less in British English, it does seem a bit strange. Whatsoever just sounds more British to me, and American English generally makes words shorter rather than longer.

I can’t say that this is something I’ve noticed particularly in British TV shows and movies. I feel like I would have made the connection. Perhaps part of the reason “in no way whatever” sounds wrong to me is that I don’t watch enough British media? Maybe I should be more well-read? Neither way is wrong, so whichever word feels natural to you is probably the word you should be using. Maybe I should just chill out about the whole thing. Like, you know, whatever.

Backpack vs. The Rest

I have somewhat irrational feelings about a few words. OK, if you know me, you know that’s a lie. I have a completely irrational loathing of all sorts of words. And, despite being an editor and self-proclaimed word-nerd, I prefer the technically incorrect version in many cases.

You may have read my post about the word already. Another example: the word OK. I still, no matter how many times I read it, think OK (with both letters capitalized) just looks like someone is shouting it. Perhaps this comes from texting before autocorrect. Nobody would bother capitalizing the letters in a text because everyone understands ok just fine. If someone did capitalize both letters, it usually meant “OK, I GET IT, SHUT UP ALREADY.” Yes, I did use OK earlier in this post to appease the word-police. And yes, if I was hired to edit a document I would correct ok to OK. And okay? I’ve got nothing against okay. I actually might prefer it to OK, except that OK is more common and okay is twice as many letters to type.

OK, that was a lot of okays. The reason I bring this up is that one of the words I have irrationally strong feelings about is backpack. Backpack is a great word. It’s a pack that goes on your back, and the rhyme makes it fun to say. Why anyone speaking English would call it anything else is beyond me. And we have a lot of synonyms for it: backpack, rucksack, knapsack, packsack, book bag, school bag.

Book bag and school bag sort of get a pass, since they refer to a specific type of backpack, but when people say either of these words, I actually picture a tote-style bag before I picture a backpack. In my head, a bag is something you carry with your hand or over one shoulder. I realize this gets complicated if you have a backpack for school and a backpack for hiking and ask “Have you seen my backpack?”

Packsack has the rhyming thing going for it, but no mention of the back, which is essential, so it is automatically dumb. Rucksack also sounds a bit dumb to me, but kind of cute… possibly because it is often said by those with accents. Rucksack is actually legit because, in German, Rücken means “back” and Sack means “bag”. I can see why “backbag” didn’t win in English when it had backpack to compete with.

And then we come to the worst of the lot: knapsack. I don’t really know why, but I hate the word knapsack. Maybe somebody I didn’t like used the word when I was a kid and it was tainted for me forever.  I think I mostly just don’t like how the word sounds. Knap sounds like both lap and flap, so… a flappy lap sack. Maybe there’s a bit of a nappy association in there as well? I don’t know. It just sounds gross to me. I even saw knapsack used as a verb, like backpacking (this use is probably completely obsolete at this point). Knapsacking brings to mind someone getting hit in the crotch… the sacking part is obvious, and probably that lap thing helps. From what I understand, knapsack comes from knappen, meaning “snap” or “bite” in Low German and Dutch. So it’s the bag you carry a bite of food in? Still no mention of the back, so it’s a fail in my books. Knapsack is actually the oldest of all the synonyms I’ve mentioned, by over 200 years. But I don’t care. It’s a backpack.

Some people do use different words for different types, structure, or material (eg., rucksack as a larger pack for multi-day hikes and knapsack as a smaller day-to-day bag, like a purse for your back) but most people use backpack, rucksack, knapsack, and packsack interchangeably. Really, most people use just one word to encompass all packs. For me, it’s definitely always going to be backpack. For those of you who use knapsack, well, enjoy your flappy lap sacks.

Fifty-Mission Cap

Image result for gord downie flag

For the Canadians reading this, you’d have to be living under a rock to not know what spurred this post. Even some of you non-Canadians might know, if you follow any of us on social media.

For those who don’t know… yesterday was a sad day for a lot of Canadians. We found out that Gord Downie, lead singer of the band The Tragically Hip, died on Tuesday night. It hit the country hard. Our prime minister even had tears rolling down his cheeks during a statement he made following the news. I’m not going to get into all the reasons for which Downie is being mourned, aside from his musical contributions. There are many. But I will say a bit about The Tragically Hip, and what they mean to Canadians.

The band has been putting out music since the eighties, so for many of us, their songs were a big part of the soundtrack of our lives. Not everyone liked this; some people resent their music simply because you couldn’t escape hearing Tragically Hip songs everywhere you went. But the rest of us have this strange sense of pride and belonging when it comes to The Hip. They often sing about Canadian themes and Canadian locations, but they don’t do it in a gross, patriotic way. They just wrote songs about the country they were from, and those songs are catchy as hell. Gord Downie, with his wonderfully ridiculous dance moves and stage antics, was the face of the band that is “so deeply embedded in being Canadian”, to paraphrase a friend. The Tragically Hip are ours, and they rule.


Now, to get to the actually word-nerding. “Fifty-Mission Cap” is one of The Hip’s most popular songs, and one of my favourites. It tells a story of a hockey player (of course) who scored the winning goal in the Stanley Cup final, then went missing. Here’s the lyric:

Bill Barilko disappeared that summer
He was on a fishing trip
The last goal he ever scored
Won the Leafs the cup
They didn’t win another till nineteen sixty two
The year he was discovered
I stole this from a hockey card
I keeped tucked up under

My fifty-mission cap
I worked it in
I worked it in to look like that

This actually happened, and actually is on a hockey card. But what the hell is a fifty mission cap? And why is there a hockey card tucked into it? Well, for those who aren’t uber fans and haven’t already researched this, here you go!

Bomber pilots in World War II were given hats which were stiff at first but would get broken down over time due to the earphones they wore. The more missions you’d been on, the more crushed your hat was. So if you wanted to look like a veteran flyer, say, one with a fifty-mission cap, you’d… work your hat in to look like that. It became the fashion for these caps, even if you weren’t on the bombers.

The fashion was for the sides of the cap to be crushed (imagine the earphones), but not the front. To keep the front of the cap stiff and upright, sometimes the men would put a bit of cardboard, or a playing card under it. Or, if you fast-forward to the nineties, a hockey card.


Image result for gord downie fifty mission cap

Convince vs. Persuade

I’m reading Watership Down right now, for the first time. Well, at least for the first time as an adult. This may be a bad idea since I’m pretty sure I remember being traumatized by the film as a kid. I’m definitely one of those “animals dying is sadder than humans dying” types when it comes to books and movies. I recently finished reading a novel about the communication between humans and animals and must have cried at least 10 times.

Anyway, what sparked me to write this post is how often some form of the word persuade is used in Watership Down. Now, for those of you who know the story, I am still only in the first part, in which there is a lot of persuading going on. But many of the times I saw persuade come up in the book, it felt a little awkward to me. I think this has to do with how we often use convince and persuade interchangeably. Also probably because the characters are rabbits, and it seems a bit ridiculous that a little bunny could persuade anyone to do anything… but let’s stick to the convince/persuade idea.

The two words are pretty closely linked, but do have different meanings. Convince means to cause someone to firmly believe something, while persuade means to cause someone to do something through reasoning and argument. You can also convince someone through reasoning and argument, but the important distinction is that persuading results in an action, while convincing is limited to the mind.

This all may sound obvious, but how often do you hear people say things like:

  • I convinced him to come to the party.
  • It doesn’t take much to convince me to make cookies.
  • They tried to convince her to stay another hour.

Pretty often, right? I hear (and probably say) these kinds of sentences all the time. But technically, these examples are incorrect. All three should use persuade rather than convince:

  • I persuaded him to come to the party.
  • It doesn’t take much to persuade me to make cookies.
  • They tried to persuade her to stay another hour.

And what if you wanted to correct them, but still use convince? The result is similar, but you have to change the meaning a bit:

  • I convinced him that coming to the party would be fun.
  • It doesn’t take much to convince me that making cookies is a good idea.
  • They tried to convince her that staying another hour was the best plan.

So you can be convinced of something (logic and belief: the mind), but not convinced to do something (the action). Also, you can be persuaded, but not convinced.

  • She convinced me that what she was saying was true.
  • I was finally persuaded to come to the mall, but I was not convinced it was a good idea.

There’s something about persuade that feels icky to me. It feels like I’m being manipulated or duped. Being persuaded isn’t always a bad thing, of course. Often it is a good thing. In Watership Down, Fiver and Hazel persuaded the other rabbits to leave the warren because they knew danger was coming. But the word still carries this somewhat sinister tone for me. If I’m convinced, then I believe something. I’ve made the decision in my own mind. A naturopathic doctor once told me that arachnophobia was related to a fear of being manipulated. At the time, I thought that made sense. Of course I have a fear of being manipulated. But thinking back on this years later, it occurred to me that we all have a fear of being manipulated, don’t we? Unless, of course, you’re convinced that you cannot be manipulated. Does that mean you are convinced that you cannot be persuaded? Hmm…