Sunday, January 31, 2010

Me either, me neither

Today's Word column deals with the (rare-ish) belief that to speak of "cold temperatures" is redundant, improper, or both. But readers are querying another usage entirely. In the first paragraph, I ask, "Do your usage antennae quiver [at this idiom]? Mine either."

Why, ask Baroose and Beth and Clarence and Harold, did I use "Mine either" and not "Mine neither"?

My copy editor asked the same thing. My answer was that "mine neither" didn't sound right, with those colliding n sounds, even though it would be parallel to the usual casual response, "Me neither." And I didn't see why I couldn't construe the imaginary dialogue as "Do your antennae quiver?" "No." "Mine don't either" -- hence, "Mine either."

Even "me neither" is not the universal choice: Many people (especially in speech) use "me either" and "me neither" interchangeably. I compared the two versions on Google (using "no, me neither"/"no, me either" to avoid construction like "Give me either the red or the blue"), and turned up 424,000 raw ghits for "no, me neither" and 382,000 for "no, me either."

And in the "mine neither/either" comparison, my preferred version -- "no, mine either" -- trounced "mine neither," 36,600 hits to 13,700. Apparently even people whose usual choice is "me neither" switch, as I did, to "mine either." 

Paul Brians, I now see, thinks "me either" is a mistake: "By itself, meaning 'neither do I,' in reply to previous negative statement, it has to be 'me neither': 'I don’t like whole-wheat pie crust.' 'Me neither.'"

But "me neither" is so clearly a casualism -- we use it to mean either "Nor me" or "Nor I," and nobody bats an eye -- that most usagists ignore it, saving their ammunition for more worthy (and vulnerable) targets. 

6 comments:

tahnan said...

I'm fascinated that Brians even takes a stand on "me either" vs. "me neither", since they both seem so contrary to formal usage in the first place. Given that he seems to prefer "It is I" (in the I/me/myself entry) and "...than I" (in the that/than entry), it seems to me that he ought to be insisting on some strange and formal "I, either".

In fact, what's the (prescriptivist) justification for "me neither"? Isn't the response elliptical for "I [don't like it] either"?

Charles Matthews said...

You say neither, I say either. Let's call the whole thing off.

mighty red pen said...

I gotta say, now you've got me all confused. I can't rightly remember if I myself say "me either" or "me neither." Now they both sound right!

Anonymous said...

Both "Mine either" and "Mine neither" sound strange to me. I'd say "Neither do mine."

So, care to guess where I grew up?

Anonymous said...

"ghit"? Is this a new coinage for Google hit? Is it pronounced "git" or "g-hit"?

martha said...

I was just watching a movie (with English subtitles on) and came across this line "me either" ...felt so confused so I decided to google it and found your blog :) I agree that it should just be "me neither" , it really does sound better somehow....been studying English for so many years and I always feel like I know so very little