Can’t fool you and me: Grammarian says lyrics to ‘I Believe’ anthem flawed
By Bruce Cheadle, The Canadian Press Feb 23, 9:00 am EST
WHISTLER, B.C. – It has become as emblematic and familiar to TV viewers of the 2010 Winter Games as Alexandre Bilodeau, underperforming Canadian medal hopefuls and venue weather woes.
But that musical phenomenon known as “I Believe,” the official anthem of Canada’s Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium, may in fact provide the true legacy of the Games: another generation of Canadian kids who don’t know me from you, nor their “I” from a hole in their head.
If you haven’t heard it by now, you haven’t been watching the Olympics on the Canadian broadcast consortium, led by CTV.
“I believe in the power of you and I,” 16-year-old Nikki Yanofsky sings repeatedly, a refrain that’s been employed as the soundtrack to just about every conceivable sporting situation in these Games.
The song has been No. 1 on iTunes Canada’s playlist for 13 straight days and has spawned an unanticipated merchandising bonanza for the broadcasters.
Yanofsky’s vocals are flawless, but not the lyrics.
“For some reason, polite Canadians do not seem to think that ‘me’ is acceptable,” says Joanne Buckley, a professor at the Centre for Student Development at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., and one of the country’s pre-eminent grammarians.
“Of course, we grammarians know that the words should be ‘believe in the power of you and me’ since ‘of’ is a preposition and takes an object.”
Buckly did, however, cut the song’s lyricists a little slack.
“Then again, T. S. Eliot set the precedent for this usage in ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ when he wrote in the first line, ‘Let us go then, you and I,'” the professor said in an email.
“He was wrong too, or perhaps just demonstrating the politeness of Prufrock. I suppose the theme song could be worse: it could say ‘I believe in the power of you and myself.'”
Buckley confesses to being “the kind of person who talks back to the TV when I hear errors in grammar” and said she finds the flawed “I Believe” refrain “a bit annoying.” She’d like to think she’s not entirely alone.
But a spokesman for the broadcast consortium claims not to have heard a single such complaint, notwithstanding that the song has been sent to some 5,000 Canadian schools where, presumably, English grammar is still taught.
The song was distributed to schools through the group Free the Children in an effort to get Canadian kids “more engaged in the Games,” said Dan Cimoroni, vice-president of business development for the Olympic broadcast consortium.
Any teacher complaints about the grammar?
“No, I haven’t heard any of that,” Cimoroni said, noting there has been some feedback from schools and it’s all been positive.
In fact, apart from the pure musical appeal of Yanofsky and “I Believe,” the song has spurred a bonus line of T-shirts, scarves, hoodies and the like.
“Originally we didn’t have a licence to sell clothing,” said Cimoroni.
But after the public saw some “I Believe” promotional items for the song, “it just literally became overwhelming the number of people asking for it,” he said.
The consortium quickly struck a deal with VANOC, the Games’ organizing committee, and the merchandise has since been selling like crazy.
At least the “you and I” lyric isn’t emblazoned across the stuff.
In one of those curious coincidences that only a grammarian could love, the flawed line was delivered live as part of the Games’ opening ceremonies on an evening when U.S. network NBC debuted an abbreviated remake of “We Are The World,” a 1980s vintage African-famine fundraiser recorded again in the wake of the Haiti earthquake.
The chorus in that song ends with: “It’s true we’ll make a better day, just you and me.”
The U.S.-written song also got it wrong. It should be you and I, although that’s a rather formal construction and defies conversational convention.
But patriotic Canadians can at least take some small solace that they weren’t beaten by the Americans in both hockey and grammar.
To read this article online and to read comments posted, please view this link:
Here is a good rule to remember which you should use, I or Me, posted by one reader:
“Grammarians are as much at fault as anyone else for lapses in grammar because they give their reasons for criticizing bad grammar in grammatical terms which demonstrates nothing but their arrogance and are willfully (woefully?) unhelpful to those attempting to learn correct usage. The simplest, every-day way to explain to people – especially children – the difference between ‘you and me’ and ‘you and I’ is to tell them to remove ‘you’ from the sentence. Understanding then why ‘I’ is correct in some places, and ‘me’ in others becomes obvious. So ‘You and I are going” obviously becomes “I am going” not “Me am going” and “Is he saying that to you and I” obviously becomes ‘Is he saying that to me” not ‘Is he saying that to I’. I was taught this method by an English teacher who knew not only how to speak and write properly, but how to convey her knowledge to children. We could do with a few more like that in our schools today.” – Meg G.