A girl I once taught was frightened of the word "moist". If you wrote it on a piece of paper and showed it to her, she would run away with her arms flailing. Yes, I know that's an extreme case.
The word I would like to focus on first is far more common and it gives me the chance to mount one of my pet hobbyhorses again. Why are so many people frightened of the perfectly acceptable teensy word "me"?
You will hear them making a speech at a gathering and most of the address will be fine until the fateful sentence, "So it's thanks from my wife and I". Mentally, I'm already encouraging them halfway through the sentence. Go on, be bold, be correct. It's "me" not "I". I promise.
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Some take refuge in the word "myself", possibly because they can't decide between "I" and "me". I'm afraid it still sounds very silly. And wrong.
If you do it correctly and say "me", be prepared for someone in the audience later to point out your "error". It's not worth debating it. Just help yourself to a glass of something from the drinks trolley.
I'm sure people's fear of "me" comes from having "I" drummed into them as children but the lesson always seemed to lack the necessary proviso – it's only "I" if it's the subject of the verb as in, "My wife and I would like to thank you."
I can already hear people saying, "Okay, Mr Smartypants, why don't you explain it to us?"
Right! In the interests of English grammar I'm going to do it in a very short simplified explanation that avoids the use of technical terms such as nominative, accusative, hypotenuse and abdominal cavity.
Please excuse me for just a moment while I slip into teacher mode. Come on, there are still one or two people chatting up the back and if they don't pay attention they'll get a detention.
My foolproof method is simply to remove the first person in the mentioned pair. Let's take the sentence, "They gave face masks to Tom and..." At this stage you are trying to avoid "me" because you're scared of it.
But now, remove the "Tom and" and see what sounds right. I'm sure, unless silliness is your hobby, you would never say, "They gave face masks to I." That, quite simply, is why "They gave face masks to Tom and me" is correct. Not "I". Not "myself".
Quite simple really.
Another word that frightens people is "who" (or should that be "whom"?) I think, in general, the fear and confusion on this one has led to a relaxing of the rules but I still recommend using "whom" after a preposition.
There also appears to be a fear of using two words instead of one. The most common is "a lot". I'm sorry, but it is two words. Here is an extract from Wyn's Dictionary of Useful Stuff (yet to be published):
a lot – quite a few/many/an abundance.
allot – to share out or apportion.
alot - THERE IS NO SUCH WORD!
Now other versions appear to be following "a lot": "a bit"; "no one"; "thank you"; "every day" (yes, "everyday" is a word but it means "ordinary", not "each day").
And, now that we've entered daylight saving, why are so many people frightened of its proper name? Why do they feel the need to add an "s" making it sound like some sort of bank account?
Other words many people appear to be frightened of include "complement", "criterion", "led", "storey" and "pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis".
So there, I've had my say. I think these things are important. Thanks from my family and me.
Wyn Drabble is a teacher of English, a writer, musician and public speaker.