A correspondent writes with a query about the title of the book and film Marley And Me. He notes that some people think it should be Marley and I, and wonders which is correct. Is it something to do with the fact that it is in a title, he asks?
Titles, like newspaper headlines, often have a grammar of their own - but not in this case. Both forms are used. Along with Marley and Me in the world of titles we find Monkey and Me, My Bump and Me, Stieg and Me, Ann Boleyn and Me, and more. On the other hand we find Withnail and I, The Egg and I, Gillespie and I, The Duke and I, and others. There is even a minimal pair. In 2009 there was an exhibition of Murray Close's photographs from the set of Withnail: it was called Withnail and Me.
Plainly there's a choice, and that will depend on the general feelings one has about the use of me and I in everyday use. The point has been well discussed in the English linguistics literature, so I won't go into it in detail here. But most people sense a formality difference, with I more formal than me. There's also a pragmatic issue arising out of the way I has been privileged in prescriptive teaching over the past 200 years, so that some people are scared of using me - notwithstanding the fact that the and me or me and constructions have a history of usage dating from the 14th century (see OED under me, pron.1, n. and adj., sense 5), and are found in Shakespeare, Austen, Dickens and many other authors. The linguistics literature also has some interesting observations about the way the grammar of pronouns in a coordinate construction differs from that of pronouns used in isolation (for example, see §2.2 of the Cambridge grammar).
If it had been left to itself, I'm sure me would have been the normal usage in the short texts that constitute titles. Compare them with other self-contained pieces of 'block language' (as Quirk, et al would call it) or elliptical sentences. It's interesting that me seems to be privileged in these minimalist sentences, especially those that are exclamatory in character. Consider such examples as the following, none of which allow I:
Dear me! Goodness me!
Silly me! Funny me!
Me go by train? Never!
Me and my big mouth!
Me in Blackpool. [photograph caption]
I got told off - and me only trying to be helpful.
Me? [do you mean me?)
Me too. Me neither.
But of course it wasn't left to itself.
Prescriptive grammarians have a lot to answer for. Their insistence that I usage was correct (as in It is I) and me was incorrect, introducing a Latin rule which went against the natural idiom of English, produced generation after generation of conflicting intuitions and a sensitivity to their use which is still with us. The uncertainty that people feel is a direct result of the attempt to implement that artifcial rule. They don't like to use I in everyday speech because it's felt to be too formal. On the other hand they find me uncomfortable because they've heard that it's wrong. It's not surprising, then, to see the rise of alternatives - especially myself. Usages such as Jane and myself went to the cinema and They saw John and myself in the street are on the increase - an ancient usage, which remained alive only in a few regional varieties, notably Irish English, but which is widespread in British English now. (And outside of Britain? Comments, please.) So expect to see more examples of this in the next generation of book and film titles. We've already had Oscar Wilde and Myself, My Father and Myself, and a few others. If they ever remake the cult film, and feel the need to retitle, it could be Withnail and Myself.