Saturday, January 18, 2020

"but (as) for me": the Googlefight

When you place a Google search term inside quotation marks, you can search for that exact phrase. This isn't an ironclad guarantee that all your search results will, in fact, contain that exact phrase, but over 90% of your search results ought to contain it.

In an earlier post, I noted that "but for me" beat out the search results for "but as for me" by a large margin. While I was walking home tonight, it occurred to me that I might want to search for a more precise locution: "but for me, I," as opposed to "but as for me, I." (This is because the complaint against my diction seems to be that, if you use "but [as] for me," the ensuing clause should not begin with "I" because it's somehow redundant.) So, putting those two phrases in quotes, I did two searches, and here are the results:

but as for me, I: approx. 22,500,000 results
but for me, I: approx. 71,900,000 results

So I ask you: which locution gets more use? And the one that gets more use—that's the more awkward locution? I think not. You might respond, "Well, ain't isn't a proper locution, either. Millions of people use it, but that doesn't make it right." My response: that's a prescriptivist talking. Ain't is perfectly fine, perfectly legitimate, in informal speech; there's no need to correct someone who's speaking less than formally. I've argued the same thing about "but for me" versus "but as for me": the latter locution is more formal, not more correct. I've committed no grammatical sin by writing in a less-than-formal register. If you've read enough of my movie reviews, you know perfectly well that I don't normally write them in a formal, stilted, scholarly voice.

Once again, I find myself in the position of the pluralist who is simply saying that more than one perspective is possible. My interlocutor, as often seems to happen, is taking the closed-minded, nonpluralistic stance that no, only one perspective is the correct one. This happens a lot on this blog: a commenter tells me I'm wrong when I'm not wrong; the commenter offers his own perspective, and I acknowledge that his perspective has merit; the commenter fails to do me the same courtesy, insisting on his own way and not crediting me with the intelligence to know what I'm doing. I give respect; I get none in return. Yes, this happens a lot. Do I have "KICK ME" stenciled on my forehead?*

Anyway, the preponderance of the evidence is in my favor. There's little point in pursuing the matter further, but I'll leave off with some example sentences and fragments collected from the Google search results for "but for me, I...":

"But for me, I will wait on Jehovah..." (Micah 7:7)
"But for me, I am one with my God..." (inspired by Psalm 73:28)**
"But for me, I knew that if I had a baby, I would have to take care of that baby..." (Stevie Nicks)
"Today is Thanksgiving...but for me[,] I give thanks every single day..." (seen on Facebook)
"Great article, but for me[,] I must say I pride myself on being an SJW, my weapons being words and education." (
"But for me...I [don't] wanna go to no dance unless I can rub some tit...." (seen on Reddit)
"It's probably both, but for me, I follow a pretty non-political group of people..." (

Thousands, millions more examples along these lines. Prescriptivists say, "Rules win." Descriptivists, who are really crypto-prescriptivists, say, "Usage wins." All I'm arguing is that my own usage is possible and therefore correct. It's a defensive argument, not a counterattack in which I say my interlocutor is wrong. As I mentioned at the outset, his rephrasing of my text is not wrong. All I reject is that it's somehow a needed correction.

I'd like to go a whole month without having to defend myself from unnecessary "corrections."

*If I were so inclined, I suppose I could visit the blogs of writers whose literary prowess I respect and nitpick them for their errors, of which there are often many. But I don't do this. Why? Because I extend them the professional courtesy they really ought to extend to me, i.e., I recognize that most of what they write is damn near picture perfect, and if people of that caliber make a mistake, it's not worth mentioning. I can tell that others don't share this view, though, which is why they feel free to arrive at my foyer with "corrections."

**Different English versions of the actual biblical verse render this variously as "But as for me" and "But for me," so take your pick. See? I'm a pluralist.


John Mac said...

Wow, I didn't realize this was such a serious issue or I wouldn't have been so flip in my response to your earlier post on the subject. I guess I'm firmly in the either/or camp, they both sound right to me. Of course, I'm also not one who feels bound to follow grammatical rules. Laziness or ignorance? I prefer to think of myself as a rebel.

Anyway, I do read most of your comment threads and I hadn't noticed you being taken to task or corrected that often. But if I've ever done that (which I think is doubtful) on any topic, it was never my intent. I believe people can disagree without one of them being "wrong". Except for politics, and we are pretty much on the same page there.

Charles said...

I noticed that you linked to the post on which I commented. Is this a reply to that comment? Because I was not trying to say that your usage was wrong in any way. I was just trying to offer another possible way of looking at it, without any claims to being "correct." As I mentioned in my comment, it's not something I've ever really thought about before, so I was really just trying to articulate my own thoughts on it.

Kevin Kim said...


No, the crabby carping wasn't a reaction to your comment from the other thread. The more substantive part of my post was a response to Jeff's own blog post on the subject. I left a comment on Jeff's post that it seemed his problem with my diction was similar in nature to the remark you had made re: not following "but (as) for me" with a clause beginning with "I."

Kevin Kim said...


"I believe people can disagree without one of them being 'wrong.'"

No argument here. I normally tolerate disagreement when it happens, and I accept correction when I know I've made a mistake and been called out for it. But what's been driving me up the wall, for a while now, is when I get comments expressing both a different point view and the contention that I must be wrong simply because the commenter has a different point of view. So as I've written, I don't like being told I'm wrong when I'm not wrong.

I've hinted at this problem on my blog before, but I don't think anyone actually noticed or cared about what I was talking about. True: given that so few people even bother to comment, the unwarranted criticisms happen relatively infrequently. But they tend to come from the same few sources, and they always follow the pattern I laid out in my post: "a commenter tells me I'm wrong when I'm not wrong; the commenter offers his own perspective, and I acknowledge that his perspective has merit; the commenter fails to do me the same courtesy, insisting on his own way and not crediting me with the intelligence to know what I'm doing."

Annoying and frustrating.

John Mac said...

Yeah, I get that. I think most folks hardly ever bother to comment one way or the other. But thinking someone is "wrong" I suppose is a great motivator. So, you get an over-representation of naysayers. Just assume that all the non-commenting readers are agreeing with you... :)