Monday, January 13, 2020

"but (as) for me" redux

I don't think I've convinced stubborn ol' Dr. Hodges that I'm not wrong. Here's another way to think about the issue:

1. The locution "as for me" is equivalent to "regarding the matter that is moi."
2. The locution "for me" is equivalent to "from my perspective."

I've been arguing that the two locutions are functionally interchangeable, but this doesn't mean they're semantically interchangeable. As we see, the locutions actually mean distinctly different things. In the first case, "as for me" shines the spotlight directly and conspicuously upon oneself in a self-consciously deliberate way. By contrast, "for me" is self-referential, but in a more casually offhand way: "This is just my opinion."

So the difference, then, is not merely a matter of style: it's a matter of intended meaning. This is why Patrick Henry's "but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!" feels so noble and stentorian (and yes, somewhat pretentious). It's also why I feel comfortable writing, "...but for me, as a crotchety 50-something, I had trouble understanding..."

I often have to deal with well-intended people who try to "correct" me when I'm not actually wrong. And for what it's worth, I haven't even broken out the "common usage" argument yet. Let's do that now. When I Google the respective phrases, I get these results:

"but as for me": 40,800,000 results
"but for me": 149,000,000 results

True, some of the "but for me"s will actually mean something like "except for me" or "were it not for me." But I think that's a solid enough search result to make the claim that "but for me" is widely used as I've used it, whatever the prescriptivist might say.


Charles said...

Well, I guess I'll throw my hat in the ring here, if only to say that maybe it is just a difference of where the "as" falls. Surely if you wrote "But as for me," you wouldn't then write "as a crotchety 50-something," right? So maybe there are two options:

But as for me, a crotchety 50-something, I had trouble understanding...
But for me, as a crotchety 50-something, I had trouble understanding...

Although I do think I agree that it does feel like there is a semantic difference between "for me" and "as for me." I know that I would be less inclined to start the main clause with "I" when using "for me"--I would be more likely to write something like: "But for me, as a crotchety 50-something, the [whatever] was difficult to understand" (haven't read the review yet because I plan on seeing the film). For me, that seems more natural. On the other hand, I would be more inclined to start the main clause with "I" after "as for me." But this is just a vague impression, and in practice it may shake out differently. When I run the sentences over in my head switching out the phrases, I have to admit that they don't sound wrong.

One thing I can say for certain is that I have never consciously thought about this issue until today.

Kevin Kim said...

Welcome back!

Kevin Kim said...

As for the question of using only one "as" instead of two: in a different post and comment thread, I mentioned that very problem right off the bat, and I told Jeff I was happy with any version of the sentence that had only one "as." I added that, since my original sentence already had only one "as," it was fine as it was. I don't think Jeff agrees, but he's stuck in a particular era's notion of style, I think.

I'd still say "but as for me" has a more formal ring to it than does "but for me."

Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I will need to go through these blog posts and comments to clarify for myself what I think.

Jeffery Hodges

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Charles said...

Thanks. Good to be back home, even if I return to an avalanche of stuff that needs to get done.