The Grammarphobia Blog

Captious reasoning

Q: I was recently browsing through a photographic memoir by Gore Vidal when I was stopped in my tracks by a caption that read (something like) “Howard and I at [some place] in [some year].” Have the rules changed so drastically since my education that one is now allowed to say (in effect) “This is a picture of Howard and I”? I will be gobsmacked if that rule has been tossed. Yours in a swivet.

A: Remain calm. The caption as written is a sentence fragment (as captions often are), and we have no way of knowing how the sentence would read if it were completed.

The phrase “Howard and I” could be either subject (correct) or object (incorrect) of a longer sentence. The caption could be an elliptical version of …

(1) “This is a picture of Howard and I at Cannes in 1954.” (Loud raspberry heard offstage.)

OR

(2) “Howard and I are shown here at Cannes in 1954.” (Sigh of relief.)

I give the caption writer the benefit of the doubt. Ya gotta have a little faith in people!

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