“Hold on a sec, I’m gonna get me a beer.” With those simple words, Elizabeth Warren unleashed a wave of social-media mockery for what her critics see as a ham-handed attempt to convey down-home authenticity. Warren’s comment was made during an Instagram livestream broadcast from her family kitchen on New Year’s Eve, soon after announcing her candidacy to run for president in the 2020 Democratic primary—the first major candidate to do so.
The image of “the multi-million-dollar Cambridge law professor poppin’ a brewski” (in the words of one conservative columnist from the Boston Herald) was incongruous enough for many observers, but Warren’s phrasing just before fetching a beer from her refrigerator seemed to drive home the awkwardness of the moment.
The senator was using what syntacticians call a “personal dative,” a nonstandard use of a pronoun (“me”) immediately after a verb (“gonna get”) that refers back to a subject (“I”). In standard English, a reflexive pronoun would be expected in that position, as in “I bought myself a car” rather than the nonstandard “I bought me a car.” This grammatical feature is most associated with southern and Appalachian dialects of English, also extending into the South Midlands region—including Oklahoma City, where Warren grew up. The construction has a long history in American usage. The Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE) has examples all the way back to an 1821 diary entry by William Sewall, a Maine transplant in Maryland: “Purchased me some linens.”