Thursday, May 25, 2006

You asked, SPOGG answers


One thing that I hear over and over again, even from "educated" people, is the use of the word "myself" when they should be using the word "me". Do you have any suggestions of how I can let these people know about their mistakes or should I just grin and bear it?

Dear SVP:

We had a cross-country coach who would do this. She said, "Talk to [other coach] or myself," all the time. So little has changed in the intervening decades.

Myself is not a fancy-pants substitute for the word me. It is a reflexive pronoun, to be used when the word I also appears in the sentence. I saw myself. The same goes for other pronouns. She saw herself. They saw themselves.

Myself can also be used for emphasis, much in the way that irritable fairytale chicken picked the wheat, ground the wheat, and made bread from the wheat all by herself.

It's the toddler or mother-in-law of words, depending on your perspective:
"I did it all by myself!" (Delighted toddler, taking off clothes.)
"I did it ... all by myself." (Vexed mother-in-law, making you feel guilty she made her own hotel reservations.)

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