Writing for Business

Oct 15 2009   8:15PM GMT

More misadventures with “myself”

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

On his Literal-Minded blog, Neal Whitman explains more about how reflexive pronouns are used correctly in an embarrassing episode from his past:

“Maddie, Ed, Deanna, and Jennifer are riding together,” said Chad. “Michelle will be riding with myself, and …”

With myself? I thought. Why was Chad talking in that pompous way? Why didn’t he just say with me? This kind of myself-abuse was one of my grammar peeves.

Syntacticians have a name for what Chad did, but it’s not a very well-chosen name. They call it a Principle A violation. If I had named it, I would have called Principle A the Reflexive Rule. It’s the rule that says that in Standard English (and other languages, too), reflexive pronouns are used when a grammatical object of a verb or preposition refers to someone already mentioned earlier in the same clause…

Whitman goes on to explain how he embarrassed himself (note correct use of reflexive pronoun) — not by using myself incorrectly but by correcting someone else who had (in, perhaps, less than ideal circumstances for a teachable moment). Oh, he was correct, grammatically. But were his motives suspect?

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