Why you should never, ever use the word "Myself" the way you think it's okay to use it. Because it's not. Okay to use it that way. Trust me.

“Myself” is a bit like a dildo.

WHOA, CENOBYTE!!! THAT’S TOTALLY TMI!!!

No, seriously. Stay with me here. I’m’a get back to that.

As I pointed out to Viper Pilot in one of the comments down there, formal English (Smarty Pants, we’ll save the ‘but that’s how people talk’ discussion for later, because you know my opinion on doing things a) simply because everyone else is doing them, and b) incorrectly) teaches us that saying “my friend and I” is incorrect.

Your grade two teacher probably told you that it is always more proper to say “My friend and I” because it’s a) more polite to list your friend first, and b) proper English. Well, Mrs. Gonadcrusher was, as our friend would say, mistooken. ((*\ /*)) (those are not boobs. Those are the Sarcasm Hand and the Humour Hand being deployed simultaneously)

Here’s the deal.
Pronouns have what are called cases*. Special states of being dependent on what they are doing in a sentence. Kind of like freedom, incarceration, and parole, except nothing at all like that.

Whoa. Let’s back up a bit, shall we? You remember what pronouns are, right? Okay, good. But just in case you’re just SAYING you remember what a pronoun is so that I won’t mock you, I’ll just remind you: a pronoun is a word or phrase which replaces a noun or noun phrase (noun: person, place, or thing, for ease of reference).

Now. Pronouns have cases. I’m not going to list all the cases here, because you’ll go crosseyed and stop reading, if you haven’t already. But seriously; if you learn this stuff, you’ll be, like, the smartest person on your block! Maybe even in your whole NEIGHBOURHOOD!

There is the nominative or subjective case. It is the **subject** of a sentence (the thing what the sentence is really about…not the same as the **topic** of the sentence, btw).
There is the objective case, which is the **object** of a setence (the thing what stuff is being done to).
There is the reflexive case, which is much easier to demonstrate than it is to explain (so that’s what I’ll do).

There are three cases for the first person pronoun (the one you use when you’re referring to yourself).
“I” is subjective
“Me” is objective
“Myself” is reflexive

Observe:
I love the smell of napalm in the morning. -> “I” is the subject of the sentence; that which is taking the action, in this case. (incidentally, ‘love’ is the predicate, or verb; ‘the smell of napalm’ is the object; and ‘in the morning’ is a prepositional phrase).

Charlie is shooting at me. -> “Me” is the object of the sentence; that which is being acted upon, affected…the *what* of the sentence.

I shot myself in the foot. -> “Myself” is reflexive. That is to say, it is a pronoun which refers to an antecedant, or pronoun/noun/subject appearing earlier in the sentence.

The following is not now, never has been, and never shall be correct:
“Please respond to myself at your earliest convenience.”
“Vincent or myself can help you select a palette”
“This was broken by myself”
“Myself loves cake.”

(arguably, ‘by myself’ is a prepositional phrase which ostensibly means ‘on my own’ or ‘alone’; that is not the way in which it is intended to be used in this example.)

Why is this not correct, cenobyte!? you ask. And you would be correct in asking this. Because PEOPLE ARE WRONG. They are attempting to use the reflexive case as the objective case (most often) or the subjective case (less frequently). They THINK that what they’re saying makes them sound smart, but the opposite is true. Someone uses the reflexive first person pronoun incorrectly, and I think: “that person is a dink. Clearly, they think they’re impressing me. They are wrong.” There’s a reason it sounds wonky.

Would you like to take a stab at what would be the *correct* and less mentally-developmentally-delayed way of saying the above sentences?

Back to the first sentence of this post. “Myself”, as a reflexive, only operates as an aid to the original subject. I guess it doesn’t HAVE to be a dildo. It could be a midget. Or possibly some kind of poorly-paid foreign exchange student who constantly pays attention only to you simply because you’ve convinced him/her that it’s the way things are done in Canada…I just like making the comparison to a dildo because if you think of “modifying” as “pleasuring”, reflexives, single handedly (heh), pleasure the first thing they come across (heh). Yes, I got through a good portion of my linguistics morphology classes by likening ‘modifying’ to ‘pleasuring’.


*Other parts of speech have cases or tenses too; right now, we’re only dealing with pronouns.

cenobyte
cenobyte is a writer, editor, blogger, and super genius from Saskatchewan, Canada.

6 Comments

  1. A perhaps simpler way is to just remove the other person from the sentence and see what’s left. It should be able to stand on its own without the other person.

    “Vincent or myself can help you select a palette” -> “Myself can help you select a palette” = WRONG.

    Vincent or me can help you select a palette” -> “Me can help you select a palette” = WRONG.

    Vincent or I can help you select a palette” -> “I can help you select a palette” = RIGHT.

    “Give the palette to Vincent or myself” -> “Give the palette to myself” = WRONG

    “Give the palette to Vincent or I” -> “Give the palette to I” = WRONG (this is where memorizing Mrs. Gonadcrusher’s rules without understanding them will lead you astray. Saying “and I” is not automatically correct)

    “Give the palette to Vincent or me” -> “Give the palette to me” = RIGHT

  2. Aw. Can we please have the ‘but that’s how people talk’ discussion now? I so enjoy disagreeing with Smarty Pants…

  3. @Amy – yes. And I have heard nearly every usage of the word ‘myself’ that you outlined in the “WRONG” corner, most likely within the last month.

    Because people are dumb.

i make squee noises when you tell me stuff.

Optimization WordPress Plugins & Solutions by W3 EDGE
%d bloggers like this: