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Reflexive pronouns
Thread poster: XXXphxxx (X)

XXXphxxx (X)  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:10
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Nov 11, 2011

In the last 10+ years I have noticed a preponderance of incorrect usage of reflexive pronouns, both in written and spoken form, e.g. "If you have any questions, please contact myself". Anyone else noticed this and where on earth did it start?

 

MartinPorto  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 20:10
French to English
+ ...
Makes my hair stand on end when I hear it! Nov 11, 2011

The use of language is going south in general, I seem to be constantly asking people to repeat that, OK, I’m getting older and deafer by the day.

My wife, who is Indian speaks very good English indeed, (it’s also her fourth language) but when using pronouns in general she has problems, also with plurals, I am often asking, yes, but what do you mean?
I think we often take for granted how important the little words are sometimes.


 

Gilla Evans  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:10
Spanish to English
+ ...
Personal pronouns in general seem to be changing Nov 11, 2011

When I was growing up it was correct and normal to say "My friend and I are going to the circus..."

Now it is more common to hear "Me and my friend are going to the circus..."

It sounds wrong to me, makes me wince and I don't use it. But I feel a bit like King Canute. This usage is very very widespread among native English speakers.


 

XXXphxxx (X)  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:10
Portuguese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Doesn't just *sound* wrong. Nov 11, 2011

Gilla Evans wrote:

When I was growing up it was correct and normal to say "My friend and I are going to the circus..."

Now it is more common to hear "Me and my friend are going to the circus..."

It sounds wrong to me, makes me wince and I don't use it. But I feel a bit like King Canute. This usage is very very widespread among native English speakers.


It *is* wrong, just plain wrong. Yes, language is allowed to evolve over time but this is rubbish. My guess is that the reflexive pronoun issue arises from a wish to sound more correct, more polite, more posh... which makes it even worse.


 

Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:10
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Reflexive pronouns, articles, punctuation, hyphens... Nov 11, 2011

All these are liable to cause problems even for native English speakers, let alone for those whose native language does not include any articles - e.g. Russian.
I saw this headline in the Daily Telegraph this morning:
Give yourself up, cat attack suspect urged, as police hunt closes in
I thought at first this meant that the police were hunting a cat accused of attacking someone, and urging the animal to give itself up, but the text of the article made it clear that it referred to someone suspected of attacking a cat. Use of a hyphen ("cat-attack suspect urged...") would have made it clearer. Or maybe I just hadn't fully woken up when I looked at the paper...


 

David Wright  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 21:10
German to English
+ ...
my friend and I?? Nov 11, 2011

sound a right ponce if you said that!! While writing, it, on the other hand, is probably still a no-no.

Language is as language does, not as some grammarians says it should do!!!


 

Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:10
Hebrew to English
My input Nov 11, 2011

If any of you have ever read any of my posts in this vein, you'll know I'm the lead trombone player on the descriptivist bandwagon.

However, I really do draw the line at "please contact myself". Mostly because it just doesn't make sense. The general rule is that the reflexive pronoun is used as the object of a transitive verb when the direct object and the subject are one and the same person (or thing). In the example "please contact myself", the direct object and the subject are not the same, which is what makes it meaningless. The verb is in the imperative which obscures the subject somewhat, but in essence the person doing the contacting is not myself, you are asking someone else to contact you. Two separate entities.

I'm guessing somewhere along the line this rule has been confused and overapplied, the user thinking that the reflexive pronoun can be the direct object of a transitive verb no matter what, which it just can't.

I've never heard a native speaker say this though, and I'd be shocked if I did. I'd be inclined to slap them.

As for the other matter, "Me and my friend are going...." I'm more sympathetic to. What really makes me cringe is when I hear the hypercorrect "between you and I" (and other prepositional uses like this). I suspect the "Me and my friend..." example is the response to this hypercorrection as it has become such a trademark of ridiculous snobbery that it is no wonder that people have become rebellious and started expanding the object usage to subject cases. I also think, colloquially at least, that object usage like this "me and my friend are..." just sounds better, more natural, but that might be because of the misguided language snobs browbeating people they think they're superior to (and then go and commit hypercorrection with "between you and I" themselves).


 

writeaway  Identity Verified
French to English
+ ...
A right ponce? Hmmmmm Nov 11, 2011

David Wright wrote:

sound a right ponce if you said that!! While writing, it, on the other hand, is probably still a no-no.

Language is as language does, not as some grammarians says it should do!!!


Me and me mate sounds better? And in writing it is most definitely a no-no. Like all other languages, (well/correctly) written English often has little in common with the poor levels of spoken English that have now become far too commonplace.
My pet peeve is the erroneous attempt to sound 'posh' by using nominative pronouns where objective pronouns are correct: for she and I, etc. It makes me scream......


 

XXXphxxx (X)  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:10
Portuguese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I hear it ALL OVER THE PLACE Nov 11, 2011

In shops, on the street, above all in 'courtesy calls' from my bank or any other company, newsletters from school and (this really takes the biscuit) an advert for an English teacher: "You may speak to myself" (???).

 

Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:10
Hebrew to English
Let's go on a crusade.. Nov 11, 2011

Lisa Simpson wrote:

In shops, on the street, above all in 'courtesy calls' from my bank or any other company, newsletters from school and (this really takes the biscuit) an advert for an English teacher: "You may speak to myself" (???).


You've just started a crusade now, I'll be looking for it and listening for it everywhere.

I wonder what the appropriate response should be?

• Tutting (loudly)
• Rolling my eyes
• Slapping them or banging their head into the wall, depending on the severity and frequency of occurrences.
• I’d try to educate them, but so many people just don’t even care about the linguistic basics, that I suspect this would really go over their head and the second my back was turned they’d be spouting “did you just hear what he said to myself?”


 

XXXphxxx (X)  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:10
Portuguese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Yes, and please do report back to myself Nov 11, 2011

Ty Kendall wrote:

Lisa Simpson wrote:

In shops, on the street, above all in 'courtesy calls' from my bank or any other company, newsletters from school and (this really takes the biscuit) an advert for an English teacher: "You may speak to myself" (???).


You've just started a crusade now, I'll be looking for it and listening for it everywhere.

I wonder what the appropriate response should be?

• Tutting (loudly)
• Rolling my eyes
• Slapping them or banging their head into the wall, depending on the severity and frequency of occurrences.
• I’d try to educate them, but so many people just don’t even care about the linguistic basics, that I suspect this would really go over their head and the second my back was turned they’d be spouting “did you just hear what he said to myself?”


How about yourself printing leaflets and ensuring you have them to hand at all times?


 

Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:10
Hebrew to English
Caution! Nov 11, 2011

We should be careful how often we use it in jest.

One day someone will do a Google corpus search and they'll get 1,023,043 hits. Half of which will be attributed to just us, playing around, they will then use this to justify its usage. We must quash all usage! Obliterate it once and for all.icon_smile.gif

Jesus, this must be my inner prescriptivist coming out!icon_smile.gif

In all seriousness though, I do find getting your average Joe to care about language a nigh impossible task. I also find it difficult to find anyone coming out of our school system who can identify a verb, but that's a different matter.


 

XXXphxxx (X)  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:10
Portuguese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Grammar is barely touched on at school in England Nov 11, 2011

My son in Year 8 was the only one in a class of 30 to know what a synonym was - only because it was something he'd learnt in France where grammar forms a massive part of the curriculum. English schools spend more time in Literacy (when did it stop being called English at primary level?) lessons on reading, creative writing, spelling... Shame you apparently can't have both.

 

MartinPorto  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 20:10
French to English
+ ...
As my wife would say Nov 11, 2011

I am agreed!

oh dear!


 

Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:10
French to English
+ ...
On "wrongness"... Nov 11, 2011

It *is* wrong, just plain wrong. Yes, language is allowed to evolve over time but this is rubbish. My guess is that the reflexive pronoun issue arises from a wish to sound more correct, more polite, more posh... which makes it even worse.


This is kind of going over boring old ground, but...

Just because we randomly decide to label, say, 'myself' as being a "reflexive" pronoun does not then give us some inherent right to expect the language to automatically follow suit and adjust itself to fall in line with our arbitrary label.

Any perceived necessity for the language to behave in a particular way is purely an arbitrary preference or invention. You are free to decide to follow, or wish for others to decide to follow, that preference or invention.

However, it only makes sense to say that a particular usage not falling in line with your preference is "wrong" *if* the speaker/author in question was actually trying to follow that preference.


 
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