Monday, April 28, 2008

Me, Myself and I

I have a pet peeve that revolves around the rampant misuse of the words me, myself and I. It seems that over the last decade people have forgotten their English grammar. I find the hairs on the back of my neck stand up whenever someone misuses these pronouns. I found a great description of how and when to use these three pronouns:

In the old days when people studied traditional grammar, we could simply say, “The first person singular pronoun is “I” when it’s a subject and “me” when it’s an object,” but now few people know what that means. Let’s see if we can apply some common sense here. The misuse of “I” and “myself” for “me” is caused by nervousness about “me.” Educated people know that “Jim and me is goin’ down to slop the hogs,” is not elegant speech, not “correct.” It should be “Jim and I” because if I were slopping the hogs alone I would never say “Me is going. . . .” If you refer to yourself first, the same rule applies: It’s not “Me and Jim are going” but “I and Jim are going.”

So far so good. But the notion that there is something wrong with “me” leads people to overcorrect and avoid it where it is perfectly appropriate. People will say “The document had to be signed by both Susan and I” when the correct statement would be, “The document had to be signed by both Susan and me.” Trying even harder to avoid the lowly “me,” many people will substitute “myself,” as in “The suspect uttered epithets at Officer O’Leary and myself.”

“Myself” is no better than “I” as an object. “Myself” is not a sort of all-purpose intensive form of “me” or “I.” Use “myself” only when you have used “I” earlier in the same sentence: “I am not particularly fond of goat cheese myself.” “I kept half the loot for myself.” All this confusion can easily be avoided if you just remove the second party from the sentences where you feel tempted to use “myself” as an object or feel nervous about “me.” You wouldn’t say, “The IRS sent the refund check to I,” so you shouldn’t say “The IRS sent the refund check to my wife and I” either. And you shouldn’t say “to my wife and myself.” The only correct way to say this is, “The IRS sent the refund check to my wife and me.” Still sounds too casual? Get over it.

On a related point, those who continue to announce “It is I” have traditional grammatical correctness on their side, but they are vastly outnumbered by those who proudly boast “it’s me!” There’s not much that can be done about this now. Similarly, if a caller asks for Susan and Susan answers “This is she,” her somewhat antiquated correctness is likely to startle the questioner into confusion.

Thanks for letting me rant. I feel better now.

I think that Mom had a good day today. She seemed really happy when I called her today and later when I came home from work. She still, however, has trouble getting out of her chair at bedtime. Today was a PT day for her, so maybe she was achy from that.

I felt better today. Hopefully I am on the mend.


Cinnamin said...

Hi Robyn, (I am) just stopping by to say, "hello". Sorry to read that you are not feeling 100 percent AGAIN! We just got over a week plus of this stuffy nose, cough thing too and I am right there with you in the not too much fun department. Hope that you are soon back to yourself.

And that us folks with the bad pronoun uses aint too offensive to you all over there.

Haha - Both of my parents were school teachers as well as TESL (teaching English second language) teachers so I believe that I have been exposed to HUGE amounts of the mangling and ill the usage of the English language! I think slang, especially the most recent slang are my pet peeves currently!

See examples below

See examples below

ex: "hella"
"dis and dat"

rilera said...

Wow Cinny, that is so cool about your Mom and Dad. The current slang drives me crazy too. The thing about the misuse of pronouns me, myself and I, is that someone I know was an English major in college is one of the biggest offenders.

nancy said...

i enjoyed your post robyn. russ used to always be a stickler for grammar so hopefully a lot of it wore off on me. i can still hear him reciting rules at the table, ie, "i before e except after c."

hope you're feeling better.

cornbread hell said...

i sure hope i got it right in my caption of the picture of my daughter
(see latest blog. yes, i finally updated.)

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