"Us ourselves"

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Wed Apr 23 14:21:43 UTC 2008

On Apr 22, 2008, at 10:29 PM, Wilson Gray wrote:

> From Slashdot:
> "[T]hey [PayPal] didn't respond to _us ourselves_ at all. [We had to
> hire a lawyer.]"
> I've never seen "us ourselves" before. Indeed, all cases of -self
> /-selves in this kind of construction seem rather odd. But, again,
> maybe that's just me.

yes, i find it odd too.  CGEL (p. 1497) gives two functions for NP-
modifier emphatic reflexives: emphasis (conveying roughly the same
thing as "no other than" and "no less than") and contrast, neither of
which seems possible in the example above; the emphatic function seems
just incoherent in this example.  you can, however, find some examples
of "to us ourselves" that ok as contrast markers, as in

   ... of us realize that rules imposed upon us by strangers had best
make some sense to us ourselves, or there is eventually going to be
some sort of trouble. ...

here, there's a contrast between strangers and us.  you can probably
find emphatic examples; something like
   They gave it to us ourselves.
can probably be contextualized.  certainly, things like
   She addressed the letter to the President himself.
are fine.

CGEL does note that emphatic reflexives "in clause structure" (i.e.,
separated from their NPs) rather than within a constituent with their
NPs (as in the examples above) are possible only for subjects:
   Max received a gift himself. (subject; reflexive in clause structure)
   They gave Max himself a gift. (object; NP-modifier reflexive)
   They gave a gift to Max himself. (object; NP-modifier reflexive)
  *They gave Max a gift himself. (object; reflexive in clause structure)


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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