themselfs / themselve

Mark Mandel thnidu at GMAIL.COM
Sat May 2 01:50:00 UTC 2009

Well. I admit to being surprised, somewhat embarrassed, and now, hopefully,
somewhat better educated. Thank you for the pointer back to the LL post. I
had not previously been aware of this line of reasoning.

My reaction was indeed based in grammatical egocentrism. But part of what
really convinced me was the numbers of raw Google hits I found, unreliable
though such numbers are --

556,000 for themselve
15,000,000 for yourselve
88,400,000 for ourselve

-- which I found more, much more convincing than "more, many more".

Mark Mandel

On Fri, May 1, 2009 at 1:28 PM, Arnold Zwicky <zwicky at> wrote:

> On Apr 30, 2009, at 3:58 PM, Mark Mandel wrote:
> >
> > On Wed, Apr 29, 2009 at 7:34 AM, Arnold Zwicky <zwicky at>
> > wrote:
> >
> >>
> >> at first i thought it was just a typo.  but it's easy to google up
> >> more, many more, e.g.:
> >>
> >
> > I don't follow the logic here. If one author uses an unusual form or
> > spelling consistently, it's certainly intentional; maybe an
> > idiosyncrasy or
> > a variation, but certainly not a typo (slip between mind and pen/
> > keyboard,
> > or perhaps more generally misspelling). But you seem to be saying
> > that if we
> > find many independent occurrences of such a form, from many separate
> > authors, then it is not a typo, even if there's no evidence that any
> > of them
> > use it consistently or even more than once. Do I read you right?
> i've posted about reactions like this, under the heading of
> "grammatical egocentrism":
> (here, the assumption that if some expression would be an error for
> *you*, it's an error for everyone).
> we use the reasoning i used above frequently here on ADS-L (and it's
> used by lexicographers all the time): if an expression occurs a lot,
> and there's no clear reason to label it as some type of error in all
> of these occurrences, then we assume that at least some of the
> occurrences are intentional -- variants rather than inadvertent
> errors, even if we don't recall ever having experienced the expression
> before.  (the posting linked to above is #5 in a series entitled "the
> thin line between variation and mere error".)
> it's not necessary that some person use the expression consistently;
> there is, after all, plenty of variation within individuals.
> the fact that there are lots of occurrences of "themselfs" and
> "themselve" is not *proof* that some of these occurrences are intended
> variants rather than inadvertent errors, but it makes this position
> plausible.
> i've studied a great many non-standard variants, and when i talk about
> them, there are almost always some people who dismiss my reports on
> the grounds that the expressions in question are just errors
> (sometimes even when i tell them the expressions are fine *for me*).
> sigh.
> arnold

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