Faustian illeanism in the desert

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Thu May 5 13:10:04 UTC 2011

It's been a while since we mentioned this topic, which for newbies means the
habit, commonly observed in guests on the jerry Springer Show but not
restricted to them, of frequently referring to oneself by name in the third
person. It's Faustian because Marlowe's Faustus was doing it in the
seventeenth century. Of course, Julius Caesar did it long before that.

T. E. Lawrence has this to say about Auda abu Tayi, leader of the Howeitat
Beduin during World War I:

"He spoke of himself in the third person, and was so sure of himself that he
loved to shout out stories against himself." (_Seven Pillars of Wisdom_,
1926, ch. XXXVIII).

So it isn't just an English or an Indo-European thang. That means it could
be one of the long-sought "linguistic universals."

Lawrence's whole characterization of Auda (more or less supported by
independent sources) is memorable. For those with busy schedules, Anthony
Quinn's portrayal in _Lawrence of Arabia_ (1962) is congruent, except that
Lawrence credits the real Auda with a less piratical demeanor.


"If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."

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

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