[Ads-l] Inquiring about "myself"

Amy West medievalist at W-STS.COM
Thu Nov 24 17:48:39 UTC 2022

I'm betting that there's a really nice entry on this in the M-W Dicty of 
English Usage/Usage Dicty.

Why yes, yes, there is: from pp. 509-512 in my copy.

In sum:

"The evidence should make it plain that the practic of substituting 
/myself/ or other reflexive pronouns for ordinary personal pronouns is 
not new -- these examples range over four centuries -- and is not rare. 
It is true that many of the examples are from speech and personal 
letters, suggesting familiarity and informality. But the practice is by 
no means limited to informal contexts. Only the use of /myself/ as sole 
subject of a snentence seems to be restricted; all our examples are from 
older poetry."

Gil goes on to cite an article by Frank Parker et al. (1990), 
"Untriggered Reflexive Pronouns in English", from some rag called 
/American Speech /for some additional points:

"Noam Chomsky suggests that compounds like /Harry and myself/ block the 
assignment of a case by a governing verb or preposition to the 
individual constituents of the phrase, so that if they are pronouns they 
may be nominative or objective or may even be reflexives."

(Eh, I think it's just that the reflexive is a marked option: a choice 
that the speaker can use for emphasis.)

"You will observe that almost all the instances of first and second 
person reflexive pronouns here occur in contexts where the speaker or 
writer is referring to himself or herself or the listener or reader as a 
subject of the discourse, rather than as a participant in it."

". . . in spite of what the critics may think, this use of the first and 
second person reflexives is a common and standard, though not mandatory, 
feature of the language."

(Thank you, Gil!)

---Amy West

On 11/24/22 00:00, ADS-L automatic digest system wrote:
> Date:    Wed, 23 Nov 2022 16:08:52 -0500
> From:    Jonathan Lighter<wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject: Re: Inquiring about "myself"
> I can't be definitive, but I began noticing this decades ago. Indeed,
> Oxford takes it back to Old English. A clear example comes from John Bunyan
> in 1674:  "Your artificial squibbling suggestions to the world about
> myself."
> You've probably also noticed the opposite tendency: saying "for me" rather
> than "for myself."  (E.g., "I'm buying this one for me.")  Possibly this
> has become much more common in the past twenty or thirty years, but that's
> just my impression. Oxford doesn't quite include it, but it does afford one
> roughly comparable example from the 16th century: "Thinking to me [i.e., to
> myself] they meant to gone us by."
> Except for vocabulary, ordinary people in the past undoubtedly spoke rather
> more like we do than literature suggests.
> JL
> On Wed, Nov 23, 2022 at 3:39 PM Virginia Euwer Wolff<veuwerwolff at gmail.com>
> wrote:
>> A question for ADS scholar/authorities: "Myself" as subject and/or object
>> in everyday sentences? It's seeming to proliferate.  Recent examples
>> (November 2022): "If you have questions, speak to myself or members of the
>> committee." "Myself and members of the choir will give a concert on..."
>> Does it reappear in cycles? Thank you for any replies at Thanksgiving time.
>> Virginia Euwer Wolff
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> The American Dialect Society -http://www.americandialect.org

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

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