Have you noticed the preponderance of the word myself in our lexicon lately? If you haven’t, allow me to bring your attention to it so that you, too, can be as annoyed by it as I am. Maybe you won’t be quite as annoyed as I am since I am an English major, a former English teacher, and a former student who learned literature and grammar from a grammar guru and English teacher by the name of Jane Horton. She put together her own workbook for her students to learn grammar, which she called the “Master List of Errors.” It made such an impression on me that I still have it. We learned what she taught because she kept the peace in her classroom by whacking her desk with a lead pipe if students got too rowdy. Hand to God!
Honestly, though, when did people start substituting myself for me when referring to themselves? I noticed this egregious error it some time ago, and it struck me as not only strange but also weird. I’m still confused by it, but lately incorrect usage of the pronouns me, myself, and I has become an epidemic. If you suffer from this affliction, I can explain how to correct it, but to do so, I must include a tiny grammar lesson. I hope you’ll follow along.
First of all, the words me, myself, and I are pronouns, personal pronouns to be exact. They each serve a function in a sentence. I is used in a sentence as a subject–the person in this case who is doing something. Ex: I eat ice cream on hot days. The pronoun “I” can only be used as a subject or at the end of a sentence that renames the subject like this: The former English teacher writing this blog is I. Now, I know that last sentence sounds strange to many people because we seldom use correct grammar anymore, but I assure you it is.
The pronoun “me” is used in places other than the subject. Ex: My mom bought me an ice cream cone. In that sentence, me is an indirect object. My mom bought an ice cream cone and gave it to me. In that sentence, me is used as the object of a preposition. Me must only be used as an object not the subject of a sentence. Most people seem to remember that lesson, which is why your teacher always said saying me when you should have said I at the beginning of a sentence was wrong or putting me at the beginning of a list of people in a sentence was impolite or wrong. That’s where I think the trouble comes from. Me is perfectly fine when it’s used correctly, but Lordy, how far we’ve strayed from correct grammar!
Which brings me to myself. Myself is what we call a reflexive pronoun, which means it refers to the subject of the sentence or a part of the sentence that contains a subject. Stick with me now. Ex: I hurt myself. I gave myself hives when I ate strawberries. See what I mean? You never refer to yourself as “myself” in this way: John went with myself and two others to the ballgame. Good lord, that sentence just gave me hives! If you had to tell somebody that, you would say it like this: John went with me and two others to the ballgame.
I know this is a lot to comprehend in one short blog post, but I don’t know of any better way to explain it unless I explained subjective and objective case, which would make your eyes glaze over. It always did when I explained it to my students. If you think back, you’ll remember your dear, put-upon English teachers who tried to teach you grammar so you wouldn’t embarrass yourself (another reflexive pronoun!) when you left our company. God forbid you go off in the big world speaking and writing poor grammar and someone asks you where you went to school and you tell them one of us was your teacher! So please, if you need to, learn the above lesson and make us proud!
What’s the most confusing grammar concept for you? Let me know in the comments below. Also, let me know if you want me to explain more grammatical problems in future blogs! As always, thanks for reading!