Thursday, July 10, 2008

Grammar rant: There is nothing wrong with 'me'

Just returned from my health club, where I do penance on a treadmill for my love of chocolate and chicken with the skin on.

The manager posted a sign advising women that the locker rooms will be undergoing renovation for two months, "and if you have any questions, please contact myself."


Why do so many writers use "myself" instead of the first-case objective pronoun "me"?

Myself, a r
eflexive pronoun, refers back to the subject of the sentence. Correct usage is, for example, "I painted my nails myself."

Some writers think, "If I use 'I' as the subject, I should then use 'myself' if I am also the object . You would not write, "I would like you to call myself before midnight."
This doesn't sound right to the ear, and people instinctively avoid it.

Without the "I" to guide them, they will write, "Neither Susan nor myself would ever wear a thong."


The reflexive pronouns may also fill an emphatic role: "I wouldn't eat her cooking myself, but you go ahead!"

I'm ranting not because you don't know this; I'm recruiting all writers, all people who love language.

I corrected that that notice, and I'd like some company. Please go forth and tell your colleagues that, when used as the object of a sentence, there's nothing wrong with 'me'.

10 comments:

kmkat said...

Hear, hear.

materfamilias said...

Having failed to resist the opportunity to give a wee grammar lesson yesterday on another blog (and a very well-written at that; it truly didn't deserve my lapse), I will only silently applaud you from the sidelines. Besides, my big markers are too busy crossing out and/or moving apostrophes!
Quite honestly, I don't usually get too fussed about grammar issues, but the one you're citing does bother me not only because it sounds so clunky, but also because it mixes ignorance with a sort of pretentiousness. I actually prefer the kind of "me and him did it" error which doesn't pretend to any grammatic elegance, you know?

greying pixie said...

Materfamilias, I agree with you, but I have to say that I hate that assumed ignorance that our children now use, ie. the 'me and my friend went to the races' syndrome. I just don't understand why young people are afraid to appear knowledgeable or to enjoy the elegance of correct English. I've been told that one shouldn't correct one's children's speech as it takes away their confidence, but that is one grammatical mistake that I cannot allow to pass uncorrected. So far lack of confidence doesn't appear to be an issue with my two.

Duchesse said...

GP: I try to teach my boys to write with subject/pronoun agreement, e.g.,"Each camper may bring his or her pet to the party"; they want to use "their". A losing battle.

ma: Yes- pretentious!
I'm not a flawless writer. I've been edited by one of the greats and was awed. But more often my clients will correct my writing- to incorrect usage. I then have to ask them quietly (through gritted teeth) if this incorrect grammar is what they want.

materfamilias said...

gp: you're right, I should distinguish between the unschooled incorrectness and the assumed (which is also very pretentious, just in a different direction!)

materfamilias said...

oh, and one more thing, duchesse -- the e.g. you gave gp for subject/pronoun agreement seems to occur because students have been taught it in grade school as a way to remain gender neutral. As a feminist English prof who is similarly committed to gender neutrality, I insist that this goal can be achieved without inflicting other egregious errors on readers -- so they can change "each camper" to "campers" and use "they" or take the time to spell out "his or her" as you did. One small step at a time, I guess. . .

Duchesse said...

ma: I strive for either gender neutrality or at least the use of both genders in the doc. I also beat my 20-somethings on the knuckles for the appalling "s/he".

Anonymous said...

Ah, I have found kindred souls!!! Nothing irritates me more (in the minor way) as lack of proper English grammar. I blame some of it on teaching today and a great deal of it on parents refusing to correct their children. The rule I follow is never correct an adult; correct your children, but never in front of their friends.

I had huge frustration when I moved from Canada to the US..a whole new set of spellings, pronounciatons, and grammar that have left me dizzy. And that has me counting the errors in the sentence I just wrote.

So take a red pen, PLEASE, and fix anything I write. I need a refresher!

Christine :)

s. said...

Hah. Do you remember the film "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes?" Marilyn Monroe's character tried to act sophisticated and high class and smart by using "I" instead of "me." "A girl like I..."

I think this gym employee is trying to impress upon you that he or she is not only buff but also ruhlly, rully in'ellectial.

Duchesse said...

s.: Isn't this also the movie in which she sings the lines of "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off": "You say tomato, and I say tomato", with no difference in pronunciation?

One of my favourite bits.