Myself, Myself, and Myself

I'm told that a well-known spinner says she learned to be a really good spinner of traditional yarns before she went off her own way to make art yarns that some people think are too out-there to have been skillfully made. I'm with her: if you're going to really go off and break rules, it's often best to know which rules you're breaking, and how.

I bring this up to set the stage for the bluntness I'm about to whip out regarding grammar. I rarely discuss such things here, but the time has come. I'm all for creative uses of language, more in writing than in speech, but unintended errors aren't creative – they're just errors. And errors are wrong. Not since I was grading undergraduates' short-answer quizzes has my skin crawled so often and so irritatingly. Here's the deal:

Pronouns that end in -self are reflexive. That means they refer back to the already-introduced subject of the sentence, as in:

I crocheted myself a laptop cozy.

If someone else crocheted me a laptop cozy, I'd say:

Someone else crocheted me a laptop cozy.

In the first example, “myself” refers back to the subject of the sentence (“I”). In the second example, “me” doesn't, so we don't use a reflexive pronoun there. This isn't an error I've ever seen, I'm just sayin'.

So here's where I'm going: Just as it drives me nuts when people respond to their fear of using the wrong pronoun by… using the wrong pronoun, as such:

This picture shows Jim and I at the crochet-a-thon.*

it also drives me to the point of having a visceral reaction when people say things like:

When you're done with your granny square, you can hand it in to Jim or myself.

See it? If you're like me, you hear it in your head, LOUD, bouncing around like an over-energized bouncy ball like the one my brother used to bounce from floor to ceiling and off the walls when we were kids.

In the last example, “myself” surely doesn't refer to “you.” It's a totally inappropriate use of the reflexive pronoun, and it should be “me.”

My goal, here, is that the next time you're in a restaurant and your server has taken all the orders except yours and he looks at you, raises his eyebrows and asks, “And for yourself?” your skin start to crawl.

The fruit of a wee Google search:

* The sentence should read, “This picture shows Jim and me at the crochet-a-thon.” A good way to tell whether to use “I” or “me” in such constructions is to remove the other person/people in the list. If the photo were just of you, you'd no doubt immediately know to say, “This picture shows me at the crochet-a-thon.”

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