"Myself" vs "me"
April 21, 2010 3:38 PM   Subscribe

Grammar filter: Is it wrong to use "myself" when "me" seems to sound better?

An example: I was on a flight about a month ago, and the flight attendant gave an announcement saying, "If you would like any duty-free items, please stop myself as I come by with the trolley."

Shouldn't it have been "Please stop me"?

Under what circumstances should one use "myself", "yourself", etc? The more I think about it, the more confused I become.
posted by stenoboy to Writing & Language (33 answers total)
 
Uh, I'm not a grammar expert, but I am reasonably well-versed in the English language and I have never heard or read that usage before. Is it possible this flight attendant was not a native speaker of English?
posted by duvatney at 3:43 PM on April 21, 2010


Hmm, IANAEnglishProfessor but that sounds either 1) Incorrect, or 2) Arcane usage.
posted by InsanePenguin at 3:46 PM on April 21, 2010


Yes, "myself" would be used in the context of the flight attendant stopping herself, not someone else stopping her.
posted by choochoo at 3:47 PM on April 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yes, it should have been, "Please stop me." Xself is what's known as a reflexive pronoun, and should only be used when its antecedent appears before it in the same clause, as in "If you declare yourself to be interested in purchasing duty-free items, I will stop myself from walking past you in the aisle."
posted by The White Hat at 3:48 PM on April 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


You use "-self" when the subject (the person performing the action) is also the subject (the thing being acted upon). In the sentence you're quoting, is "you," i.e., you passengers. If you passengers would like duty free items, you passengers should stop ME.

I assume this was a non-native speaker of English? This is 100% wrong.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 3:48 PM on April 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sorry, that should read "In the sentence you're quoting, THE SUBJECT THAT IS DOING THE STOPPING is "you," i.e., you passengers."
posted by Admiral Haddock at 3:49 PM on April 21, 2010


"Myself" is a commonly misused word. A quick-and-dirty rule of thumb is that you can only use "myself" if you say "I" first, e.g. "I did it myself." Here's more.
posted by Metroid Baby at 3:50 PM on April 21, 2010


Wikipedia (for whatever it's worth) says "It is increasingly common to use reflexive pronouns without local linguistic antecedents to refer to discourse participants or people already referenced in a discourse: for example, 'Please, forward the information to myself.' Such formulations are usually considered non-standard." (Immediately above the linked section Wikipedia lists standard usages.)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 3:53 PM on April 21, 2010


This could sound right if the flight attendant referred to another member of the crew in the same sentence: "If you would like any duty-free items, please stop Jane or myself as we come by with the trolleys." (A little more formal, and common in this sort of public announcement, than "Jane or me.")
posted by cirripede at 3:55 PM on April 21, 2010


Yeah, some people seem to think that "myself" is somehow a more formal way of saying "me" or "I" in certain contexts, but really they're just using the word wrong.
posted by wondermouse at 3:55 PM on April 21, 2010 [10 favorites]


The Austin Powers joke really explains this problem:

"Allow myself, to introduce myself". Grammatically, it should be "Allow ME to introduce myself" because YOU are allowing HIM to introduce HIMSELF (himself at the end because HIM has already been introduced).

The overuse of "myself" is largely due to it sounding more serious or formal than just "me" (ie, overcompensation). That is my opinion, and could be wrong.
posted by fantasticninety at 3:59 PM on April 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


I think people also (mis)use "myself" when confused about whether "I" or "me" is appropriate, as in a sentence like: "Jane gave the pie to my husband and ____." Obviously grammar dictates filling in that blank with "me," but knowing that "My husband and I accepted the pie." is correct befuddles some people into choosing "myself" instead. Of course, one wouldn't say either "Jane gave the pie to I" or "Me accepted the pie," which should be clues as to which pronoun to pick.

And since the devil is in the details, you can always remember:
"Please allow me to introduce myself
I'm a man of wealth and taste."
posted by carmicha at 4:16 PM on April 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you watch enough reality TV you'll see this construction plenty, mostly among native English speakers. I agree with fantasticninety -- it seems to be used in an attempt to seem better-spoken or more serious than the speaker actually is.
posted by katemonster at 4:23 PM on April 21, 2010


You and choochoo and AdmiralHaddock and wondermouse and fantasticninety are right. Using "myself" instead of "me" (or "I") is a common hyper-correction. I certainly wouldn't assume someone who does this is a "non-native speaker." The more likely explanation is that they're more focused on the idea of sounding exceedingly proper than on actually speaking correctly.
posted by Jaltcoh at 4:39 PM on April 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


The best way to tell which first person pronoun to use is to replace all of the first person pronouns in the sentence with second or third person pronouns and see what works in the parallel construction.

So, in your sentence, ""If you would like any duty-free items, please stop myself as I come by with the trolley," would become ""If you would like any duty-free items, please stop himself as he comes by with the trolley." The latter clearly sounds wrong, so the former is wrong too. (Should be "me" and "him," respectively.)
posted by decathecting at 4:45 PM on April 21, 2010


As noted, "myself" is not standard here.

I think the ultimate cause of this is the angst caused by getting the distinction between "you and I" and "you and me" correct. Many people don't grasp the standard rule, but they know that "you and me ought to go to the fair" is wrong somehow, and so they wind up concluding that "me" is a lower-class pronoun that ought to be avoided at all costs.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 5:26 PM on April 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I know people who do this ALL THE TIME and it drives me crazy. For example, I know many people who will send e-mails that say things like, "Call Jane or myself if you have any questions about this policy." All I want to do is shout "CALL ME! CALL ME IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS!"
posted by nuclear_soup at 5:30 PM on April 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


Yep, it's hypercorrection; some people seem to have it in their minds that "me" is a marker of lower-class speech practically on par with "ain't." I, myself, am driven up the wall (then it drives me straight down the other) by this.
posted by scody at 5:47 PM on April 21, 2010


This could sound right if the flight attendant referred to another member of the crew in the same sentence: "If you would like any duty-free items, please stop Jane or myself as we come by with the trolleys." (A little more formal, and common in this sort of public announcement, than "Jane or me.")

No. "Please stop Jane or myself" is just as incorrect as "Please stop myself".
posted by ook at 7:03 PM on April 21, 2010


Sorry to say, I'm going to be stubborn and hang with my earlier argument. Whether or not it's "correct," the "Jane or myself" construction is (in my experience) still a fairly common phrasing, with history behind it.

Some rather disparate examples turned up in a quick googling:

- Barack Obama: "We are going to have to come together and remind ourselves that there is a heck of a lot bigger difference between either Senator Clinton or myself and John McCain."
- Ferran Adrià: ". . . and subsequently chefs like Wylie Dufresne, Andoni Luis Aduriz, Homaro Cantu and myself forged our own paths."
- Abraham Lincoln: ". . . whether or not Judge Douglas or myself shall ever be heard of after this night . . ."
posted by cirripede at 8:27 PM on April 21, 2010


Yes, it is simultaneously common and incorrect. Like so many things.

HELLO I AM WEARING MY PRESCRIPTIVIST HAT TODAY
posted by ook at 8:33 PM on April 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


Sorry, cirripede, but ook et al. are correct, despite your (or perhaps you prefer "yourself"?) being able to quote famously infamous misuses. It is common, it is incorrect, but you have time on your side. Language is a living thing and someday--I hope that it is long after I'm gone--the misuse of the reflexive pronoun will become the standard usage, irregardless of what we prescriptivists think.
posted by beelzbubba at 8:49 PM on April 21, 2010


The point continues to allude you! The OP posted a phrase that, had it been constructed along the lines of my example, would be no more grievous a grammatical offense than a million other colloquialisms. This is a phrasing people use every day; I think it's useful to mention it, for the all intensive purposes of this question. I understand that it wouldn't fly in written English, but most people dont' set out to please Wm. Strunk Jr. every time they speak.

You should know that pretty soon you're pristine prescriptivist state will meet it's end, and I hope it is a preposition.
posted by cirripede at 9:29 PM on April 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


if it was an English northerner flight attendant, then yes it's a colloquial usage. Very very annoying turn of phrase though.
posted by nunoidia at 10:56 PM on April 21, 2010


The worst part is that you can't correct someone without coming off as really fussy or judgmental. Which may be partly why it's gotten out of control. Along with thinking it sounds more proper, I'm guessing it's partially a result of people hearing other people use it in mass media. And like popular cliches, it caught on.

As someone who consumes a lot of sports talk and NPR, I hear this so often now that it surprises me when people actually use "I" or "me" correctly. The overuse of this by hosts/jocks/politicians, and their use of "moving/going forward" in just about every imaginable context are driving me nuts. ("At the end of the day" seems to have been reined in somewhat at least.)

I can see how some people might get confused if they say something like "My friend and myself," since they're parallel, but... still.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 11:19 PM on April 21, 2010


I've noticed this tendency to use "myself" like that in people from Glasgow in Scotland. As an English person, it surprised me at first. That standard word to use would be "me".
posted by jpcooper at 1:20 AM on April 22, 2010


This sort of ugly phrasing happens all the time. As has been said, 99% of the time people use "myself" they should be using me instead.

Eg:

- Give the books to me, please.
- The job will be handled by either Denise or me. (or, Denise or I will handle the job.)

Myself is a reflexive pronoun and so is only used where it refers to a previous pronoun in that sentence.

I think the use of 'myself' is attributable to its having one more syllable than "me", which obviously makes it a more formal and refined word. Hence its wide use.

As far as the prescriptive/descriptive argument goes, I think the obvious ugliness of misusing 'myself' obviates the need for such bullshit.
posted by kid A at 2:25 AM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


You should know that pretty soon you're pristine prescriptivist state will meet it's end, and I hope it is a preposition.

That was gorgeous.

OP, yes, it should have been "please stop me".
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 5:55 AM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


You should know that pretty soon you're pristine prescriptivist state will meet it's end, and I hope it is a preposition.

Tip: don't take language usage advice from someone who writes a sentence like this.
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:18 AM on April 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


The point continues to allude you!

ahem
posted by scody at 8:29 AM on April 22, 2010


Are you calling me an alliterate?
posted by cirripede at 9:59 AM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


> Wikipedia (for whatever it's worth) says "It is increasingly common to use reflexive pronouns without local linguistic antecedents to refer to discourse participants or people already referenced in a discourse: for example, 'Please, forward the information to myself.' Such formulations are usually considered non-standard."

Wikipedia is correct. The construction is currently considered nonstandard but is increasingly common and will certainly be considered standard in a few decades. Everyone who is psychologizing users by throwing around terms like "hypercorrection" is wrong.
posted by languagehat at 10:56 AM on April 22, 2010


The construction is currently considered nonstandard but is increasingly common and will certainly be considered standard in a few decades.

Not if people such as ourselves have anything to say about it!
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 11:26 PM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


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