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Grammar Patrol: There's always a problem when self is involved!

Contributed By:Dorothy Nevils

The selfish monster

The word self has signaled trouble for as long as I can remember. The word itself is generally said with an accompanying distortion of the mouth, something I can only describe as “uglifying,” or, to use the noun form of a heretofore nonword, “uglification.” Let me explain.

Why is that, you wonder? Most other words don’t send your face through those changes. You just say the word… and move on to the next one. Not so with self! There’s always a problem when self is involved! Let me tell you what’s happened these last few weeks.

I was out in my Sonotabuick a couple of weeks ago. Actually, it was, once again, some S mess! If you’ve followed me, you know that a large share of my grammar offenses involve misuse and abuse of that little squirmy S fellow! To save my soul I cannot figure out why he causes so much trouble! He was a party to “-elf,” but he was up front and center!

I’d just seen a Facebook post where someone was bemoaning the “Family Feud” host’s inability to use self as the tail end of a compound word, to wit, “Somebody just won theyself a whole lot of money!” Horrors! Not only does he use “the third person plural nominative, but he piled on additional mistakes that rank below third grade grammar expectations! Let’s pull this mess apart!

Let’s consider the first part of this “nonword.” “They” is nominative, which means if there is action, “they” should be performing the action. Instead, “they” is receiving” the action! That means it should be in the objective case, them (to whom or for whom something is done or given. )

So far, we have themself – which is still wrong because singular self cannot hang with plural them! My work was not done, however, for I knew that before the cock crowed thrice, somebody would come careening ’round the corner blaring hisself! So, I might as well park here in the shade, pull out my computer, and print up some directives – or what would be described during an exam as cheat sheets.

Then I grabbed my megaphone, jumped outside the car, and blared to the next twenty cars, “Pull over! Immediately!” To each person I gave the following: “There are ONLY 8 reflexive pronouns, called reflexive because they reflect (refer back) to a noun or pronoun used earlier: Myself, yourself, herself, himself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, and themselves.”

So, if you’d like some help with reflexive pronouns, copy the list above and commit it to memory… or tape it onto your visor… or write it into your palm for future reference…

Oh, you might wanna give ol’ Steve a copy...

Story Posted:06/03/2017

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