Thursday, February 7, 2013

Stop Hitting Yourself!

Nerdvark gets really irritated when The Nardvark tries to sound more intelligent than he actually is by misusing the English language.  It makes Nerdvark so angry, he wants to take a flame-thrower to the language-abuser.

When it comes to this, Nerdvark has a lot of pet peeves (see his top ten here), but today’s post is going to focus on the misuse of the word “myself.”

Example #1: Whenever someone says “Ralph, Ignatius and myself are the moderators of this forum,” they’re using the word incorrectly and they’re just doing it to make themselves sound important, but they are really just silly grammar-dumb-dumb-heads.

Example #2: When a fellow English teacher at my school sent out an email that said “Please send your exam scripts to myself” she was using the word incorrectly, and thereby proving that she had no business being an English teacher until she went back to school and brushed up on her grammar herself.

Myself is a reflexive pronoun.  A reflexive pronoun, you say? What’s a reflexive pronoun?

Well, when it comes to pronouns, as we all know, there are subject pronouns, for when you’re doing a verb, and object pronouns, for when someone or something’s doing a verb to you. Like in this example:
He is scorching him.
In this example, Nerdvark is so fed up with Nardvark spewing out "myself" and "it begs the question" when he means "it brings up the question" and so on that he turned his all-over-body-spray into a blow-torch. (Don't try this at home.)  The point is, Nerdvark is doing the action; "He" is the subject pronoun. Nardvark is receiving the action; "him" is the object pronoun.

A reflexive pronoun is used when you are doing a verb to yourself. There, I just used one; did you see that? So Nardvark will give us an example:
He is hitting himself.
It would be very confusing if you said "He is hitting him," because there's only one (slightly bizarre) creature there, and if you read that sentence in a book or an email and didn't get an accompanying photo, you'd be wondering, whom? Whom is he hitting? So, hence the invention of the reflexive pronoun.

***Note: It’s ok to say “Stop hitting yourself” because that sentence is an imperative, and in imperatives, the subject of the verb is you, but it’s not there, it’s implied.  Say, “You stop hitting yourself.” It means the same thing. We use imperatives as commands or orders. They sound more authoritative or urgent.  Moms and drill commanders use them all the time: “Clean your room! Do your homework! Stand up straight! Suck in your gut, you yellow-bellied sack of liver and onions! Stop feeding your spinach to the dog – eat it yourself!” There, see, another reflexive pronoun. Aren't they great?

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