Communication Works

On Wednesday, 10 March, I awoke to Radio New Zealand National's Morning Report and broadcaster, Geoff Robinson, introducing a story about the tremendous bravery of Rifleman James McKie, a New Zealander, serving in the British army.

Rifleman McKie, 29, had been engaged with his platoon in a firefight in Afghanistan's Helmand province, when a live Taleban grenade landed centimetres from him and two other British soliders. He had the presence of mind to pick it up and hurl it away from his comrades with the result that he saved both his own life, and that of his fellow soldiers.

Now, my thoughts on war, the Iraq war, and this war in particular could take up a lot of blog space.  However, ‘the war on terror' aside, what did strike me as I listened to Rifleman McKie's account of this dramatic episode was that the war (and my war, in particular) on the misuse of the reflexive pronoun was looking increasingly unwinnable.

Setting the context for listeners, McKie began his account with the following statement: "Myself and two others climbed onto a small building with a high roof...." The rest of the story is a testament to both McKie's bravery and the attendant understatement that accompanies all truly courageous people: the belief that there is nothing remarkable about their actions.

But let's not be picky, under the circumstances, we can certainly forgive Rifleman McKie for a lapse in grammar.  However, the standard grammatical construction "Two others and I climbed onto a small building ..." rather than ‘myself and two others' is not only easier on the ear, it conforms to the logic of established usage and etiquette of placing oneself after the other subjects in a sentence.  

Unfortunately,  it seems increasingly common for the use of  the  reflexive pronoun (myself, yourself/yourselves) to be used when paradoxically, all that is required to communicate succinctly is the subject pronoun ‘I' or ‘you'. Perhaps this change in usage arises from the speaker's belief that the reflexive pronoun is somehow more correct, and carries greater authority or emphasis?  At Communication Works, we promote accuracy as means of establishing your professional credibility, so why don't you check out the Hot Tips section on our website for more on the correct usage of reflexive pronouns, yourself!


Written by Desiree Williamson


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