Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Enough About Me. What Do You Think About Me? Personal Pronouns in the Age of Narcissism.

As individuals and society grow more narcissistic, it behooves everyone to master the use of first-person pronouns. George Harrison saw it heading this way back in 1969 when he wrote, “All through the day, I me mine, I me mine, I me mine. All through the night, I me mine, I me mine, I me mine.”

The self-obsession pronoun you really want to watch out for is myself. The opportunities for proper use of myself are rare, as it should only be used reflexively, that is to say when the action of the verb happens to the speaker or writer personally.

In The Four Tops' number-one smash hit from 1965, “I Can’t Help Myself,” the act of not helping is being done both by and to the persona of the song, so the reflexive pronoun is appropriate. To digress briefly, “I Can’t Help Myself” is one of those songs that is perhaps better known by its first lyric, “Sugar pie, honeybunch,” than its title. Avoid constructions like “The winning team consisted of Mark, Debra, Steve and myself.” Not only is it incorrect, it also feels a little pompous. The correct first-person pronoun in this case is “me.”

The great peril lies in subject usage versus direct object usage. The reason this grammar school staple still trips people up is because you are so trained to say, “Ara and I went to the Pearl Jam show with Tibbetts,” that it can feel unnatural to say, “Tibbetts went to the Pearl Jam show with Ara and me.”  You might instead feel like saying, “Tibbetts went to the Pearl Jam show with Ara and I.” But please, don’t do it. Your lack of personal pronoun mastery will reveal you as being an amateur narcissist, and that is so far down the rabbit hole you may never get out.

Human Ken and Human Barbie, two narcissists who hate one another.