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I knew that "self" could be used as a noun (e.g. "she knows his true self"), but I had never heard of its usage as a pronoun. Here's the sentence, taken from a Garfield's comic strip:

What a tragic scenario... "Owner leaves for week... Cat locks self out of house... Cat starves on front porch"

Dictionary.com s.v. "self" (9) says: "myself, himself, herself, etc.: to make a check payable to self". As to the Garfield's strip, the sentence "Cat locks self out of house" seems to echo a newspaper headline. "Self", here, suggests that the gender of the cat is unknown or unimportant.

Is this usage of "self" typical of journalistic style or can it be used in speech to mean "myself," "himself" and so on?

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2 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Yes, just as you suggest, it is a terse journalistic style; Garfield is describing the events as if they were newspaper headlines. This is a fairly common usage for wry humorous effect.

A similar phrase is

"Note to self: [Do/remember something...]"

where the thing to do/remember is usually something ridiculously obvious, poking fun at one's own stupidity (to the point of having to write it down to remember it).

Urban Dictionary

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I have seen such usage of self only in journalistic articles. As in,

Man immolates self after brawl with wife.

Never heard such a usage in day to day conversations.

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So, when it comes to journalistic style, it's not (just) a matter of known/unknown gender, but it's more about brevity. –  Giorgiomastrò May 21 '12 at 13:09
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