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This is not a question about when to use reflexive pronouns. I am perfectly clear on that, and I understand that there are questions on the site already about when and when not to use them.

This is a question about what seems to be very sudden general confusion about reflexive pronouns.

This is something I see and hear (but especially hear) more and more in North America (I won't pretend I know what goes on linguistically in the street or on the tube (either meaning) in other parts of the world): the use of reflexive pronouns in place of subject or object pronouns, particularly for first and second person.

Examples:

If you have any questions or concerns, please call myself.

You can give it to either Dave or myself.

Okay, I'll give it to either Dave or yourself.

Hearing this drives my inner snoot batty.

So, why? Why have North Americans (and others, if this phenomenon is global) started doing this? I'd love to read any reasonable explanation that doesn't discuss why these examples are incorrect but somehow addresses the question of why this has suddenly become more common...

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    It is my belief that pedantic insistence what Emonds calls a "grammatically deviant prestige construction" (insisting on "John and I" in subject position rather than "John and me") has left a lot of people with a great uncertainty over when to use "I" and when to use "me", so they seek to avoid the question by using "myself". I haven't any direct evidence for this theory, however. – Colin Fine Dec 18 '14 at 20:01
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    "Allow myself to introduce... myself." Austin Powers – James McLeod Dec 18 '14 at 21:43
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    Of your three examples, only the first worries me in the slightest. The -self pronouns have other common usages than reflexive. However, that one really disturbs me. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 18 '14 at 22:16
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    This is one of my greatest pet peeves in life, mostly because it is becoming more common and is used by otherwise intelligent people. – IchabodE Dec 19 '14 at 0:57
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    Oh, the misused reflexive! Generally used by people with no formal grammar training, who for reasons that escape me, seemed to think that "yourself" was the "polite" for of "you". When I was in business, I ground a lot of teeth when told - usually by salespeople - that "We will contact yourself in a week." Why "you" has suddenly become somehow seen as "rude" I have no idea, and it is not just N America, it has infected the British Isles as well! I don't have an explanation, just a grouch! – TheHonRose Dec 19 '14 at 6:15
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Myself too, drives I wild.

Joking aside, I've only ever come across the misused reflexive pronoun in a formal context. You would never overhear someone saying, at the end of a date, 'Call myself tomorrow, OK?' But I'm sure many of us have received emails containing sentences a little like this: 'In the event of any further questions going forward, please do not hesitate to contact myself.'

As suggested by others above, this could be done in order to sound more prestigious. 'Myself' sounds weightier, more formal than 'me'. And I think it's also a question of rhythm. The extra syllable affords a pleasing metre. On the other hand, 'me' sounds blunter and possibly more egotistical, more demanding. 'Contact me.' Not anybody else, not him or her: me.

And as we're taught, 'me me me' is bad and selfish; myself is perhaps a gentler creature.

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The misuse of "myself" has been common in London (and therefore has spread across the UK) for more than 40 years. When I moved to London from the North of England, I was amazed at the poor standard of English even amongst professionals. It was sloppy, imprecise and often wrong. Notably, much of it was already in use by those in their 40s and 50s suggesting that the failures originated even earlier than I found them.

  • Could you please cite evidence in support of your contentions. Otherwise it sounds as if you are trying to sound superior and are making regionalist remarks. In any case your answer doesn't address the poster's futile question of "why?" people started saying it. – David Jul 3 '17 at 23:35
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Language is constantly evolving and spoken language has far more relaxed grammatical rules than written, due to the informal context and the fact that, even though sentences aren't perfect, the meaning is still successfully transmitted.

There are many excuses and reasons, for example sheer laziness, context of the situation (e.g. talking to a boss versus talking to a friend) or lack of grammatical knowledge.

One of the main linguistic arguments I have come across is that of description versus prescription.

http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2011/08/describe-or-prescribe-poll/

There are also more extensive articles dealing with each in turn on Wikipedia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linguistic_description

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linguistic_prescription

As these "evolutions" filter in, their usage will grow and will largely be overlooked in general conversation.

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    Thank you, but I understand the whole prescriptivist vs descriptivist debate. And I typically side with the descriptivists, though I am frank about my annoyance at some (but certainly not all) innovations in usage. We've all got our linguistic hobby horses. My question is whether anyone has insight into the origins of this particular change? I'm not rejecting it. I'm seeking to understand it. It's particularly interesting because a reflexive pronoun is not, by default, the easiest or simplest choice. I've seen this in other instances, where a longer word supplants a shorter one. – Rusty Tuba Dec 18 '14 at 20:12
  • Unfortunately I am turning to the same blog I previously mentioned, purely as I happen to agree with the opinion presented here. The use of reflexive may sometimes be considered more prestigious as, as you rightly put, it is not the simplest or easiest choice. – Cellobin22 Dec 18 '14 at 20:17
  • Not sure why "unfortunately" or when previously, but indeed that's an interesting blog post. Polite indirection and prestige certainly seem to play a role in these changes. thanks for the link! – Rusty Tuba Dec 18 '14 at 20:22
  • A personal gripe is using the same resource several times for a basis, in some instances it narrows viewpoints. I would be especially interested in whether there are trends across social classes or cultures, or languages which have tighter grammatical rules than English. – Cellobin22 Dec 18 '14 at 20:28
  • My theory is that it's the same reason few people can make a pie crust. The teachers who knew how to use "I", "me", and "myself" properly have all died off, and have been replaced by a new generation who do not know how. So ignorance is being fostered, even propagated, in the schools. That is, they teach the misconceptions alluded to in this discussion. – Brian Hitchcock Dec 19 '14 at 2:50

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