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In his first televised Christmas message, the King said:

I am reminded of the deeply touching letters, cards and messages which so many of you have sent my wife and myself and I cannot thank you enough for the love and sympathy you have shown our whole family.

Myself, like himself, herself, itself, themselves, yourself, ourselves, etc is a reflexive pronoun, which is only used as a direct or indirect object where the corresponding indicated person is the subject of the sentence, such as:

I did the work myself...

The judge was talking to himself...

The shopkeeper bought it for herself...

The robbers divided the money among themselves...

etc.

But, when the subject refers to a different person to the object, then the reflexive form ...self, should not be used.

This may not be the first time members of the Royal family have used the reflexive pronoun in this way, and may explain why it was that Her Late Majesty the Queen was sometimes known as "Herself" - or was that just the ironical "Herself" referred to by @Kate Bunting in a comment on this page, and described by her as an "Irishism"?

So should this Royal form be given a name, akin to "the Royal we"?

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  • 3
    Needs reference for the "used only" claim.
    – GEdgar
    Dec 25, 2022 at 21:33
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    It is, after all, The King's English. So he can reflexivize himself all he wants. Dec 25, 2022 at 22:01
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    Sounds fine to me.
    – Hot Licks
    Dec 25, 2022 at 23:31
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    Referring to an important person as 'Him/herself' is an Irishism (Oxford Languages says: IRISH. a third party of some importance, especially the master of the house. "I'll mention it to himself"). Dec 26, 2022 at 10:01
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    @KateBunting In this case though, the king is not a third party Dec 26, 2022 at 21:27

4 Answers 4

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This usage is explained in CoGEL (A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language).

(CoGEL § 6.27 Optional reflexive pronoun The basic reflexive pronoun is sometimes optional, in the sense that it may acceptably be replaced by the more usual ordinary objective pronoun. The self-forms are chosen to supply special emphasis :
(a) […]
(b) In 'semi-emphatic' use. Here the reflexive pronoun normally receives nuclear stress. It does not have the subject as its antecedent, but is commonly used as a more emphatic equivalent of the 1st and 2nd person personal pronouns. Especially, however, when it replaces I and me, myself is felt by many to be a hyperurbanism, a genteel evasion of the normal personal pronoun. The reflexive pronoun in these contexts can be reasonably called 'semi-emphatic' because it can be regarded as an abbreviated version of a sequence of the personal pronoun followed by the emphatic reflexive pronoun (you yourself, him himself, etc). Thus there are three possibilities in:

  • Anyone but {YOU/yourSELF/you yourSELF} would have noticed the change.

The latter repetition of the pronoun (you yourself) is avoided, however, outside the subject position. The constructions in which the 'semi-emphatic' reflexive occurs are the following :

(i) […]
(ii) When a reflexive pronoun (particularly a 1st person pronoun) is coordinated with another phrase:

  • They have never invited Margaret and me/myself to dinner.
  • This is a great tribute to the Scout Movement, and to you/yourself as its leader.

In this construction, the reflexive pronoun is not limited to 'object territory'; it can replace a subjective pronoun:

  • My sister and I/myself went sailing yesterday.
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    A hyperurbanism! I love that.
    – Xanne
    Dec 26, 2022 at 5:37
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    @Xanne (SOED) a manner of speech arising from an effort to avoid provincialism; a hypercorrect form of speech or phrase resulting from this effort (early 20th century).
    – LPH
    Dec 26, 2022 at 6:21
  • Presumably with the “urbane” meaning rather than just urban. CGEL is a bit hyperurbane itself.
    – Xanne
    Dec 26, 2022 at 10:22
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    Seems like "My sister and myself went sailing yesterday" should be wrong, given that "Myself went sailing yesterday" would definitely be wrong. Dec 26, 2022 at 18:16
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    @pacoverflow That's a rule of thumb to get the declensions right, rather than the rule. (English doesn't tend to have many the rules.) This construction is present in many varieties of English, including my own, and thus is as correct as can be.
    – wizzwizz4
    Dec 27, 2022 at 0:09
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The Oxford English Dictionary has many examples of "myself" used like this. I searched only for "and myself". Examples:

1904 W. B. Yeats Let. 16 Apr. (1994) III. 582
Miss Horniman, the architect & myself were inspecting the theatre

1960 Daily Tel. 27 Jan. 11/4
He subjected a colleague and myself to analyses

1987 Grimsby Evening Tel. 10 Dec. 24/6
The manager and myself are working flat out

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    At least he did not refer to himself as "my Majesty" ... there was a thread here about that recently. english.stackexchange.com/a/597897/9368
    – GEdgar
    Dec 25, 2022 at 21:46
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    Those examples that the OED gives are surely just further examples of incorrect English grammar, which would be marked down if used in a school or public examination.
    – WS2
    Dec 25, 2022 at 23:54
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    @WS2, you may be right about school tests, but the untriggered reflexive seems to be gaining ground in popular usage, even through to moderately formal contexts such as the King's address to the nation. Dec 26, 2022 at 12:52
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    @WS2: Since this usage is common in Shakespeare, and has never completely vanished since, calling it incorrect might be a little excessive. From HamletWhen yond same star that's westward from the pole // Had made his course t' illume that part of heaven // Where now it burns, Marcellus and myself, // The bell then beating one- Dec 26, 2022 at 15:45
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    @WS2: I would classify the non-reflexive use of myself with split infinitives, prepositions at the ends of sentences, the singular they, the use of have got by Americans — i.e., as things that are perfectly fine in spoken English and have been used for centuries, but which English teachers mark off for. Double comparatives, on the other hand, were fine in Shakespeare's time, but are pretty much not used anymore. Dec 28, 2022 at 11:33
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There are examples of this usage, as mentioned in Strategies for Parents.com:

     Is It Correct to Say “and Myself”?
You should only use “and myself” when your subject is “I” and you include yourself as one of multiple objects. You can only use “myself” when speaking from the first-person point of view, and using “myself” when the subject is not “I” results in an error grammarians call the “untriggered reflexive.”


Here is an example of a grammatically correct sentence that contains “and myself”:

I bought two tickets to the basketball game for William and myself.

The usage of "and myself" here is the same as in the sentence you reference to:

I am reminded of the deeply touching letters, cards and messages which so many of you have sent my wife and myself and I cannot thank you enough for the love and sympathy you have shown our whole family.

Thus, using "myself" this way is correct grammar.

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    Please attribute your sources. It helps the OP and users alike to see at a glance the source of your citations.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Dec 26, 2022 at 7:12
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    The subject in the subordinate, which is the one that matters in reference to this grammatical rule, is not "I" but "you". Your answer is fundamentally flawed.
    – LPH
    Dec 26, 2022 at 7:15
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    Your conclusion contradicts your source - in that clause, the subject is "so many of you", which is clearly not "I". That's an untriggered reflexive by the logic above. (As to whether that's an error in English, it's debatable - it seems to be increasingly tolerated, and English grammar is descriptive rather than prescriptive...) Dec 26, 2022 at 12:49
  • @LPH can you cite a source for saying that it's the subject of the subordinate clause that matters here? On my understanding, "myself" here is not an untriggered reflexive because there is a clear "I" in the sentence that it refers to. Dec 28, 2022 at 20:28
  • @MichaelKay A source is not needed; the OP is enough. It says "Myself, […] etc is a reflexive pronoun, which is only used as a direct or indirect object where the corresponding indicated person is the subject of the sentence, such as […]". The discussions, as in this text, take the sentence as a basis for discussion and it is the simplest sentence, but that is a simplification (it is true that this precision should be given every time though). Notice, however that you can turn these sentences into clauses by preceding them with the text "The observer didn't know that", (1/2)
    – LPH
    Dec 29, 2022 at 3:10
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In response to the many thoughtful observations about the king's use of "sent my wife and myself," I would have written, "sent to my wife and me." No one sent Charles (himself) or his wife anywhere; they sent letters, cards and messages to them.

My thinking on this is similar to, for instance, the example "Throw me the ball." No one is throwing "me"; one is throwing the ball. Therefore, I would write, "Throw the ball to me."

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    Is there a reason you're avoiding this particularly common phrasing? Do you also avoid expressions like "pay me" and "teach me"?
    – Laurel
    Dec 27, 2022 at 19:09
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    You've got your work cut out for you if you want to change the worldwide English usage of indirect objects.
    – Lee Mosher
    Dec 27, 2022 at 23:31

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