Reflexology

Posted: July 31, 2011 in Blogosphere, Blogroll, Idle Nonsense, Nomenclature, Writing

No, not this. Rather, this. I’m entirely used to folks falling prey to the homophone problem, confusing loose with lose, and a host of other abuses of the English language. Errors are too ubiquitous to get too twisted in knots. But considering how this blog is all about finger wagging, mostly complaining about things that are wrong with the culture but on rare occasion praising something worthwhile, I feel compelled to observe that misused reflexive structures in English are among the worst lightweight offenses (if such an oxymoron can be said to exist) against my particular sensibilities, all the more so when made by people who ought to know better. It grates up there with saying or writing something as moronic as “it don’t ….”

The simple rule with reflexive pronouns (which end with the suffix -self) is that the subject must be the pronoun’s referent. You can hurt yourself (you and yourself match) but I cannot admire yourself (I is the subject and doesn’t match the object yourself). See how simple that is? In a more idiomatic use, one might reply to the question “How are you doing?” with “Very well, and yourself?” This is merely shorthand for “Very well, thank you, and how are you doing yourself?” The reflexive pronoun is arguably superfluous in this example, but it’s idiom, so don’t puzzle too long over it. Throwing the question back at the questioner is a little like another irritating and unnecessary reiteration often heard: “to return something back” (the word back being redundant).

Now, I’m not really a major grammar Nazi. I make mistakes, too, and am generally happy to forgive and forget after itching inwardly a little. However, a new blogger (Lou Tafisk — his nom de plume — of Necrotic Hijinks, now added to my blogroll) appeared a couple of months ago who, like me, is all about the finger wagging, or in his words, putting “everyone’s stupidity on display.” His targets tend to be college students as a class. By all accounts, he quit his teaching job rather than continue to handhold the cretins. He includes within the scope of his vitriol other bloggers, who happily offer themselves up for demolition. I’ve yet to see him really demolish anyone’s blog; he really just uses them as launchpads to crack wise. I threw my own hat in the ring.

Just to give dear ole Lou something to ponder, since I doubt he will take the time to familiarize himself with over six years of blogging on my part if he chooses this blog for public humiliation (doubtful, since I’m not a humorist), I thought I’d return the favor preemptively. I don’t crack wise nearly so well as he, but I’m good at finger wagging. Just look at this:

I couldn’t care about the coarse sexual repartee, which others have been quick to join, but what gives with a college professor, albeit an out-of-work one, and self-proclaimed holder of a Ph.D. using the reflexive pronoun yourself when you is not the subject of the sentence but the object? The blurb above the big Become a Victim button uses yourself correctly, though the subject is only implied with the imperative (one of the three moods in English, though the Wikipedia article lists another five from other languages just for completeness and perhaps unnecessary obfuscation), so I know he can use them properly. Yeah, sure, it’s just a brief reply lost the comments, but do we really want to entrust the minds of students, or for that matter the comic tearing down of others’ blogs, to someone who distinguishes himself with crimes against grammar?

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Comments
  1. Lou Tafisk says:

    Heh heh heh.

    You are obviously a prescriptive grammarian rather than a descriptive one.

  2. Lou Tafisk says:

    Yes, something like an evil eye. My original blavatar was a CDRW but I photoshopped that old image to death and came out with this lovely thing.

    And that’s where I got the idea for the Inkblot game on my website…

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