Walter E. Williams

How many times have you heard a statement such as "Harold and myself were studying"? When one of my students makes such a statement, I sometimes ask, "What if Harold were not studying with you? Would you say, 'Myself was studying'?" That'd be silly. Words such as "myself" and "himself" are reflexive pronouns. Their proper use requires reference to the subject of the sentence. For example, "Harold injured himself." A reflexive pronoun can also be used intensively for emphasis, for example, "Harold himself was injured."

I have another grammar annoyance. How about when people make a statement such as "He is taller than me"? Whenever I hear such an error, I visualize Dr. Martin Rosenberg, my high-school English teacher during the early '50s, putting both hands on his waist and sarcastically asking the student, "Do you mean 'He is taller than me am'?" "Am" is the elliptical, or understood or left out, verb at the end of the sentence. The subject of a verb must be in the nominative case. To be grammatically correct, the sentence should be, "He is taller than I."

Considerable evidence demonstrates that most people are not bothered by my petty annoyances. I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. It may be that it's I who is getting old and out of touch, having been educated during ancient times when nonsense was less acceptable.


Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
 
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