My, What Big Teeth You Have, Grammar

Posted on by Rachelle Mandik

All my fellow copyeditor friends are busily posting cutesy articles on Facebook about National Grammar Day. Which, I guess, is today? Personally, I'd rather be celebrating Mardi Gras. It's a much cooler holiday. Nobody gets souvenir trinkets on Grammar Day.

Interestingly, what few of the "Grammar Day" articles seem to discuss is grammar. Because a lot of what people get irritated about in written communication, if they are the sort of people to get irritated at all, is not actually about grammar. It's about usage. Or spelling. But rarely about grammar. It's actually very difficult to make grammar mistakes in your native language. Violating the rules of the grammar of a language will sound inherently wrong to anyone committing the violation. A grammatical mistake is, mainly, when you get parts of speech confused.

Yoda makes grammatical mistakes. You? Probably not.

You know who else makes grammatical mistakes, like, nearly every week? Ira Glass.

I've been composing a complaint e-mail to him for a couple of years, ever since I first got into This American Life.  But I've been too chickenshit to send it. Certainly you are familiar with this amazing radio show. Every week I'm captivated by the stories of unusual Americans, told in their own words. And in 99 percent of cases, without grammatical mistakes. But then, Ira closes the show and says:

"Today's show was produced by myself, Ira Glass..."

No, Ira! Nooooo!

This nongrammatical bastardization instantaneously undoes for me all of the smart things he says in any given program. I mean, this is NPR for God's sake!

"Myself" is not a handy way of getting out of knowing the difference between when to say "I" and when to say "me." Although in this case it boggles the mind how he wouldn't know which is correct.

Would he ever catch himself saying in a game of baseball, "Hey, throw the ball to myself!"? No. Well, same thing here.

"Me" is an object: The show was produced by me. 

"Myself" is a reflexive pronoun and should only be employed when the subject of the sentence is "I." A reflexive pronoun must "reflect" back to the subject: I produced this show myself. I, myself, produced it.

Alas, "myself" abuse is rampant. So rampant, in fact, that it's on the verge of becoming a question of usage question rather than a question of grammar. Its misuse has grown so familiar to most people's ear that the violation is rarely noticed. How surprised can I be when even Mad-Libs doesn't identify parts of speech the way it used to. "Gerund" somehow became "verb ending in -ing."

My word hero, Bryan A. Garner, still classifies "myself" abuse as a severe infraction (stage 2 or stage 3, depending), so that's of some consolation. 

Although for real consolation, perhaps I should just have some beignets and focus on today's superior holiday.

Throw me something, mister!/Show me something, sister!