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06 January 2011

Grammar question [More:]

A puppy was born to a stray dog in a tool shed on the Merrion property. His mother, Bone, and himself were listening to Ms. Merrion explain to the gardener that she did not want a dog.

This is a summary my kid wrote of a chapter in a book he is reading. (Bone is the brother puppy).

Is himself correct in this sentence?

I was thinking of correcting it to: The puppies and their mother overheard Ms. Merrion telling the gardener that she did not want a dog.

But, I was curious about himself in this case. I think it sounds right but cannot be sure. I went to a few grammar sites but am still unsure in this instance.


/dumb-dumb :-)
I'm realizing my formatting is not coherent. Apologies.

My question is: Is the usage of the word himself correct in the first paragraph? I suggested he correct it to the second option for his homework, but am still curious.
posted by LoriFLA 06 January | 19:41
Who heard? "He" heard.

That's what my 5th grade English teacher would have said.

I think.
posted by BitterOldPunk 06 January | 19:46
It's "he" but I like your rewrite much better.
posted by JanetLand 06 January | 19:55
Apparently grammar questions get me to delurk.

"He" (as other have pointed out) is correct. 'Himself' is a reflexive pronoun and is used only when the subject of a sentence is also the object of the verb, e.g. "He took a photo of himself".
posted by VeritableSaintOfBrevity 06 January | 19:58
In this instance, himself is an intensive pronoun requiring that the noun to which it refers is present in the same sentence. So, the original use is incorrect.
posted by Ardiril 06 January | 19:58
Yeah, the reflexive pronoun 'himself' is wrong here, and your rewrite is preferable.
posted by mudpuppie 06 January | 19:59
To explain the discrepancy here, the lad used 'himself' as a reflexive in the subject when he would have to use it as an intensive. However, to use it as an intensive requires an antecedent.
posted by Ardiril 06 January | 20:59
Yes! I thought it was probably he. I really did but was still unsure.

I understand the definition of a reflexive pronoun now. Thanks for spelling it out for me. I needed that. :-)
posted by LoriFLA 06 January | 21:14
You could also just correct it to "He and his mother, Bone, were listening to Ms. Merrion explain to the gardener that she did not want a dog."
posted by Miko 06 January | 22:13
But yeah, I agree that your "heard Mrs. Merrion" version is even clearer than "were listening to Mrs. Merrion explain..."
posted by Miko 06 January | 22:14
Easy way: "himself were[was] listening"

Does that sound right? No, thought not.
posted by Eideteker 07 January | 01:15
A similar thing came up in this whine about clunky English in US college students:

5. "Whomever" should be "whoever."
6. "Myself" should be "I."

Nos. 5 and 6 are examples of "hypercorrection": errors that are induced by a combination of grammatical confusion and a desire to sound fancy, such as the chorine who refers to "a girl like I." Her equivalent today would say "a girl like myself." The enormous popularity of that last word stems in part from understandable uncertainty over whether "I" or "me" is correct.

He also complains about an increase in the use of British spelling and expressions, which someone in the comments attributes to Harry Potter.
posted by TheophileEscargot 07 January | 10:40
increase in the use of British spelling and expressions, which someone in the comments attributes to Harry Potter

Interesting - and I'd say maybe Harry Potter, but more likely Harry Potter is part of the larger phenomenon of much greater media trading between the UK and US over the last two decades.

My mom has spent her career in journalism and is a serious language-watcher, and she's been claiming to see "creeping Britishisms" for a long time now, even before the first HP book came out in 1997. She has some enjoyable standard Safire-like rails against the use of certain increasinly common Britishisms like saying someone "went missing," ("they didn't GO missing! They were going somewhere specific, and now they ARE missing!" agreeing to "get a coffee," and the like - she has more I can't recall just now.
posted by Miko 07 January | 11:41
I liked your rewrite better, but not because of 'himself' - because I read the original as:

"His mother, [whose name is] Bone, and [puppy 1]"

Your version makes it clearer to me that the listeners were Mom, puppy 1, and puppy 2.
posted by youngergirl44 07 January | 13:22
Books of 2010 || Wait is this a real thing?