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January 20, 2017

Has anyone else noticed how estate agents, bank clerks, insurance salespeople, financial advisers etc – young persons in suits and service professions, basically – have a habit of using the reflexive pronoun yourself, where you would be the standard choice? Thus they might say “Could your wife and yourself sign the last page, please?” or “It all depends what level of cover best suits yourselves”, or “It’s really up to yourself at the end of the day”.

How come so many of them, doing different jobs in different parts of the country, say it? Is there some sort of standardised customer-relations course they all go on, where they get taught to use yourself at every opportunity? Also, why do they do it? Is it supposed to sound reassuringly friendly? Or impressively formal?

Anyone who can throw light on this mystery will have significantly advanced human knowledge.

By the way, may I bring to your attention my comic fantasy YA novel The Infinite Powers of Adam Gowers? Here is the link: . Go there and you will see a neat little 2-minute video of me explaining why the time for this novel has come!

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  1. Simon Carter permalink

    Is this another hyper correction? Somehow a slightly longer word is assumed to be more impressive although Irish people often say himself or herself instead of he or her.
    Another annoying habit in business transactions is prefacing every answer “So…”

  2. Mark Brafield permalink

    Actually, I have been aware of this one for quite a long time. Many years ago I went on holiday with my (then) girlfriend. At one point the holiday rep gave her a form to sign, saying that he would return the countersigned copy ‘to yourself’. My girlfriend, who could be rather withering at times, pointed out that this was a sign of poor education, although in fairness to her, she was a TEFL teacher and her English, whilst perfect, was her second language, so perhaps it is understandable if she was particularly sensitive to this usage. On a more humorous note, the use of ‘yourself’ on every possible occasion is mercilessly lampooned in one of the aircraft steward announcements in John Finnemore’s utterly brilliant Radio 4 comedy ‘Cabin Pressure’. I can’t remember which episode at the moment, so I will just have to go and listen to them all. Again.

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