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"such as you" vs "such as yourself"

Asked by [ Admin ]

We will investigate the possibility of rewarding eCommerce integrators such as yourself.

vs

We will investigate the possibility of rewarding eCommerce integrators such as you.

Which is the correct form?

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1 answer

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donald remero [ Moderator ]

What we are talking about here is the range of acceptable use for reflexive pronouns. This is a good question because it quite possibly exposes a degree of inadequate consideration on the part of traditional authorities.

The phrasing "such as yourself/myself/herself/himself" is very common; it is also generally (and perhaps erroneously) discouraged.

The Allyn & Bacon Handbook (1992), for example, says to

Use pronouns ending in -self when the pronouns refer to a noun that they intensify, as in The teacher himself could not pass the test.

Do not use [these] pronouns to take the place of subjective- or objective-case pronouns. Instead [of] ...Joan and myself are good friends, write Joan and I are good friends.

You may notice, however, that once you correct the pronoun usage, you expose the phrase "such as you" to a certain degree of awkwardness, although only with regard to how it strikes the ear (of many native speakers).

Unfortunately, the solution to this subsequent problem can seem not formal enough.

We will explore the possibility of rewarding eCommerce integrators like you.

So, that is the basic problem with the advice of traditional "authorities" on this issue. For many highly competent speakers, it leads to fundamentally unsatisfactory results.

Thus, I think that Merriam-Webster is probably on the right track when they observe, for example, that uses of the reflexive pronoun "myself"

almost always occur when the speaker or writer is referring to himself or herself as an object of discourse rather than as a participant in discourse. The other reflexive personal pronouns [which would include "yourself"] are similarly but less frequently used in the same circumstances.

I think this describes the current situation very well. What the speaker of the sentence wishes to (reflexively) refer to is a version of "yourself" as a formal "class" of person, that is, yourself as an integrator and specifically not you as a [whole] person.

Think about the way that the term "yourself" actually objectifies the "self" by ascribing its ownership (genitive relationship) to a "you" such that "it" may be "yours." This is a subtle consequence of language, to be sure, but very real -- and logically, well, in my view, relatively simple (though certainly not glaringly obvious, and thus subtle).

Merriam-Webster concludes its own discussion with the following:

Critics have frowned on these [reflexive] uses since about the turn of the century, prob. unaware that they serve a definite purpose. Users themselves are as unaware as the critics—they simply follow their instincts. These uses are standard.

I do think that Merriam-Webster in its commentary can sometimes border on being flippant. But, generally speaking, I also love it. It seems to demonstrate a good-natured and yet appropriately firm manner for speaking truth to power that is worth emulating (given, of course, that you would actually be speaking the truth, but I digress).

Bottom line: Whether the usage is "correct" or not is ultimately a question about what exactly correctness is and who specifically gets to decide. It is, however, obvious that the usage is "standard"; and given that we can persuasively describe structural reasons for its existence, I think we should be perfectly willing to call it acceptable. I might even go so far as to embrace it.

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