Me, myself, and I

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This morning, while washing my face and still not fully awake, I heard a rap song on the radio that kept repeating "me, myself, and I".  It started to bother me.  Why would anybody say that?  Why would they say it over and over?  What do they mean by it?

Emma Bryce (TEDEd [8/28/15]) tells us that " 'Me' is an object pronoun, 'I' is a subject pronoun, and 'myself' is a reflexive or intensive / emphatic pronoun."  Well, so what?  What's the point?  What statement are they trying to make?

According to YourDictionary, "me, myself, and I" implies "Only me, me alone, me without companionship."  Fair enough; that makes some sense.

Wiktionary agrees that "me, myself, and I" emphasizes the speaker's aloneness, i.e., only me; myself alone.

English Language & Usage Stack Exchange (5/6/16) tells us that "Me is the physical aspects. Myself is the soulful aspects. I is the spiritual aspects."  I'm not so sure about that, but at least somebody believes it.

Joe Andros, on Quora (12/31/20) tells us:  "It’s basically repetition, seen most often in song or literature (where a character is speaking). As is general with repetition, emphasis is what’s usually intended. 'Me, myself and I' is a sort of overdone thoroughness. It could mean I am thoroughly in agreement (all aspects aligned), or thoroughly alone, or thoroughly happy, or even just thoroughly myself. It is context-dependent, but the speaker (or singer) generally intends us to know there is no division on this score."

Some websites claim the "me, myself, and I" expresses a concern over gender identity. 

Whatever it signifies, "me, myself, and I" seems to touch a raw nerve in a lot of people, since it is used a lot in speech, and there are endless songs, albums, films and plays, television shows, books, etc. featuring it (source), like the one I heard this morning while I was waking up and — at the moment — wasn't quite certain who I was.

According to Wikipedia:

"Me, Myself, and I" (sometimes "Me, Myself and I (Are All in Love with You)") is a song written by Irving Gordon with lyrics by Allan Roberts and Alvin S. Kaufman.

It was first recorded in 1937 by several artists including Billie Holiday and Her Orchestra, Benny Goodman and His Orchestra, Bob Howard and His Orchestra, and Dick Jurgens and His Orchestra with vocalist Eddy Howard. Other artists to record the song include Lester Young, Martha Tilton, Ruby Braff, Terry Blane and Tony Bennett, who included it in his 1997 Billie Holiday tribute album, On Holiday.

I don't know about others, but — once I'm fully awake — I'm pretty sure who I am, in all cases.


Selected readings

[h.t. WXPN]


  1. Carl said,

    April 5, 2022 @ 10:17 am

    The locus classicus here is probably not Billie Holiday, but Beyoncé:,_Myself_and_I_(Beyoncé_song)

  2. M. said,

    April 5, 2022 @ 10:31 am

    Another use of "me, myself, and I" is to deprecate egotism, as in "He's interested in only three subjects: me, myself, and I."

  3. Jim Mack said,

    April 5, 2022 @ 10:31 am

    Not to mention the Jim Carrey vehicle "Me, Myself and Irene", and possibly George Harrison's "I, Me, Mine"

  4. Laura Morland said,

    April 5, 2022 @ 10:33 am

    I can't get past your opening sentence — you listen to RAP MUSIC? In the MORNING?

    According to Wikipedia, you just celebrated your 79th birthday. (Belated felicitations!)

    You must be too cool for school, as kids used to say.

    Re: the up-to-date locus classicus, here are Beyoncé's lyrics (final 2 of 3 stanzas):

    I can't believe I fell for your schemes
    I'm smarter than that
    So young and naive to believe that with me
    You're a changed man
    Foolish of me to compete
    When you cheat with loose women
    It took me some time but now I moved on

    Cuz I realized I got
    Me myself and I
    That's all I got in the end
    That's what I found out
    And it ain't no need to cry
    I took a vow that from now on
    I'm gonna be my own best friend

    The video is here: (over 95 million views). Comments include testimonials such as "This song helped me to realize that all I've got is me, myself and I."

    I'm not an expert on musical genres, but I'd file this song under R&B. Your rapper may have been sampling it.

  5. Scott P. said,

    April 5, 2022 @ 10:45 am

    You must be too cool for school, as kids used to say.

    Rap music predates the Ford Administration. It's not particularly new.

  6. Matthew E said,

    April 5, 2022 @ 10:56 am

    See, I figured the song in question was “Me, Myself, and I” by De La Soul, a classic in its own right. Link:

  7. Terry K. said,

    April 5, 2022 @ 11:07 am

    @Laura Morland. "on the radio". Means he listens to a radio station that includes rap music in whatever all it plays.

  8. J.W. Brewer said,

    April 5, 2022 @ 11:16 am

    I'm going to hypothesize that the commenter who thought of the Beyonce number is significantly younger than me and the other fellow who thought of the De La Soul one. I also thought of, but that is not "rap" in any sense and also omits the "and," although doing so makes the lyrics weirdly unidiomatic (even allowing for "poetic license") if you focus closely enough on the issue.

  9. Corley said,

    April 5, 2022 @ 12:17 pm

    Are the Selected readings algorithmically generated? Or do you decide on your own that “Japanese first person pronouns” is germane to a post about me, myself and I?

  10. mollymooly said,

    April 5, 2022 @ 12:50 pm

    "ME, MYSELF, and I." is the title of a poem reprinted (from the "Express Gazette") in "The Typewriter and Phonographic Journal" (Jan 1907 p. 21). The poem does not have that phrase other than in its title. It begins "I’m the best pal that I ever had, / I like to be with me; / I like to sit and tell myself / Things confidentially."

  11. mollymooly said,

    April 5, 2022 @ 12:55 pm

    I see that in the "Express Gazette" (15 May 1906 p. 142) the poem is called "Myself and Me" (and credited to "The Spot Light").

  12. bks said,

    April 5, 2022 @ 2:01 pm

    "I, I, Me, Me, Mine" _The Beatles_ (1970)

  13. Santa said,

    April 5, 2022 @ 2:14 pm

    And then, of course, there's the Rastafari "I and I".

  14. Curtis Wilcox said,

    April 5, 2022 @ 2:25 pm

    If it was rap, it surely was the De La Soul song. It's debatable whether it or the Beyoncé track were more successful in their times. The De La Soul track was definitely successful and is basically the the only song that is known (depending on your definition, you could call them one-hit wonders) whereas the Beyoncé track was a more minor success for her, not just in her career but from that album.

    De La Soul would perhaps be better known today if their back catalog hadn't been held back by contract disputes, they're still not available on streaming services, the dominant way music is accessed today. Part of the issue has been copyright clearances for samples, a problem for music made before copyright sampling norms had been established in the industry.

  15. Chas Belov said,

    April 5, 2022 @ 3:24 pm

    I'd guess if you listen to rap/hiphop that you know there is a burgeoning hiphop scene in Asia. My favorite group is Hong Kong's LMF, who rap in colloquial Cantonese. There's also DongTing's 2008 documentary on hiphop in China; the accompanying blog is no longer extant, but the videos are still available on DongTing's YouTube channel, including both interviews with artists and song selections. There's one video on whether to rap in Mandarin or topolect:

    DongTing08 channel:

    Hip Hop in China: Language (Part 1)

    Hip Hop in China: Language (Part 2)

  16. Gene Hill said,

    April 5, 2022 @ 4:49 pm

    That theme of loneliness has been expressed often. This song was first sung by the INK Spots then Frank Sinatra and Paul McCartney. Lyrics
    We three, we're all alone
    Living in a memory
    My echo, my shadow, and me
    We three, we're not a crowd
    We're not even company
    My echo, my shadow, and me
    What good is the moonlight
    The silvery moonlight that shines above?
    I walk with my shadow
    I talk with my echo
    But where is the one I love?
    We three, we'll wait for you
    Even till eternity
    My echo, my shadow, and me
    "We three we're all alone. Seems like we're livin' in a memory.
    That's my echo my shadow and me.
    We three we ain't no crowd.
    Fact is we ain't even company.
    That's my echo my shadow and me.
    You know I been wonderin' what good is the
    moonlight that silvery moonlight that shines way, way up above?
    Yeah, I walk with my shadow, I talk with my echo, but where is that gal that I love?"
    We three, we'll wait for you
    Even till eternity
    My echo, my shadow, and me
    Source: LyricFind
    Songwriters: Dick Robertson / Nelson Cogane / Sammy Mysels
    We Three (My Echo, My Shadow And me) lyrics © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.

  17. Pau Amma said,

    April 5, 2022 @ 10:57 pm

    There's also a short story by that name, dating back to *checks ISFDB* 1947.

  18. Chris Partridge said,

    April 6, 2022 @ 2:07 am

    If you were at Rhetoric School, you would instantly recognise this as a rhetorical scheme called a hendiatris, like Veni, vidi, vici, or Wine, women and song. The Greeks had it all classified.

  19. cliff arroyo said,

    April 6, 2022 @ 5:06 am

    "Rap music predates the Ford Administration. It's not particularly new."

    A bold statement since recorded evidence is pretty slight…

    According to the traditional narrative, the style that would now be regarded as rap emerging on records in 78-79 during the Carter Administration. The disco record 'turn the beat around' was released in Feb 1976 (just missing the Ford administration) and has a few seconds of something resembling rap (which had been going on in in NYC for a couple years by then as a local thing).

    Many of the individual elements of rap can be found going back decades earlier and of course a lot of 'Here comes the judge' sounds very rap-like in 1968 but that seems to have been a coincidental one off and not part of or the initiator of a tradition.

  20. Ed Rorie said,

    April 6, 2022 @ 6:17 am

    Another example of hendiatris appears in the 1962 song “Three Days” written by Willie Nelson:
    "Three days that I dread to see arrive
    Three days that I hate to be alive
    Three days filled with tears and sorrow
    Yesterday, today, and tomorrow."

  21. AntC said,

    April 6, 2022 @ 6:38 am

    The locus classicus here is probably …

    It's been bugging me that none of the alleged loci classici sound familiar.

    Turns out for me it's Joan Armatrading's 1980 album — album name and title track.

    The words are very fitting for Victor "I want to go to China and to see Japan".

  22. bks said,

    April 6, 2022 @ 6:50 am

    Cliff Arroyo: _The Revolution Will Not Be Televised_(1970)

  23. cliff arroyo said,

    April 6, 2022 @ 7:50 am

    I think of "the revolution will not be televised" more as one of the precursors of rap with some but by no means all the elements. Most importantly his speech isn't syncopated and/or timed to the music to any significant degree. He's mostly declaming over the music (which is doing its own thing). It's brilliant but not really rap anymore than 'raps' recorded by Isaac Hayes or Millie Jackson in the early 1970s were.

    Interestingly, Angela, a very odd record by a six year old girl from Harlem in 1971 comes a bit closer as she is trying to time her delivery to the music and there is some syncopation. Noticeable in "Lenox Ave" (mostly based on Langston Hughes' 'Good morning').

  24. Bloix said,

    April 6, 2022 @ 7:56 am

    Me, myself and I is a joke expressing the idea that by myself I am the equal of three people. Each of three words is conceptualized as the name of a different individual. So the phrase is a riposte to any question that implies that I can't or shouldn't do something alone. Who is going to get this done? Since me, myself, and I will be working, a team that can do as much as three will get it done. Or, who's going to the movies – alone I provide better companionship for myself than any friend.

  25. Victor Mair said,

    April 6, 2022 @ 8:15 am

    @cliff arroya


    What a revelation!


    And thanks to everyone for all the great comments!

  26. cliff arroyo said,

    April 6, 2022 @ 9:36 am

    "Me, myself and I is a joke expressing the idea that by myself I am the equal of three people. "

    What I remember is an old saying along the lines of "I only trust three people in the world…. me, myself and I"

    Not sure of the origin

  27. Victor Mair said,

    April 6, 2022 @ 11:44 am

    Reminds me of the saying that the only things certain in life are death and taxes.

  28. Philip Taylor said,

    April 7, 2022 @ 2:52 am

    "the only things certain in life are death and taxes" — the writer obviously did not live in Abu Dhabi !

  29. David Marjanović said,

    April 7, 2022 @ 8:12 am

    Müssen tut man aufs Klo.

    A topic-and-comment proverb that drives contrastive stress to its extreme in order to express that only going to the toilet is obligatory – everything else is really optional, including death and taxes.

  30. Barbara Phillips Long said,

    April 7, 2022 @ 4:36 pm

    Did the formulation “me, myself, and I” come from some kind of grammar recitation? I think of “amo, amas, I love a lass,” which starts out mimicking Latin conjugation recitations and then veers off. Did “me, myself, and I” start in the classroom?

    For those unfamiliar with the reference:

    Amo, Amas, I Love a Lass

    by John O'Keefe
    Amo, Amas, I love a lass
    As a cedar tall and slender;
    Sweet cowslip's grace is her nominative case,
    And she's of the feminine gender.

    Rorum, Corum, sunt divorum,
    Harum, Scarum divo;
    Tag-rag, merry-derry, periwig and hat-band
    Hic hoc horum genitivo.

    Can I decline a Nymph divine?
    Her voice as a flute is dulcis.
    Her oculus bright, her manus white,
    And soft, when I tacto, her pulse is.

    Rorum, Corum, sunt divorum,
    Harum, Scarum divo;
    Tag-rag, merry-derry, periwig and hat-band
    Hic hoc horum genitivo.

    Oh, how bella my puella,
    I'll kiss secula seculorum.
    If I've luck, sir, she's my uxor,
    O dies benedictorum.

    Rorum, Corum, sunt divorum,
    Harum, Scarum divo;
    Tag-rag, merry-derry, periwig and hat-band
    Hic hoc horum genitivo.

    The song:

  31. Joseph said,

    April 10, 2022 @ 12:02 am

    Me = Id
    Myself = Ego
    I = Superego

  32. Scott P. said,

    April 10, 2022 @ 11:17 am

    A bold statement since recorded evidence is pretty slight…

    Just as with historic texts, the first recorded instance of something generally postdates the first appearance of something by some time. From wikipedia:

    "Hip hop music was not officially recorded for play on radio or television until 1979, largely due to poverty during the genre's birth and lack of acceptance outside ghetto neighborhoods."

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