Me included

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Following some of the news yesterday, on the radio and in print, I was struck by a quote from U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson that was repeated several times:

Government owning a stake in any private U.S. company is objectionable to most Americans — me included.

(The quote can be found several places, such as near the end of this WSJ blog post.)

As indicated by the boldface print that I added above — and by the title of this post — what struck me was the "me included" bit; specifically, the form of the pronoun me instead of myself. My personal sense is that "me included" is at best highly marked compared to "myself included", and for me this contrasts with "including me" (completely normal) vs. "including myself" (marked by comparison, but not as bad-sounding as "me included"). In other words, I have a hierarchy of acceptability for these forms that is more or less Y-shaped, like so:

Google appears to agree with me about the unexceptionalness of "including me" (just under 6M ghits) and the relative badness of "me included" (just over 800K ghits), but puts the two "myself" examples firmly in the middle (just over 2.6M ghits for "myself included", and just over 2.3M ghits for "including myself"). The resulting hierarchy looks something like this:

Note the vertical spacing difference that I've given to the "myself" examples in the middle. I don't think the ghit difference between them (roughly 300K) is significant enough to firmly rank them, but I think it's worth representing that difference somehow — especially given that it tends in the direction of agreeing with my personal judgment. And come to think of it, I do think there's a certain stylistic difference between "including me" and "myself included" that I might represent thusly:

But of course, now we're just playing around with figures. (Yay, OmniGraffle!)

Also, it's worth noting that the #1 hit for "me included" and the #1 hit for "including myself" — that is, the two options with fewer total ghits — are both for discussions about just this grammatical point:

#1 hit for "me included": including me/ me included — WordReference Forums
#1 hit for "including myself": Including me vs. Including myself — English Forums

By comparison, none of the top 10 hits for "including me" and "myself included" — that is, the two options with more total ghits — appear to involve any grammatical discussion. (The #1 hit for "me included" eventually shows up in the top 30 for "including me"; scrolling through several pages of the "myself included" results doesn't seem to reveal much at all.)

So back to Sec. Paulson: why did he use the clearly-least-preferred of the four available options? I honestly don't know. But I do wonder what would happen if we sorted the results of all four Google searches by the grammatical function of the noun phrase that this phrase is tacked on to (something I am woefully unequipped to do myself). Specifically, I'm willing to bet that "me included" is most often used when the previous noun phrase is an object of some kind (like Paulson's most Americans, which is the object of the preposition to), as opposed to a subject. Compare Paulson's quote with this reworded example and I think you'll see what I'm getting at:

Most Americans — me included — object to government owning a stake in any private U.S. company.

In this sentence, the most Americans noun phrase is functioning as the subject, and I think "me included" sounds even worse here. (Note that this is not only because the form of the pronoun "me" is the prototypical object form; I still think "including me" sounds perfect in this reworded sentence.)

Anyway, this is just a little something frivolous for our readers to chew on — perhaps along with your fingernails, as you watch the stock market go up and down this week.


  1. Ryan Denzer-King said,

    October 15, 2008 @ 3:23 pm

    Interesting. While "me included" is definitely always marked for me, the "most Americans – me included" example actually sounds less marked to me.

  2. Sky Onosson said,

    October 15, 2008 @ 3:52 pm

    "Me included" is probably the LEAST marked version, speaking only for myself (or should I say, speaking only for ME). In my region (Manitoba), the use of "me" in place of "myself" doesn't seem to be marked at all as far as I can tell, and the final example with "Most Americans" in the subject is equally fine, for me. I wonder if there is some kind of analogy with "me too" going on here? (cf. *"myself too")

  3. mollymooly said,

    October 15, 2008 @ 5:01 pm

    Meh. They all seem OK to me.

  4. Craig Russell said,

    October 15, 2008 @ 5:08 pm

    Since one of the functions of the 'self' in 'myself' is reflexive, indicating that this pronoun is the same person as the subject, perhaps the reason that 'including myself' sounds so odd is that 'myself' is the direct object of 'including'.

    Maybe when we hear a 'self' word as the object of a verb, we have an expectation of it being reflexive of the verb's subject (e.g. a situation like "Government owning a stake in a private company is objectionable to most Americans–and I'm including myself here," where 'myself' is practically required). Perhaps the reason an 'including myself' sounds a little off if it's not in this type of situation is that we're expecting reflexivity and not finding it. (It would be like sort of like the wrongness we'd feel if we heard "She kissed myself").

    Whereas in the "me/myself included" construction (as a Latin teacher I'm tempted to call it an 'ablative absolute'), the pronoun is not the object of anything, and so there's more room for 'myself' to be interpreted as an intensive, rather than a reflexive, pronoun. Why the 'self' version would sound *better* in these situations, though, I'm not sure.

  5. Stephen Jones said,

    October 15, 2008 @ 5:25 pm

    The COCA gives roughly the same proportions 42 to 218.

    They don't seem significant to me. I would just put the difference to free variation.

    The proportion is the same in British English by the way.

  6. Josh Millard said,

    October 15, 2008 @ 5:32 pm

    Perhaps Paulson is aware of the tendency on some folks' parts to hypercorrect "me" to "myself", and produced this in a fit of recursive hypercorrection.

    "Ultracorrection", I would like to call this, because that sounds kind of awesome.

  7. Christian DiCanio said,

    October 15, 2008 @ 6:13 pm

    Jenny Lederer at UC Berkeley completed her dissertation recently on the use of non-reflexive pronouns in prepositional contexts where one expects it to be A-bound. It might be worth investigating.

  8. Gavin said,

    October 16, 2008 @ 12:01 am

    While I register a slight symantic difference if the pronoun is placed before or after "included", I really can't assign any "preference" ranking between "me" and "myself" in either, and I can only assume the same of Henry Paulson. The ghits make a point that this obviously isn't the case everywhere, but I'm not willing to attribute his choice of words to anything intentional.

  9. Peter Hollo said,

    October 16, 2008 @ 1:16 am

    Weird. To me, as an Australian (but no idea if that has anything to do with it), "me included" is probably the best of those examples. I don't like "myself" for "me" although I'm not too bothered by it, and would rate "me included" slightly above "including me" stylistically.

  10. Stuart said,

    October 16, 2008 @ 3:32 am

    I wasn't sure whether I should post this or not, but the comment from Peter Hollo persuaded me. I live on the non-penal side of the Tasman, and my reaction to the phrase "me included" was very similar to that of my neighbour across the ditch. "Me included" sounds better than "myself included", and the numer of ghits tells a very different story when restricted to pages from NZ. "Me included" turns up up 1680 ghits, "myself included" gets 3570. Still a clear preference for "myself" over " me", but a much stronger showing for "me" than in the global Google Corpus.

    The same search at Google Australia gives 11.3K ghits for "me included" and 22.3K ghits for "myself included". This is almost exactly the same ratio as the NZ results, and may explain why Peter and I feel so comfortable with the version considered most highly marked by speakers of other variants of English.

  11. Sky Onosson said,

    October 16, 2008 @ 4:27 am

    I'd just like to reiterate, in light of the remarks regarding Australia and New Zealand, that I, too find "me included" to be the least marked form. And I live in the centre of North America.

    The Canadian results are right in line with the American results, at 18,000 for "me included" and 62,400 for "myself included" – so I'm not sure what to make of my own judgement in that light, but I'm still standing by it!

  12. outeast said,

    October 16, 2008 @ 4:58 am

    A very, very tentative hypothesis: could this have been due to an unconsious desire to avoid sentence-terminal 'me'? I personally (and utterly irrationally) find sentence-terminal 'me' vaguely uncomfortable, though I'm not sure why that is… I'm well aware that there is no real reason it should be that way: maybe it's because ending a sentence with 'me' feels egotistical; maybe it's out of some odd feeling that 'me' is a short word and so is somehow similar to a preposition* (which we all know we should never end a sentence with).

    *I know that sounds daft; but I know of people who avoid ending sentences with 'is', and AFAIK the driving force behind that it some kind of confusion with the preposition 'rule'.

  13. Rick S said,

    October 16, 2008 @ 9:43 am

    I find either "me included" or "including me" equally acceptable, though I analyze them differently. With the former, the head "me" is semantically coordinated with "most Americans", whereas with the latter the "me" is syntactically required as the object of "including". In other words, there is a difference in focus.

    The "myself" forms variously strike me as formal/humble, inappropriately (in this context) reflexive, or self-consciously hypercorrective. Acceptable, but I probably wouldn't use them here.

    Could this be one of those regional variations like soda/pop/coke?

  14. nascardaughter said,

    October 16, 2008 @ 2:55 pm

    Could this be one of those regional variations like soda/pop/coke?

    Maybe it's an "Inland Northern" tendency?

    For me, both the first and second examples in the post sound very natural. I probably wouldn't *write* "me included" in many contexts, but it definitely sounds more like everyday talk to me.

    I grew up in Western NY, and Wikipedia sez Paulson grew up in Barrington Hills, IL, which I think could both be considered within the Inland North dialect region. Maybe there's some overlap with Manitoba too (?)

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