Edwin Battistella says the way you use personal pronouns says a lot about you. It’s more than the obvious comparison of using “me” a lot and being self-obsessed.
In the spring issue of Oregon Humanities magazine, Battistella wrote about some of the research done about personal pronouns. For example, pronoun usage can tell a lot about how a person deals with tragedy. Sometimes, a drop in the use of I, me, and my can be an indicator of improved mental health. On the other hand, using more personal pronouns when you apologize can make you come across as more sincerely penitent.
As Battistella notes, members of the millennial generation are often accused of being “lazy, entitled narcissists.” But after studying language trends, Battistella found that even though last year’s word of the year was “selfie,” millennials aren’t really any more self-obsessed than previous generations. “When the numbers are in and the sentences diagrammed, it may indeed turn out that every generation is a me generation,” he writes.
- Edwin Battistella: Linguist and Professor of Language, Literature and Philosophy at Southern Oregon University