Real life

Why mutilate a perfectly good pronoun?

29 September 2018

9:00 AM

29 September 2018

9:00 AM

‘I’m just going to pop yourself on hold,’ said the girl from the online shopping firm who was trying to find my amazing disappearing bed.

First a bed I ordered arrived with half of it missing. Then, when I rang to complain, they upgraded me to a better bed by way of apology and when that bed came, it had half missing too. Now I had two halves of two different beds: the headboard half of one, and the frame half of another. But one entire matching bed had I none.

And all that being as it may, the lack of a complete bed was as nothing compared with the irritation of being addressed with a mangled reflexive pronoun.

Why do themselves do it? Do themselves imagine the English language now has a polite pronoun as the French do? So it’s ‘you’ when speaking informally to friends, and ‘yourself’ when addressing strangers, the elderly, and those whose new beds have arrived with half missing twice?

Did themselves decide to start mangling perfectly good pronouns unilaterally or did someoneself higher up the food chain instruct themselves to do it as policy?

‘That’s right, talk posh and the customers will feel overawed and stop arguing.’

This girl had a bad case of it: ‘Yes, and I am trying to sort this out for yourself. If you’ll just let me source another bed for yourself. I’ll have yourself all sorted out with a replacement as soon as possible. Could I just ask yourself to answer a few questions?’

Of all the things I wanted to scream about my lack of complete bed and surfeit of bed halves, the main thing I wanted to scream was: ‘The word is YOU!’ But there was no point. If this company couldn’t deliver a bed except with half of it missing, then it likely couldn’t instruct its staff not to mutilate grammar.


I had started off being so happy with this firm — which will remain nameless because I don’t want it to start hassling me to try to make up for everything — that I couldn’t thank it enough. The first bit of my order arrived in a day and turned out to be a sublime mattress topper, giving me the best night’s sleep I’d had in years.

Granted, only half a bed arrived a few days later, but by then I was so well rested that when I rang to enquire where the other half was, I heard myself saying: ‘Hey, thanks so much for sorting this. Wow, that mattress topper is amazing. I’m just so relaxed and happy…’

I love being this person. Maybe I could be this person all the time…

‘Bad news, I’m afraid,’ said the guy. ‘That bed’s been discontinued. How about we send you a more expensive one?’

‘Sure, sure, whatever you think. I’m happy with anything. You know, any time, whenever…’

Three days later, when the next bed arrived with half missing, and the novelty of sleeping on a new topper had worn off and I was back to eating Maltesers all night, I pretty much just made rabid dog noises down the phone.

‘Melissa, Melissa,’ said the girl. ‘I’m willing to work with you to resolve this.’

‘No!’ I snapped, ‘I don’t have to work with anybody. You have to work. No work is being done by me. Do you understand?’ She agreed.

She was extremely nice, but then she was sitting in a comfy office. The poor delivery men who arrived one after the other with various bed fragments were the ones I felt sorry for.

The chap who brought the second instalment, for example, stood on my doorstep pouring with sweat and held out an old plastic bottle gasping: ‘Water!’

‘Where have you driven from?’ I asked, half expecting him to say Istanbul. But he couldn’t say anything except ‘Water!’ for reasons I didn’t like to probe.

Another fella arrived at 9.30 at night and was so confused that all he could do was repeat words I said to him. ‘There should be another box,’ I begged. ‘Box!’ he said smiling and pointing to the box, which was labelled ‘1 of 2’.

‘Two box,’ I said slowly. ‘Box!’ he said, pointing. And so on.

In the end, it took seven lorries to deliver my bed: a lorry with a mattress topper, a lorry with a mattress, a lorry with half a bed, a lorry with another half a bed, a lorry with the other half of the second bed, closely followed by a lorry with a whole other extra bed that wasn’t needed, and then a lorry to take away all the extraneous beds and halves of beds.

The bed is fine. But I don’t think this company that shall remain nameless (I bet Lorraine Kelly never had this problem) is winning any prizes for environmentalism.

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