The Gaffe of the Shifting Pronoun


Today’s heading comes from the book Sin and Syntax by Contance Hale. I use it as an example to launch today’s post.

Ms. Hale quotes  actress Jane Alexander “musing about her tenure as head of the National Endowments for the Art as she commits the Gaffe of the Shifting Pronoun. ‘I am sure there are always things one could have done differently,’ she conceded, ‘but I really think I did at least a couple of things right, mostly out of instinct.’ ”

Her error seems so real to me. So easy for any of us to commit. We can’t’ quite face up to the admittance that we could have done things better, but I can sure pat myself on the back with full credit for what I have done right. Double gaffe!

I confess I do it. I try not to, but willing to admit than I am less than perfect. Even for one who doesn’t think of himself as a perfectionist, it is difficult.

I listened to Joseph Campbell being interviewed by Bill Moyer’s about heroes in myth, Moyer’s asked Campbell if he thought of himself as a hero? Campbell responded with no, I think of myself as a maverick.

I would settle for that because in my favorite myths heroes are often mavericks. Perhaps our wanting to be heroes is what the shifting pronoun is all about.

4 thoughts on “The Gaffe of the Shifting Pronoun

  1. Marilyn Armstrong February 23, 2014 / 5:06 pm

    I think of that sort of thing as a typo. I don’t know about you, but I often don’t see stuff like that in things I’ve written. They are effectively invisible to my eyes. I see what is supposed to be there, not what IS there. It’s a problem. And not solvable as far as I can tell.

  2. sritchie28 February 24, 2014 / 8:30 am

    Is Ms. Alexander English? Perhaps her shifting from “I” to “one” more an example of cultural language rather than an error of shifting pronouns.

    • fictionfitz February 24, 2014 / 8:32 am

      Forgiving thought,

Comments are closed.