Used in grammar to refer to anyone who is not me or you. For example, he and she are third person singular pronouns; they is a third person plural.

You can also use it for describing the verb verbs; for example "is" is the third person form of "to be"; eats is the third person form of "to eat" ("to eat" is an example of an infinitive.

At least once a week, I can expect a call from relatives back home. Grandma is still as clingy as ever. She hasn't changed much from the neurotic, overbearing person I remember from my childhood. One of her quirks is to speak about herself in the third person when describing her experiences or thoughts.

on the phone:

  • "Grandma thinks about you all the time"
  • "Grandma went to the church fair this week"
and in person:
  • "Give grandma a hug!"
  • "Grandma is so glad to see you!"
Who else talks like this? Insecure grandmothers aren't be the only ones -

So why do they do it? Maybe they have different reasons. Speaking about yourself as a different person does a few things for the speaker. It sets them apart, like they're different from the two people talking or writing to each other. Kind of like creating some new separate entity that follows different rules, or speaking from behind a mask. I could see this helping the lawyers out, since they're paid for what they say and not necessarily defending or attacking a viewpoint personally. Maybe it gives them more freedom to make statements they wouldn't otherwise, considering they're just representing someone else.

As much as I dislike unreasonable search and seizure, I also feel bad for the airport security teams who have to follow new rules and do pat-downs for people who don't like full-body scanners. I can't imagine applying for the job as a career choice, dealing with impatient travelers for eight hours each day can't be pleasant. They're just doing a job handed down to them from an endless list of supervisors like most of us. Sure they want to keep the skies safe like all of us, but touching irritated strangers all day doesn't look like fun. So maybe here too, being able to speak about yourself in the third person gives them a bit of safety that any person would want.

Likewise, scientists are up against tough critics. Read the 'methods and materials' section of any peer-reviewed research article to see the detailed, rigorous descriptions of every centrifuge, pH sensor and reagent used in an experiment. Consider the tentatively worded statements Watson and Crick used in their groundbreaking paper that proposed a structure for DNA.

Publish or perish. Every paper is sustenance to keep a career and lab above water. At the same time, every paper is a risk if it's found to be poorly done or doesn't support a logical conclusion. Scientists toe the line between accepted and untested knowledge every time they submit an article. While the bulk of scientific literature muddles through indistinct conclusions that might read like a lab notebook, every paper is a door that can open to greater prestige (and funding) or a public relations hassle.

So does grandma have more in common with criminal defense lawyers, security agents or scientists than I'd imagined? Doesn't seem to fit.

What about our friends the aspies? Asperger's affects things like a person's concept of self, so maybe some far enough on the spectrum might actually think of themselves as a separate entity that they can talk about. As for Gollum, his personality changed radically after getting hooked on the Ring's power. He really did form a separate entity, in his transformation from Sméagol.

Grandma shows none of the traits of an Aspergian. She is otherwise friendly , socially engaged and I can't imagine her catching fish bare-handed. So what else could be keeping her from using personal pronouns?

And what about the English Royalty and that Senator from Kansas? They're both in charge of political decisions that affect many people, so they're certain to face at least some opposition. The mask theme holds true here too, but for a slightly different reason. While lawyers might not be defending their personal views, leaders generally act from their own values. So a mask might help to set them slightly aside from public opposition. Plus, anyone in the public spotlight does well to divide their 'public' and 'private' selves, even though very few achieve this.

I don't see grandma addressing any crowds. I've never heard her speak in front of a group. Keep guessing. I guess this is just another one of her little personal quirks that I won't understand, another mystery. Well, Croakery needs to go now, it's late and his computer is getting tired.

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