By English Student


2017-04-24 23:51:35 8 Comments

When a member posted a grammatically correct question today for scrutiny, I replied in 'comments,'

No mistake, but only bemused grammarians and humble myself!

Now I wonder: is "humble myself" a grammatically or idiomatically sound way to refer to oneself in an expression of personal modesty? My father says it all the time, as in

"the only Ph.D holder in this august audience is humble myself."

I could not find this expression on google search, which is dominated by the religious verb "to humble oneself/yourself/myself (before the Lord)" -- that is why I am asking this question here.

Two kind senior members replied in the same comments section:

@EnglishStudent: to me, "my humble self" sounds more natural. But in "the only Ph.D holder in this august audience is humble myself/my humble self" it looks like false modesty. – sumelic

@English Student: I've read "my humble self" in British literature, but it sounds very old-fashioned. I've never heard "humble myself" in the way you are using it (native speaker of US English here, mainly BosWash corridor) -- but I would not be confused if I heard it. – ab2

My father says it is an old-fashioned courtly British way of referring to oneself, whether with real or false modesty (and in the case of the Ph.D, some real sarcasm, because none of the other so-called luminaries at a particular conference had a doctorate, except for "humble himself!") -- he learnt his English in newly post-independent India, mainly by reading his medical textbooks and British literature.

It may well have become an archaic expression.

What I want to know is whether you experts at EL & U have heard it before, and can say if it is idiomatically sound?

1 comments

@ab2 2017-04-25 00:14:16

Your father probably has a charming way with words, and although "humble myself" as he uses it is idiosyncratic, not idiomatic, he has not stretched English to its elastic limit -- to use the term from your bio. He should continue using this phrase, because it pleases him and no doubt his listeners.

idiosyncratic, from Dictionary.com:

pertaining to the nature of idiosyncrasy, or something peculiar to an individual: The best minds are idiosyncratic and unpredictable as they follow the course of scientific discovery

@English Student 2017-04-25 00:23:02

Thank you for the thoughtful and well-considered answer!

@English Student 2017-04-25 00:33:48

It now seems to me that my father individually or Indian teachers/ writers/ orators in general might have re-interpreted my humble self as humble myself. It is indeed a charming expression in speech and (to me) pleasing when I write it in a comment, as in "no mistake, but only bemused grammarians and humble myself", which now reminds me of "...and there you shall find ten bodies and an unsolved mystery," from the final line of Dame Agatha's all time bestseller "And Then There Were None" -- Oh, how we do love our pet words and phrases!

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