Buck's English: Can a person really leave himself?

Gene Owens discusses a poorly placed reflexive pronoun and its likely meaning.
BY GENE OWENS, For The Oklahoman Published: January 19, 2014
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Dick Hefton, of Oklahoma City, brought to the greasepit at Curly's Soonerco a wire service article about the impending switch of Coach Charlie Strong from the University of Louisville to the University of Texas. The article read:

“Given the frantic timeline, Strong probably won't have time to tell his Louisville players he's leaving himself.”

“Can he leave himself?” Dick asked. He proposed a period after “leaving” and striking the word “himself.”

In this context, “himself” is a reflexive pronoun, which means that it refers to the subject of the sentence or clause. It may be redundant, but if it's properly placed it's not bad grammar.

In this case, it's poorly placed. Coming directly after the verb “leaving,” it could be construed as the object of the verb. Buck thinks most readers will understand that the coach is not departing from himself, but the sentence is nevertheless ambiguous. Does the writer mean that Strong won't be able to break the news to his players in person? Or is someone else leaving, and the “himself” is added to make clear that Strong is also leaving?



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