Me, myself and I
If you ever caught the estimable Patricia Routledge in an episode of Keeping Up Appearances, you saw a vivid demonstration of the terrible, terrible struggle of the middle class to appear genteel.
We see evidence of the strain in clothing (articles blazoned with a designer’s logo), architecture (scaled-down chateaux and neo-Victorians dotting treeless lots where once the corn grew high) and automobiles (the Land Rover for the trek across the veldt to the supermarket).
We also see it in language. We hear it when the t is pronounced in often, though speakers of English have been saying offen since Philip Sidney was a schoolboy. We hear it in the finicky hyperpronunciation of foreign names favored by announcers on classical music stations — Bach uttered as if the speaker had suffered a sudden onset of catarrh.
We see it particularly in anxiety over the first-person, singular pronouns.
Me is apparently to be avoided at all costs, presumably because of some association with the coveralled classes, or perhaps Tarzan. Thus between you and I from people who fail to grasp the finer points of the preposition and its objects.
But I, too, is risky, because there is some vestigial sense that it is not quite the thing to call too much attention to oneself. Thus the popularity of myself, which, being a disyllable, is a little grander and somehow circumspect: Then the wife and myself enjoyed a platter of cheese puffs at the cotillion.
The tension between continually putting oneself forward while wondering whether it would be better to hold back must be excruciating, what with the constant dread of being exposed as Not Quite Fitting In.
Best to keep things simple: I for subject, me for object, myself as a reflexive rather than a substitute for I or me. I myself wouldn’t presume to tell you how to talk; it’s not up to me. But then, I’m not a member of the club.