One of the more awkward kinds of language misuse I run across on a regular basis is the way people put the word “My” in places it shouldn’t ought to be. I first noticed this years ago when Microsoft started sticking “My” in front of the names of the assortment of prefab special folders that live in the file structure of its operating systems. It’s not that “My Computer”, “My Documents”, and such are especially troubling, but the presence of “My” in these phrases makes them awkward to discuss. I suspect this is why Microsoft has phased out this nomenclature in more recent operating systems.
An example of My-induced awkwardness would be when you’re trying to help someone with their computer over the phone and you ask them to double-click My Computer. The inexperienced computer user often will become confused, sputtering on about how they can’t click on my computer because I’m at the other end of the phone line and when am I going to start helping them with their computer? This is when I stifle a sigh and try to explain that I don’t mean my actual computer but that I need to ask them to look at their computer monitor and look for an icon labeled “My Computer” on their computer.
Even though Microsoft seems to be abandoning the “My” nomenclature, other companies — probably operating under the misguided notion that if it was good enough for Microsoft, it’s good enough for them — have taken up the banner and have been sticking “My” onto the fronts of perfectly innocent words, making real life conversations more confusing than they really need to be. For example, a couple of years ago at my job, they rolled out a new payroll system with an intranet site you can log into to verify your paycheck info. This site is called “My Resources.” When the system was first rolled out, I was working help desk and I cannot tell you how many dozens of phone calls I fielded that started out with the user saying, “I can’t get to my My Resources.” Even though users were describing the situation accurately, I cringed every time I heard “my My Resources.”
Here are some of my favorite current instances of the word “my” being abused:
What popular word tics make you crazy? Do you have some special instances you’d like to share? Leave a comment in my “My Comments” section of the site!