Third-person Flavor

What compels people to speak of themselves in the third person? The Editor’s Blog would like to know.

A rarity in everyday conversation, third-person references pop up in news stories often enough that a fellow copy editor and I used to collect them for our amusement. Athletes, politicians and entertainers made up the bulk of our list; “normal” people rarely did. The third-person quotes came in two tones: self-aggrandizing or self-pitying — and sometimes both.

A profile of Flavor Flav in the latest Entertainment Weekly has six third-person references from its subject. Flav, whose real name is William Drayton Jr., is the former Public Enemy rapper turned star of reality TV. Flav embodies the phenomenon, representing all third-person speakers out there. Here are the quotes:

  • On his resurgence: “Your man Flavor Flav is living! I’m sitting here doing an interview at the world-famous Ivy restaurant, with a piece of lemon inside my water. Can’t nothing be better than that.”
  • On his down-and-out days: “What happened to Flav during that time? I stayed home being a father. I got on drugs more. I got more stressed out. I kept getting arrested for driving with no license. And my personal appearance was not looking too cool.”
  • On his new hobby, bowling:Watch out, y’all! Flavor Flav’s first bowl of the day, right here! What’s it gonna be?”
  • On making TV history: “The best thing that happened to Flavor Flav on [Surreal Life] was getting smacked in the face by Brigitte Nielsen and then Flavor Flav smacking the s— out of Brigitte. That’s what opened up the doors for Flavor Flav on national TV. It was a very historical moment.”
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One thought on “Third-person Flavor

  1. I am glad to see you are addressing this important issue! Here is another timely example, in fact from today’s New York Times:

    “I told Lamont, don’t listen to the right wing saying you can’t win with Sharpton and Jesse Jackson by your side, because you already did win with Sharpton and Jackson with you,” [The Rev. Al] Sharpton said.

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