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Friday, July 17, 2009
A very third-personal column

GARY GADDY is going to miss Roland Burris.  In case you missed it, Roland Burris is the Illinois politician who took Barack Obama’s senate seat after being appointed by another Illinois politician we all will miss: former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich.  In the past week Roland Burris said that Roland Burris will not seek election when his appointed term expires.

But rather than using this as an occasion to mourn, it something to be celebrated -- with National Week of the Third Person.

Get to know illeism

Roland Burris has often talked about himself in the third person, saying "Roland Burris" thinks this and "Roland Burris" will do that.  Some people find that egotistical.  Gary Gaddy does not.  If nothing else, Roland Burris’ work has helped expand all our vocabularies.

  • lleism: Reference to oneself in the third person, usually to excess. (This definition is taken from the Logophilius blog. You gotta love words to appreciate Logophilius.  Frankly, it’s Greek to me.)

One famous illeist was Richard Milhous Nixon.  The classic example of a Nixonian illeism ("You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore.") was made on the morning of November 7, 1962 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles as Nixon gave what he called his "last press conference."  Unfortunately for us all, the press did have Nixon to kick around anymore.  This was not his last press conference.

But, let us not forget Roland Burris, if for no other reason than Roland Burris wouldn’t want us to.  Roland Burris is not just a person who speaks of himself in the third person.  He is much more than that.

According to Deanna Bellandi and John O'Connor of the Associated Press, in 1984, when Roland Burris ran unsuccessfully for the Senate, he once mused, "Illinois is the Land of Lincoln. Maybe someday it will be the Land of Burris."  He named his children Roland II and Rolanda.

"In addition to constructing a big mausoleum, he etched it with practically his entire resume, recording, among other things, that he was the first black Southern Illinois University exchange student to the University of Hamburg in Germany," said Bellandi and O’Connor.  And this is a notable accomplishment that II venture will never be duplicated by any person black, white or any other color.

“This is Rickey.  Calling on behalf of Rickey.”

But enough of Roland Burris.  Could it be a coincidence that Roland Burris was seated in the United States Senate during the same week that Rickey Henderson got voted into the Hall of Fame?

According to Wikipedia, baseball player Rickey Henderson was famous as an illeist.  Teammates reported seeing him standing naked in front of a mirror before a game, practicing his swing, and declaring, "Rickey's the best! Rickey's the best!"

It is also reported that during one off-season, Henderson left this message for Padres general manager Kevin Towers: "Kevin, this is Rickey. Calling on behalf of Rickey.  Rickey wants to play baseball."  This is, unequivocally, illeism at its highest.

Again, according to Wikipedia, in 2003, Rickey discussed his illeistic tendencies, saying, "People are always saying, 'Rickey says Rickey.' But it's been blown way out of proportion. I say it when I don't do what I need to be doing. I use it to remind myself, like,`Rickey, what you doing, you stupid . . . .'  I'm just scolding myself."

A sports reporter once asked Rickey if Rickey talked to himself, “You know, I never answer myself so how can I be talking to myself?”  And as to the degree of his illeiacal proneness, Rickey does use the first person, as when he defended his position during a contract dispute: "All I'm asking for is what I want."

But we should be careful of the facts on Rickey Henderson.  It is quite possible that the Wikipedia entry on Rickey Henderson was written by Rickey Henderson on behalf of Rickey Henderson.

Happy Illeism Week!

Gary D. Gaddy would like to thank Gary D. Gaddy for his assistance on this column which helped to win the National Society for the Advancement of Illeism’s Blog of the Decade.

A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald Thursday July 17, 2009.

Copyright   2009  Gary D. Gaddy


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 7:14 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, July 9, 2011 7:17 AM EDT
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