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Illeism // (from Latin ille meaning "he, that") is the act of referring to oneself in the third person instead of first person. It is sometimes used in literature as a stylistic device. In real-life usage, illeism can reflect a number of different stylistic intentions or involuntary circumstances.
Early literature such as Julius Caesar's Commentarii de Bello Gallico or Xenophon's Anabasis, both ostensibly non-fictional accounts of wars led by their authors, used illeism to impart an air of objective impartiality, which included justifications of the author's actions. In this way personal bias is presented, albeit dishonestly, as objectivity.
Illeism can also be used in literature to provide a twist, wherein the identity of the narrator as the main character is hidden from the reader until later in the story (e.g. one Arsène Lupin story where the narrator is Arsène Lupin but hides his own identity); the use of third person implies external observation. A similar use is when the author injects himself into his own third person narrative story as a character, such as Charlie Kaufman in Adaptation, Douglas Coupland in JPod, and Clive Cussler's novels, beginning with Dragon.
It can also be used as a device to illustrate the feeling of "being outside one's body and watching things happen", a psychological disconnect resulting from dissonance either from trauma such as childhood physical or sexual abuse, or from past outbursts that cannot be reconciled with the individual's own self-image. The same kind of objective distance can be employed for other purposes. Theologian Richard B. Hays writes an essay where he challenges earlier findings that he disagrees with: "These were the findings of one Richard B. Hays, and the newer essay treats the earlier work and earlier author at arms' length."
A common device in science fiction is for robots, computers, and other artificial life to refer to themselves in the third person, e.g. "This unit is malfunctioning" or "Number Five is alive" (said by Johnny Five in Short Circuit), to suggest that these creatures are not truly self-aware, or that they separate their consciousness from their physical form.
Illeism may also be used to show idiocy, as with the character Mongo in Blazing Saddles, e.g. "Mongo like candy" and "Mongo only pawn in game of life"; though it may also show innocent simplicity, as it does with Harry Potter's Dobby the Elf ("Dobby has come to protect, even if he does have to shut his ears in the oven door").
In everyday speechEdit
Illeism in everyday speech can have a variety of intentions depending on context. One common usage is to impart humility, a common practice in feudal societies and other societies where honorifics are important to observe ("Your servant awaits your orders"), as well as in Master–Slave relationships ("This slave needs to be punished"). Recruits in the military, mostly United States Marine Corps recruits, are also often made to refer to themselves in the third person, such as "this recruit", in order to reduce the sense of individuality and enforce the idea of the group being more important than the self. The use of illeism in this context imparts a sense of lack of self, implying a diminished importance of the speaker in relation to the addressee or to a larger whole.
Conversely, in different contexts, illeism can be used to reinforce self-promotion, as used to sometimes comic effect by Bob Dole throughout his political career ("When the president is ready to deploy, Bob Dole is ready to lead the fight on the Senate Floor", Bob Dole speaking about the Strategic Defense Initiative at the NCPAC convention, 1987). This was particularly made notable during the United States presidential election of 1996 and lampooned broadly in popular media for years afterwards. Deepanjana Pal of Firstpost noted that speaking in the third person "is a classic technique used by generations of Bollywood scriptwriters to establish a character's aristocracy, power and gravitas".
On the other hand, third person self-referral can be associated with self-irony and not taking oneself too seriously (since the excessive use of pronoun "I" is often seen as a sign of narcissism and egocentrism), as well as with eccentricity in general. Psychological studies show that thinking and speaking of oneself in the third person increases wisdom and has a positive effect on one's mental state because an individual who does so is more intellectually humble, more capable of empathy and understanding the perspectives of others, and is able to distance emotionally from one's own problems. Accordingly, in certain Eastern religions, like Hinduism, illeism is sometimes seen as a sign of enlightenment, since through it, an individual detaches their eternal self (atman) from their bodily form; in particular, Jnana yoga encourages its practitioners to refer to themselves in the third person. Known illeists of that sort include Swami Ramdas, Ma Yoga Laxmi, Anandamayi Ma, and Mata Amritanandamayi.
Some parents use illeism (refer to themselves as "Daddy" or "Mommy") because very young children may not yet understand that the pronouns "I" and "you" refer to different people based on context.
Young children in Japan commonly refer to themselves by their own name. This is due to the Japanese way of speaking, in which referring to another in the third person is considered more polite than using any of the Japanese words for "you". As a Japanese child grows older they normally switch to using first person references. Japanese idols also may refer to themselves in the third person so to give off the feeling of childlike cuteness.
- Julius Caesar's Commentarii de Bello Gallico (58–49 BC) present the author's exploits in the Gallic War in the third person.
- Henry Adams (1838-1918), historian, author and descendant of presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams, throughout his autobiography The Education of Henry Adams (1918)
- General Douglas MacArthur (1880–1964) was known to refer to himself as "MacArthur" in telling stories involving himself
- Charles de Gaulle (1890–1970), president of France
- Richard Nixon (1913–94)
- Bob Dole (born 1923), during his United States presidential campaign in 1996
- Mikhail Gorbachev (born 1931), Russian politician, President of USSR
- Paulo Maluf (born 1931), Brazilian politician
- Bernie Sanders (born 1941) used third person in his presidential campaign in 2016.
- Donald Trump (born 1946) used the third person repeatedly during his presidency.
- Silvio Berlusconi (born 1936), Italian politician, Prime minister (1994-1995; 2001-2006; 2008-2011)
- Herman Cain (1945–2020), during his United States presidential campaign in 2012
- Narendra Modi (born 1950), Prime Minister of India
- Anthony Garotinho (born 1960), Brazilian politician
- Roy Kwong Chun-yu (born 1983), District Councilor and legislator of Hong Kong
- Chen Shui-bian, former President of the Republic of China (Taiwan)
- After pitching Game 5 of the ALDS, Johnny Cueto (b. 1986) gave a post game interview in the third person.
- Gregg Easterbrook, sports journalist, refers to himself as "TMQ" or "your columnist" in his weekly Tuesday Morning Quarterback columns.
- Zlatan Ibrahimović
- LeBron James made several references to himself in the third person during The Decision program on ESPN in 2010.
- Rickey Henderson (b. 1958), baseball left fielder, occasionally referred to himself as "Rickey".
- Karl Malone (b. 1963), basketball player
- Diego Maradona (1960–2020), Argentinian footballer
- Lothar Matthäus (b. 1961), German football manager and former player, is quoted with the phrase: "A Lothar Matthäus does not let himself be beaten by his body. A Lothar Matthäus decides on his fate himself."
- Cam Newton (b. 1989), NFL quarterback, referred to himself in third person during his press conference at the NFL Combine in 2011.
- Pelé (b. 1940), Brazilian footballer
- Billy Davies (b. 1964), Scottish footballer and manager
- Alice Cooper
- Flavor Flav
- Dwayne Johnson referenced himself in the third person as The Rock during his pro wrestling career, particularly with the catchphrases "The Rock says" and "Do you smell what The Rock is cookin'?" and uses third person pronouns to refer to himself.
- Gina Lollobrigida
- Hedy Lamarr
- Jean Harlow
- Deanna Durbin
- Marilyn Monroe
- Lila Morillo
- Mister Lobo
- Mr. T
- MF Doom
- Noel Edmonds 
Religion and spiritualityEdit
- Anandamayi Ma
- Mata Amritanandamayi
- Swami Ramdas
- Rama Tirtha
- Ma Yoga Laxmi, the secretary of Osho
- Jesus Christ is found referring to Himself as "Jesus" (as well as the "Son of Man"), as in John 17:1–3.
- Salvador Dalí in his interview with Mike Wallace, also known as The Mike Wallace Interview, on April 19, 1958.
- Norman Mailer's non-fiction work, The Fight (1975), refers to the author in the third person throughout The Fight, explaining why he has chosen to do so at the beginning of the book.
- David Gries often refers to himself as "gries" when lecturing at Cornell University or interacting with students on Piazza.
- Judith Martin in her etiquette newspaper column "Miss Manners."
- Major Bagstock, the apoplectic retired Indian army officer from Charles Dickens' Dombey and Son (1848) refers to himself solely as Joseph, Old Joe, Joey B, Bagstock, Josh, J.B., Anthony Bagstock, and other variants of his own name.
- Captain Hook in J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan and Wendy (1911): "'Better for Hook,' he cried, 'if he had had less ambition!' It was in his darkest hours only that he referred to himself in the third person."[This quote needs a citation]
- Winnetou, a Native American character in the eponymous novel by Karl May.
- Hercule Poirot, a fictional Belgian detective created by British writer Agatha Christie, usually refers to himself in the third person.
- Gollum from The Lord of the Rings (1954–5) spoke in an idiosyncratic manner, often referring to himself in the third person, and frequently talked to himself—"through having no one else to speak to", as Tolkien put it in The Hobbit.
- Charlie from the acclaimed novel Flowers for Algernon (1959) speaks in third person in the "being outside one's body and watching things happen" manner in his flashbacks to his abusive and troubled childhood suffering from phenylketonuria.
- Boday, a quirky female artist from Jack Chalker's Changewinds trilogy (1987–8).
- Y. T., a teenage girl from Snow Crash (1992) by Neal Stephenson.
- Bast the Wood Elf from The Council Wars series by John Ringo.
- The healer and wisewoman Magda Digby from the Owen Archer series (1993–2019) by Candace Robb.
- Jaqen H'ghar, an assassin of the Faceless Men in the fantasy suite A Song of Ice and Fire (1996–), consistently refers to himself ("a man") and sometimes the person he is addressing (i.e. "a girl") in third person.
- Dobby the Elf in the Harry Potter series (1997–2007).
- Ramona, the housekeeper and mentor in Silver Ravenwolf's Witches Chillers series (2000–1).
- The old man Nakata from Haruki Murakami's Kafka on the Shore (2002).
- Marvel Comics
- Doctor Doom is known for more often than not referring to himself as "Doom" instead of "me" or "I".
- The Hulk uses illeism while saying his iconic "Hulk smash!" or variations thereof.
- Mantis almost always refers to herself as "Mantis", "she", and "this one"; this has to do with her upbringing at the Temple of the Priests of Pama, an alien pacifistic sect heavily inspired by real-life Eastern religious movements.
- The cook Birdie from The Great Gildersleeve (1941–1958)
- Elmo from Sesame Street (1969–present), whose speech is intended to mimic the speech of preschoolers.
- Brian "Bomber" Busbridge, played by Pat Roach, in Auf Wiedersehen, Pet (1983–2004)
- Hercule Poirot, in the contemporary television adaptation Agatha Christie's Poirot (1989–2013)
- Jimmy from the episode "The Jimmy" (1995) of Seinfeld (1989–98), whose usage leads to confusion about his identity. The usage rubs off on George Costanza, who exclaims "George is getting upset!"
- Zathras, a recurring alien character in the science fiction TV series Babylon 5 (1993–8)
- Oraetta Mayflower, a nurse who appears in the fourth season of Fargo.
- Joey Tribbiani, a character in the NBC sitcom Friends (1994–2004), refers to himself in third person in an episode.
- Bob, played by Saverio Guerra, in Becker (1998–2004)
- Stick-up man Omar Little from The Wire (2002–8). Examples include "Omar don't scare" and "Omar listening".
- Eddie Alvarez from The Unusuals (2009)
- In the iCarly episode "iRocked the Vote" (2009), singer Wade Collins exhibits arrogant and egotistical behavior frequently, including announcing "Wade Collins is leaving!".
- Kenny Powers, from the television show Eastbound & Down (2009–13)
- George Remus, a recurring character played by Glenn Fleshler, in Boardwalk Empire (2010–2014)
- The Great and Powerful Trixie from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (2010–9) and My Little Pony: Equestria Girls (2013–9)
- Lavon Hayes, the mayor from Hart of Dixie (2011–5).
- Terry from Brooklyn Nine-Nine (2013–present) often refers to himself, for example "Terry loves yogurt".
- Rhonda Lee, played by Leslie Easterbrook on "Laverne & Shirley" referred to herself in the third person many times.
- Ice Bear, from the show We Bare Bears (2015-2020) refers to himself in the third person many times. Ice Bear picked up this habit from Yuri, another character in the show.
- Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid (1984) sometimes refers to himself as "Miyagi".
- Magua from The Last of the Mohicans (1992)
- Dwight, from Fast & Furious (2009)
- Francesco Bernoulli, from Cars 2 (2011)
Manga and animeEdit
- Sayuri Kurata from Kanon (1999–2000) speaks this way in order to separate herself from her past treatment of her little brother, which she regrets.
- Megumi Noda, aka Nodame, the title character from Nodame Cantabile (2001–9)
- Rika Shiguma from Haganai (2010–2015)
- PallaPalla, from Sailor Moon
- Sesshomaru, from InuYasha
- Hana-chan, from Ojamajo Doremi, refers to herself in the third person, even saying "chan" along with her name.
- Candice from Pokémon. This is actually a translation error, as referring to oneself by name instead of pronoun is seen as "feminine" in the Japanese language, and is fairly common.
- Ed from Cowboy Bebop.
- Shiro from Deadman Wonderland
- Subaru Kujo, a gender-ambiguous character from Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love
- Alien Guts, from Ultra Seven
- Yuiko Hawatari from Loveless, until she is taught to use the first person.
- Misa Amane from Death Note occasionally calls herself "Misa-Misa".
- Chamo from Rokka no Yuusha. this is probably due to the fact that she is still young
- Mayuri Shiina from Steins;Gate sometimes refers to herself as "Mayushii".
- Rena Ryuguu from Higurashi When They Cry, partly to stop people from using her real name (Reina).
- Juvia Lockser from Fairy Tail (speaks in first person in the English dub)
- Azusa Shiratori from Ranma ½ does this as a way to reinforce a "cute" stereotype
- In Cartoon Network's Chowder, Chestnut refers to himself in person while naming everyday objects as other things.
- Ice Bear, one of three protagonists of We Bare Bears (2015–2019), speaks in third person, referring to himself with his own name.
- Tad Strange, in Gravity Falls (2012–2016), refers to himself in the third person in "Weirdmageddon 3: Take Back the Falls".
- Duffman, Gil, Groundskeeper Willie and Disco Stu from The Simpsons
- Scruffy the janitor in Futurama
- Foxxy Love of the animated series Drawn Together frequently refers to herself in the third person.
- George of George of the Jungle refers to himself in the third person due to his poor knowledge of English.
- Rolf from Ed, Edd n Eddy, perhaps due to a lack of English knowledge.
- Numbuh Five from Codename: Kids Next Door, an American animated children's cartoon, refers to herself in the third person on multiple occasions.
- Dracula from The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy always refers to himself in the third person.
- Zeg, a character from Blaze and the Monster Machines
- Hesh, a character from Sealab 2021
- Harm, a villain in Young Justice, uses his name to refer to himself, and uses neuter pronouns "it" and "they" to refer to others.
- Cerebus the Aardvark
- The Flea from Mucha Lucha.
- I.R. Baboon, from I Am Weasel
- Grimlock in the various incarnations of Transformers often uses "Me Grimlock" as a substitute for "I".
- Rath, a transformation of Ben Tennyson from the Ben 10: Alien Force and Ben 10: Ultimate Alien series often refers to himself in the third person, but not all the time.
- Jocktopus, from the children's television series, Fish Hooks
- Waspinator, from Beast Wars, always refers to himself in the third person.
- Aku, the main villain of Cartoon Network's Samurai Jack animated series by Genndy Tartakovsky, frequently referred to himself in the third person.
- Robotboy refers to himself in the third person.
- Atchan from Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi consistently refers to himself in the third person.
- Coldygury from Noonbory and the Super Seven
- Alfe from The Problem Solverz
- The Boulder, an earthbender in Avatar: The Last Airbender
- Stitch, the main protagonist in Disney's Lilo & Stitch franchise, often refers to himself in the third person when speaking English. However, in his original film, he only referred to himself in the third-person twice in the same scene.
- Lightning in Total Drama
- Lily Loud in Season 5 of The Loud House.
- Richard B. Hays, “‘Here We Have No Lasting City’: New Covenantalism in Hebrews” in Richard J. Bauckham et al. (eds.), The Epistle to the Hebrews and Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009), 151–173, esp. 151–152, 167.
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There's big boasts, lashings of ego and plenty of third person references ahoy
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They actually have a word for what Rickey Henderson is: illeist.
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Maybe Malone didn't even know he was the one who was saying those things, because he tended to talk about himself as another being, in third person. Or maybe he was just schizophrenic, whatever.
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Miyagi is a trickier case: at first it looks like Avildsen overplays the man's exoticness (cue that pan flute!), enforced by Kamen's questionable emphasis on the character's me-no-likey phonetic third-person English. ("Miyagi this, Miyagi that...")
- "Quotes for Magua (Character)". IMDB. 2014-08-01.
When the Grey Hair is dead, Magua will eat his heart. Before he dies, Magua will put his children under the knife, so the Grey Hair will know his seed is wiped out forever.
- "Fast & Furious (2009) - Quotes". IMDB. 2020-06-04.
Papa Dwight wants you to take off your shoes! Dwight loves feet!.
- "Cars 2 – An interview with director John Lasseter". Sound and Picture Online. 2011-06-20.
He’s not just any formula car. He’s the star from Italy, Francesco Bernoulli. He is so full of himself—he’s an open-wheel car and in the car world, an open-wheel car is like those guys who barely button their shirts. He talks about himself in the third person. Voicing Francesco Bernoulli is John Turturro and he hit it out of the park. It’s one of the most entertaining characters we’ve ever created.
- "A Cracked Concerto". Kanon (2006-2007). Episode 14.
|url=(help) – details back story of Sayuri Kurata from Kanon
- Bowers, J. (2007-09-27). "Nodame Cantabile, Vols. 6-10 (Del Rey)". playbackstl.com. Archived from the original on 2012-05-17. Retrieved 2012-12-19.
- Moody, Allen (2013-11-05). "Haganai – Review". THEM Anime Reviews.
Like Tim, I didn't like most of the other characters, especially Rika, whose tics (speaking of herself in the third person, and imagining sexual situations in the damnedest places- for example, in mecha manga) kept making me shout "Make it STOP!!!!"