Why do some people refer to themselves in the third person?

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump quite often refers to himself as “Trump” – instead of using the words “I” or “me”. It’s an eccentric habit that delights his critics, though he’s just the latest in a long line of politicians to talk this way. What does it say about him?

“Nobody would be tougher on Isis than Donald Trump,” the billionaire property mogul said when he announced his 2016 presidential bid.

“You wouldn’t even be hearing about immigration if it weren’t for Donald Trump,” he told NBC, claiming that other presidential contenders would not have been bold enough to mention the subject if he had not led the way.

“Trump was able to get something. I don’t know what the hell it was, but it doesn’t matter. Because I’m off that subject,” he said in an interview with CNN last month, referring to President Obama’s decision to release his birth certificate in 2011. (Trump and other “birthers” had voiced doubts that Obama was born in the US – a precondition for becoming president.)

It’s not a new habit. In 2009, Trump said that year’s Miss Universe finalists were more beautiful than in previous years, adding: “In the old days, you got what you got. Now, Trump picks them. It makes a big difference.”

In fact, he’s so renowned for using the third person that collections of Trump quotations often quote him as saying: “Love him or hate him, Trump is a man who is certain about what he wants and sets out to get it, no holds barred. Women find his power almost as much of a turn-on as his money.” In reality though, these are not his words, but words used by the author Marian Salzman when she listed him in 2005 as a top 10 “ubersexual”.

Trump’s critics mock him mercilessly for this habit.

“Weird the @realDonaldTrump refers to himself in the third person. Not just voters who see him as an out of body experience. #DonaldTrump,” says @SandraEckersley.

“How adorable that Donald Trump continues to refer to himself in the third person. Kinda like Kanye West. And Gollum,” says @ChandiB, in a reference to a sinister creature in JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit.

Business Insider’s Nicholas Carlson drew attention in 2012 to a tweet in which Trump wrote “congratulations Donald!” as he celebrated the success of the Apprentice – a reality TV show in which he sets contestants competing for a job in his company a range of challenges.


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