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The third-person-in-chief: How Trump talks about himself

For years, President Trump has returned to an oft-used rhetorical habit in his speeches and interviews: Referring to himself in the third person. (Video: JM Rieger/The Washington Post, Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
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President Trump kicked off his Thursday rally in New Hampshire by returning to an oft-used rhetorical quirk.

“Remember what happened during the [2016 New Hampshire primary]?” Trump said. “Trump should come in third or fourth, and we came in easily at number one.”

Of Trump’s many rhetorical habits, perhaps none is more bizarre than his tendency to refer to himself in the third person when discussing seemingly anything. You can watch him do this again and again in the video above.

On Russia: “Nobody’s been tougher on Russia then Donald Trump.”

On passing gun legislation: “There’s never been a president like President Trump.”

On television ratings for “The Apprentice”: “Congratulations Donald!”

Officially defined as an illeism, it dates to ancient times. In the 1st century B.C., Julius Caesar wrote about the Gallic Wars in the third person. It has been used by politicians including Bernie Sanders, Barack Obama and Bob Dole (a 1996 Los Angeles Times column asked Dole what he had against the pronouns “I and me”).

Athletes including Bo Jackson, LeBron James and Floyd Mayweather Jr. have used it, as has “Sesame Street” character Elmo. Toddlers may refer to themselves in the third person before they learn pronouns. “Seinfeld” centered an entire episode on a man who only refers to himself in the third person.

Even Microsoft founder Bill Gates and author J.K. Rowling have poked fun at Trump’s reliance on the third person.

On the campaign trail, Trump often referred to himself in the third person to compare himself to his opponents. As president, Trump often refers to himself in the third person to deflect criticism. And years earlier, he bragged about himself to reporters while acting as a publicist for himself.

During Trump’s first month of tweeting in 2009, 17 of his first 21 tweets referred to himself in the third person. Trump has also congratulated himself and given himself advice at rallies in the third person.

“Stay on point, Donald, stay on point. No sidetracks Donald, nice and easy,” Trump said in November 2016, kicking off a Florida rally six days before the election. “Because I’ve been watching Hillary [Clinton] the last few days — she’s totally unhinged. We don’t want any of that.”