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help oneself Options
lazarius
Posted: Thursday, June 27, 2019 3:54:41 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 8/27/2016
Posts: 566
Neurons: 525,240
Location: Kotel’niki, Moskovskaya, Russia
https://www.thefreedictionary.com/help+oneself

Quote:
Verb
1. help oneself - abstain from doing; always used with a negative; "I can't help myself - I have to smoke"; "She could not help watching the sad spectacle"

Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2012 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.

WordNet 3.0 often gives wrong definitions. What about this?
The second example - She could not help watching the sad spectacle - doesn't pertain. It is not to help oneself but to help it.
The first is interesting - I can't help myself - I have to smoke.

My problem is that I can not find a relevant definition in the idioms dictionary:

https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/help+oneself

Quote:
1. Make an effort on one's own behalf. Shakespeare used this expression in 2 Henry IV (3:2): "She is old, and cannot help herself," and it also appears in the old proverb, God (or heaven) helps those who help themselves. [First half of 1500s] Also see can't help.
2. Serve oneself, as in The food's in the kitchen; just help yourself. When it takes an object this phrase is put as help oneself to, as in I helped myself to more meat. It also is used as a euphemism for stealing, as in She simply helped herself to the hotel towels and left. The first usage dates from the late 1600s; the second, a colloquialism, from the mid-1800s.

These idioms I know:

https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/can%27t+help
https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/can%27t+help+it

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thar
Posted: Thursday, June 27, 2019 4:50:55 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 7/8/2010
Posts: 20,874
Neurons: 84,482
It is only in the negative.

I can't help myself - when I start drinking I can't help but drink the whole bottle.

I can't stop myself from doing it.

Macmillan
Quote:
cannot/can’t help something

1 used for saying that someone cannot stop themselves doing something
She couldn’t help laughing when she saw it.
I shouldn’t have said it but I couldn’t help myself.


I can't find a listing directly for "can't help oneself" but it is in the same theme as "can't
help ding something".

It can be major (I can't help myself, I just have to drink. I am an alcoholic)

Or it can be minor
I can't help myself, every time he talks to me I start giggling.

It can even be sweet - not something you need to stop yourself doing
I can't help myself - every time I see a picture of a kitten I smile.


So it just indicates an involuntary action, something automatic that you don't control.

I can't help myself .... (I do it automatically, not by conscious decision)

Similarly
I can't help but....


It is not really linked in at all in meaning to the other idiom 'help yourself'
To help yourself is to take something rather than be given it or served it
Eg
Help yourself to tea or coffee. There is milk in the fridge.

But it also means to steal.
He helped himself to my wallet while I wasn't looking.
It can also negative with the same meaning. But it takes different prepositions to the other idiom.
Please don't help yourself to towels or soap - ask a member of staff and they will be happy to bring it to you.


Hence the humorous sign you might see in a small shop - see if you get this.
A play on the subjunctive:

God helps those who help themselves, but God help those who help themselves!



Back to your original question -
Have you ever heard the of song "I can't help falling in love with you"?
Made famous by Elvis Presley, but don't know if it was new at the time, or a cover. Lots of later versions as well.

https://youtu.be/S0caM97InOA

lazarius
Posted: Thursday, June 27, 2019 5:35:57 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 8/27/2016
Posts: 566
Neurons: 525,240
Location: Kotel’niki, Moskovskaya, Russia
thar wrote:
Back to your original question -
Have you ever heard the of song "I can't help falling in love with you"?

I remember the melody but probably it was when I only knew a few words in English. And it doesn't have anything to do with my question - there's no help oneself there. :)

Though the phrases are quite illogical I feel comfortable with can't help it, can't help but and can't help doing. It's can't help oneself that was new to me. Now that you said it is fine, I feel comfortable with it as well.

thar wrote:
So it just indicates an involuntary action, something automatic that you don't control.

I can't help myself .... (I do it automatically, not by conscious decision)

Thank you.

thar wrote:
Hence the humorous sign you might see in a small shop - see if you get this.
A play on the subjunctive:

God helps those who help themselves, but God help those who help themselves!

Yes I got it.

Thank you very much!

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Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Thursday, June 27, 2019 3:13:44 PM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 9/12/2011
Posts: 33,174
Neurons: 208,218
Location: Livingston, Scotland, United Kingdom
Just as a note, I'm much more familiar with "can't help it" and "can't help doing" than "can't help myself".

I would never say "I can't help myself; I laugh whenever I see him."
I'd say "I can't help it; I laugh whenever I see him."
"I can't help laughing whenever I see him."


lazarius
Posted: Thursday, June 27, 2019 3:23:19 PM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 8/27/2016
Posts: 566
Neurons: 525,240
Location: Kotel’niki, Moskovskaya, Russia
Drag0nspeaker wrote:
I would never say "I can't help myself; I laugh whenever I see him."
I'd say "I can't help it; I laugh whenever I see him."
"I can't help laughing whenever I see him."


Thank you.

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