or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Very British, That

Of all the things to love about the Internet, one of the most lovable is the extraordinary profusion of video that you wouldn't ordinarily ever see, or even hear of. Yesterday we stumbled on a British TV program called Brainiac: Science Abuse, which is rather like Mythbusters cross-pollinated with Viz magazine. (We saw Episode 3 of Season 4: a lot of things were blown up, including a car which had a rocket launched at it by a rather obvious Sharon Stone impersonator.)

One of the many fast-paced segments was a bit called "I Can Do Science, Me", in which some viewer asks a science question and the show gives them the equipment they need to conduct the experiment (and a snarky Brainiac staffer who makes fun of them the whole time). I love the title of the segment: I've always been charmed by this unexpected use of the pronoun as an intensifier.

We do use pronouns as intensifiers in English, after the French model, which will use the pronoun at the beginning of the clause. Ordinarily, we simply stress the pronoun: "He doesn't know anything." But sometimes, as in French, we'll double up on the pronouns, the first in the objective case and the second in the subjective. French, which doesn't place much stress on words and syllables as English does, tends to use this technique: "Moi, je l'aime" means, and is exactly the same as, "Me, I like it". (We're in the habit of stressing something, and it's hard to break the habit, so, even when we're using two pronouns, we usually put a little spin on the first pronoun; a double intensifier.)

I should note that there are a couple of sentence-ending intensive pronouns in standard North American English. We can use a reflexive pronoun that ends in "-self" or "-selves", as in "I did it myself", or we can use the demonstrative pronoun "that", as in "Pretty good, that." However, a North American could say "Me, I like it" but never "I like it, me". Putting the objective personal pronoun at the end as an intensifier seems to me very British, and delightful.


Post a Comment

<< Home