Wednesday Word: (Gonna Write Me One)

There’s isn’t a Wednesday WORD this week. It’s actually a whole grammar feature which shows up in Appalachian English (okay, some of us use it, too). Linguists call it the Personal Dative.

When we hear the form, it immediately gives a sense of backwoods mountain dialect. How do these sound? (the highlighted pronouns are the personal datives):

  • I’m gonna get me an ice cream cone.
  • She’s got her a new boyfriend.
  • I sure would love me a big juicy steak.

Doesn’t sound like the evening news, does it? For Standard English, if we express a sense like this, we uses us one of them reflexive pronouns. Oops. I lost my Standard English there for a minute. Sorry. But yes, we use the reflexive (note the difference in position and meaning in the last one):

  • I’m gonna get myself an ice cream cone.
  • She’s got herself a new boyfriend.
  • I sure would love, a big juicy steak, myself.

The Palawano language does something like this, too, but it’s not a nonstandard, backwoods dialect. It’s standard grammar. The meaning is not exactly the same as the mountain English above, so I never associated the two in my mind. But reading a short piece about personal datives got me thinking about it. Here are some rather literal translations of the Palawano possibilities…

  • My heads hurts to-me.
  • I will buy a cow to-me.

Neither of these has a reflexive meaning. The speaker isn’t hurting his own head or buying himself a cow. The meaning is more “as for me” (i.e. something true of the speaker in contrast to others.) My head hurts, yours doesn’t.

Here’s another one…

  • I’m going home to-me.

This isn’t saying that the speaker is their own destination. Again, it’s contrastive: “as for me here, I’m going home.”

None of these have a reflexive meaning. But just imagine how it was trying to figure out the meaning of these sentences with an extra pronoun thrown in, back when I was trying to learn this language and no native speaker could explain it!

Well, the Wednesday Word isn’t usually quite so technical. I hope it was interesting, anyway.

It’s late now here in this time zone. So I think I’m gonna get me to bed.



Thanks to the Yale Grammatical Diversity Project for reminding me of this grammar feature.


About Bill Davis

Writer, speaker and translation and language learning consultant. I write technical articles, poetry and humor, and I am working on my first novel which is set on the island of Palawan in the Philippines.
This entry was posted in Wednesday Word and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Wednesday Word: (Gonna Write Me One)

  1. jimwood8 says:

    In Icelandic, people can say:

    Ég fór heim til mín.
    I went home to me/myself
    ‘I went home’ (perhaps ‘to my home’)

    Hann fór heim til sín.
    he went home to himself
    ‘He went home’ (perhaps ‘to his home’)

  2. I recently saw a commercial depicting a cowboy using the “love me” phrasing like the example above, and it didn’t ring true to my ear. “Love to have me” would have worked, but “love me” is a more passive voice — almost a different meaning of “love” — and I don’t feel it would actually be used. Maybe it’s a mix of dialects that wouldn’t normally be used together. I wonder whether I’m mistaken on that.

    — Ken

  3. Bill Davis says:

    Hmmmm. Ken, I think both “I would love me some ___” and “I would love to have me some ___” are fine. They are very colloquial, for sure, and dialect specific. Not everyone would use both forms; some speakers would not use either. They both sound very “cowboy” to my ear.

    • Maybe you’re right and I’m just being picky. Assuming that’s true, I tried to use Google to find examples of original “native” usage, but all I found were a few recent social media postings by rock musicians. No surprise if new usages show up there.
      Any idea where/how a person might find older examples?
      — Ken

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s