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Author Topic: Dumbed Down Language Observation  (Read 3339 times)

Renegade

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Dumbed Down Language Observation
« on: March 16, 2011, 11:07:48 PM »
I've noticed in the last while that a lot of (American/British) TV shows/movies use the phrase, "you're not the boss of me". In my experience, most people stop speaking like small children sometime around about or before puberty. (Which makes me wonder at what age children learn/use the "my X" vs. "X of me" structures.)

Does the phrase strike anyone as utterly childish? Do people actually speak like that in the US/UK?

It just seems to sit well with other phrases like, "nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah".
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Stephen66515

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Re: Dumbed Down Language Observation
« Reply #1 on: March 16, 2011, 11:13:28 PM »
Other than children, i have never heard a single person (except for in childish jest) utter that phrase.

Renegade

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Re: Dumbed Down Language Observation
« Reply #2 on: March 16, 2011, 11:21:05 PM »
Other than children, i have never heard a single person (except for in childish jest) utter that phrase.

Good. It's not just me then. My sanity is at least partially intact~!  :o
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Stephen66515

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Re: Dumbed Down Language Observation
« Reply #3 on: March 16, 2011, 11:23:00 PM »
Other than children, i have never heard a single person (except for in childish jest) utter that phrase.

Good. It's not just me then. My sanity is at least partially intact~!  :o

The closest to that phrase, that I have heard, is probably "Who died and made you king/queen" - close to the childish comment, but feels more "grown up" lol

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Re: Dumbed Down Language Observation
« Reply #4 on: March 17, 2011, 03:08:36 AM »
I never heard anyone use this expression until the theme song from a TV sitcom called Malcolm in the Middle, performed by a band called They Might Be Giants.



I think it's meant to sound childish, and probably intentionally sarcastically so, when used by adults. Probably right up there with your wife telling you "ok, Daddy" with a sarcastic tone when you order her to do something, rather than asking her.

Or like Daffy Duck saying "Yes, my love" (which really irritates me when my husband says it)





tomos

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Re: Dumbed Down Language Observation
« Reply #5 on: March 17, 2011, 05:32:00 AM »
Daffy Duck :D

I'm wondering if the "of me" structure could be of Irish origin - one common expression is "s/he'll be the death of me". In spite of having the Irish language beaten into me for 13 years at school, I'm not familiar enough with it to say if this structure is taken directly from the Irish. (There are other expressions/structures directly translated from Irish that have travelled abroad, well, to certain countries/areas.)

Funny, I dont find the phrase childish, maybe cause of that familiarity - it's more like something that adults would put in childrens mouths to sound amusing, I think. I'm not very familiar with the exact phrase, but pretty sure I've heard it at the same time. See the quote below for more thoughts on whether childish or not - and another possible origin.

http://volokh.com/ar..._31.shtml#1090814312
Some said they thought it was supposed to imitate the syntax of a child, being as how kids are more apt to say "You're not the boss of me" than (most) adults are. I don't buy this one. It leaves unaddressed the question of why this should sound like childish syntax. After all, how many kids have you heard saying things like friend of me, doctor of me, mother of me, etc.? In other words, most kids seem to have possessives with relational nouns other than boss well in hand, so the question is still: What is so special about boss? And anyway, I think you sound equally childish whether you say, "You're not the boss of me!" or "You're not my boss!"

Other readers guessed that boss of me was formed on analogy with phrases such as king of England, mayor of the town, chair of the committee, etc. At first I didn't put much stock in this hypothesis, either, since the of-phrases in these examples are geographic areas, or collective nouns, not singular individuals. However, one reader (whom I'd be happy to credit, but who wishes to remain anonymous) pointed me to the 1979 movie Norma Rae, in which the title character tells an antagonist something like this:

  you may be the boss of this town, you may be the boss of this factory, you may be the boss of this shop, but you ain't the boss of me

This speaker goes from town to factory to shop until she gets to the smallest location of all, consisting of just one person, herself. If she'd switched from boss of to my boss at the end, it would have ruined the flow, so I can actually see a reason for saying boss of me here, and an actual instance of it being formed by analogy with more natural boss of constructions. So my favorite hypothesis at this point is that the originators of the phrase were drawing a contrast between having authority over some area or group of individuals (family, classroom, etc.) and having authority over them personally; and once coined, the phrase was imitated by other speakers.
Tom
« Last Edit: March 17, 2011, 05:33:47 AM by tomos »

JennyB

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Re: Dumbed Down Language Observation
« Reply #6 on: March 17, 2011, 06:08:06 AM »
Daffy Duck :D

I'm wondering if the "of me" structure could be of Irish origin - one common expression is "s/he'll be the death of me". In spite of having the Irish language beaten into me for 13 years at school, I'm not familiar enough with it to say if this structure is taken directly from the Irish. (There are other expressions/structures directly translated from Irish that have travelled abroad, well, to certain countries/areas.)

I don't think it is. You can certainly say "my boss" in Irish, and I can't think of any other common "of me" constructions.

Fun fact about Irish: it has no direct words for either Yes or No. "Do you tell me that?" "I do indeed"!  :D
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40hz

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Re: Dumbed Down Language Observation
« Reply #7 on: March 17, 2011, 07:14:12 AM »
I think "You're not the boss of me." is saying something subtly different than "You're not my boss."

Saying you won't be "bossed around" by someone isn't the same as saying someone isn't your boss, which only infers you won't allow that person to "boss" you around. The second sentence requires more interpretation. (Hint: first you have to recall the functions of being a boss...) The first requires little or none.

"You're not my boss is also less specific and context dependent. There's a big difference between saying "You are not my boss." and "YOU are not MY boss."; whereas ""You are not the boss of me." is pretty unambiguous in any context.

So I think there may be some justification for "the boss of me" construct.

Now if we could just get adults to stop saying "My bad!"  ;D

Curt

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Re: Dumbed Down Language Observation
« Reply #8 on: March 17, 2011, 01:26:02 PM »
... the 1979 movie Norma Rae tells an antagonist something like this:

you may be the boss of this town,
you may be the boss of this factory,
you may be the boss of this shop,
but you ain't the boss of me



Thanks, tomos, this was a perfectly satisfying explanation!  :up: