I can't take you anywhere!

8

1

I don't understand this sentence.

"You haven't spilled your coffee again! I can't take you anywhere!"

I guess that not spilling the coffee is a good thing, but the expression " I can't take you anywhere!" seems to me as blaming the other person for not spilling the coffee!

Mohammad Mortada

Posted 2017-05-19T18:41:33.397

Reputation: 198

8I'm curious... you seem confused by the first sentence but accepted an answer that doesn't explain it at all. – Catija – 2017-05-19T23:06:22.717

Answers

6

"I can't take you anywhere!" is something that:

  • a parent might say to a child, or
  • a girlfriend might jokingly say to her boyfriend (or vice versa), or
  • a wife might jokingly say to her husband (or vice versa), or
  • a good friend might say to another good friend.

In the context of a parent saying this to a child, imagine a world where "children are to be seen and not heard." Or less severely, that a parent should only bring a child to public places when the child knows how to be reasonably well-behaved, not scream, not make messes, not make offensive remarks, and generally not cause problems for other people. If a mother concludes that her child has not learned to avoid causing these issues, then the mother might conclude that she cannot politely take her child "anywhere" that these issues are problems. "I can't take you anywhere!" is a common way for an exasperated parent to point out (to the child) this consequence of the child's behavior.

In the other contexts, the humor is that the words are said almost the same way that a parent might say them to a child, but that the girlfriend/wife/friend really does enjoy being out in public with their boyfriend/husband/good friend -- except for this one "problem".

Jasper

Posted 2017-05-19T18:41:33.397

Reputation: 23 316

2It's something my wife says to me all the time. – Hot Licks – 2017-05-19T19:34:30.680

5I'm a woman and my husband says this to me, so it's not a phrase strictly used by women towards men. (You didn't say that outright, but your examples imply it.) – Kat – 2017-05-19T22:25:14.543

1Yes, I am notorious for being clumsy, I cannot climb higher than 300 cm without tripping or breaking my neck. You could add a "vice-versa" at the end of GF and BF etc. I do like the description of the different scenarios where one might overhear this exasperated statement. I'd also mention where the main stress lies in the first exclamation, again!, which clarifies that the person being scolded or teased is a repeated "offender". – Mari-Lou A – 2017-05-21T04:24:47.903

34

The first sentence actually means the opposite of what it says.

You spilled your coffee again!

Usually when it's used this way it's marked with a question mark:

You haven't spilled your coffee again[, have you]?

but the exclamation point does make sense. The proper punctuation in this sense would actually probably be the "interrobang" but it's not a standard punctuation mark.

So, what this is saying is,

I can't believe that you've spilled your coffee again, which now someone has to clean up. I should never take you out with me because you're so much trouble and you always make a mess.

Catija

Posted 2017-05-19T18:41:33.397

Reputation: 25 211

Yes. Compare "Oh no, not again!" when something happens again. – Mr Lister – 2017-05-20T07:39:45.720

1"I can't take you anywhere!" means that the speaker is always embarrassed by the other person, wherever that go. – MaxW – 2017-05-20T20:16:39.733

Great explanation that the first sentence is actually a question meant as a statement! Especially the implied ", have you?"—probably nearly impossible for a non-fluent speaker to guess. Can you also add an explanation of "I can't take you anywhere" (the title of the question)? The notion of "taking someone someplace" is probably lost on learners, plus it's buried inside a negation, which is itself likely meant as a joke. – Ben Kovitz – 2017-05-25T23:04:01.713

7

It seems as though the first statement might be sarcastic. English speakers often use "You haven't done that!" or "You didn't do that!" to mean "I can't believe that you've done that!"

It was something I heard all the time in high school. One person would announce she kissed a boy at a party or made a daring remark to some authority figure or other, and the rest of the group would gasp and exclaim, "Oh my god, you didn't!"

It's very difficult to be certain about the answer to your question without some more context. For instance, it would be really helpful to know whether coffee was actually spilled by the person being addressed.

Cassie

Posted 2017-05-19T18:41:33.397

Reputation: 71

1Another common form is “Don't tell me you spilled …” – Anton Sherwood – 2017-05-21T04:57:50.610

1And more recently, “Oh no you di’n’t!” (though that carries a bit more blame than the others). – Janus Bahs Jacquet – 2017-05-21T09:06:50.630