Why is it correct to say "me busy."?

27

3

I was playing Warcraft. I clicked on my peon.

He told me: "me busy. leave me alone."

Why is it OK to say it that way instead of just "I'm busy."?

aminabzz

Posted 2020-04-05T22:19:56.620

Reputation: 401

34The specific construction of "*Me X. [You Y]" probably qualifies as a trope in and of itself to represent savage/unintelligent/uneducated characters. – chrylis -cautiouslyoptimistic- – 2020-04-06T09:18:08.637

8The expression demonstrates that the menial peon is uneducated, he speaks a funny illiterate english... – aliential – 2020-04-06T12:08:09.493

1It is acceptable informal English when used as a rhetorical question. "Are you busy?" "Me, busy? Not really!" – alephzero – 2020-04-06T13:01:25.553

6It's simply "Tarzan speak" from the famous character. – Fattie – 2020-04-06T16:44:36.017

22@alephzero "Me fail English? That's unpossible!" – JimmyJames – 2020-04-06T17:57:26.393

10It's not correct. That's the point. – Len – 2020-04-07T03:07:13.773

Me worry? :-) – Peter - Reinstate Monica – 2020-04-07T07:08:51.123

2Mesa Jar Jar binks. Mesa muy muy happy to be your friend! – paddotk – 2020-04-07T15:28:59.747

@paddotk is that Jamaican Patois mentioned in the accepted answer comments? – aminabzz – 2020-04-07T15:30:37.493

@aminabzz From Star Wars :) – paddotk – 2020-04-08T07:48:52.937

Answers

89

It's wrong. This is deliberate on the part of the game designers. Peons are not known for being highly educated or well-spoken.

However, babies sometimes speak this way before they learn the difference between objective pronouns (me) and subjective pronouns (I). For that reason, incorrect constructions like "me (verb)" or "me (adjective)" are associated with "baby talk."

TypeIA

Posted 2020-04-05T22:19:56.620

Reputation: 8 079

1There are dialects in which it is correct. – phoog – 2020-04-06T14:16:33.790

@phoog Could you name a few? – Asteroids With Wings – 2020-04-06T15:03:41.037

4@phoog I am not aware of any dialects where this is actually considered correct. Do you have any specific examples? – Foogod – 2020-04-06T15:03:48.360

4

@Foogod Jamaican Patois comes to mind.

– phoog – 2020-04-06T15:26:38.757

1

@AsteroidsWithWings see my previous comment. Wiktionary has a general comment about "various types of pidgin English." I suppose it could be argued that these are different languages, but in the case of Jamaican Patois, at least, there appears to be a continuum with standard English, and whether the line between dialect and language can be drawn on one or the other side of where "me" is acceptable as a subject is probably difficult to determine.

– phoog – 2020-04-06T15:29:19.573

1Well, Patois is not really a dialect, but I believe generally classified as its own language (as that Wikipedia article also indicates). I will grant, though, that there might be some Patois-inspired English dialects in Jamaica which could use this construction (I'm not familiar enough to know). – Foogod – 2020-04-06T15:36:19.130

@phoog Okay thanks – Asteroids With Wings – 2020-04-06T16:54:59.223

3@Foogod of course the line between something being a separate language or a dialect of the same language is not strict. All I know for sure is that I hear people from the Caribbean using "me" as a (non-compound) subject from time to time, and I can understand what they're saying, and I recognize it as being (some version of) my native language, which is US English. Perhaps I would not understand everything they say in their dialect-or-language, but then again there are also varieties of English that are indisputably not different languages where I don't understand everything. – phoog – 2020-04-06T17:36:15.117

3I don't mean to detract from the answer, which is of course essentially correct. Rather, I want to underscore that native speakers of English (including languages derived from English) may in fact say certain things that learners of English have been taught are "wrong," so learners of English, especially advanced ones, will want to differentiate between things that are so wrong as to be unintelligible, things that they may hear but probably don't want to say, and things that they might want to say differently in different contexts. – phoog – 2020-04-06T17:44:38.197

2I would call it "caveman talk", personally. The line in the game is spoken by an orc, a race considered extremely dimwitted. – BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft – 2020-04-06T19:12:25.387

6@phoog I don't think the game designers intended to be suggestin' dat peons speak Jamaican patois, mon. – TypeIA – 2020-04-06T21:09:49.283

15@TypeIA Of course not, that's Trolls. – barbecue – 2020-04-06T21:29:41.070

2@TypeIA indeed not, which is why I said the answer is correct. In this case, it's the stereotype of limited language ability. – phoog – 2020-04-07T13:16:56.780

1

See this TV Tropes page and others it links to Hulk Speak - "The most important characteristic of Hulk Speak is its minimalism. The format is usually, "Me, (the person speaking) (verb) (subject).""

– Michael Harvey – 2020-04-07T20:18:37.070

1@phoog Creoles and pidgins are not English. A monolingual English speaker can't speak or understand Jamaican Patios due to the vocabulary difference. – CJ Dennis – 2020-04-08T12:44:42.620

@CJDennis then I can only conclude that the language I have heard people speaking in which they used "me" as the subject was English rather than Jamaican Patois, because I understood what they were saying, and I have not had any training in nor particularly significant exposure to Jamaican Patois. – phoog – 2020-04-08T14:59:43.457

@phoog You might be able to understand one or two sentences, but if you look at translation guides, you'll see that English and Jamaican Patois are quite different. "Fi alla oo a carry belly fi mi, low mi." "My yute, why u waah loud up di thing?" – CJ Dennis – 2020-04-09T02:35:02.233

@CJDennis vocabulary isn't a great way to distinguish languages. That there are words in Jamaican Patois that I don't know doesn't convince me that it isn't English: similar examples can be had for the English used in Australia, South Africa, England, and probably Texas. Jabberwocky, for example, is English. Furthermore, and this is the main point, even if Jamaican Patois is a distinct language, it does not preclude the existence of a point on the dialect continuum between Jamaican Patois and standard Jamaican English where people use "me" as a subject but are speaking a dialect of English. – phoog – 2020-04-09T03:58:12.493

23

Imagine a man who was raised in the jungle by animals ever since he was a child. He was not taught English since animals don't speak English. He has only recently met his first human, and is currently being exposed to speaking English (or any civilised language, for that matter) Which statement would make more sense to come from him, in this context:

  • "Me Tarzan, you Jane"
  • "Salutations! I am called Tarzan, and I surmise your name to be Jane?"

Your question seems to assume that Tarzan should have a grammatical (and thus educational) level equivalent to that of either the reader or the person he is speaking to - but Tarzan is inherently defined as a character who is lacking any education. It makes sense for him to not have a good handle on grammar. It literally defines his character and the entire narrative - a man who is learning about civilization for the first time.

Peons, by their very nature of being a peon, lack the same grammatical skill that Tarzan does. They are defined by their lack of refinement. Their statements specifically reveal that these are not highly trained individuals.

Flater

Posted 2020-04-05T22:19:56.620

Reputation: 1 273

2

I think it's safe to assume that Tarzan, a.k.a. John Clayton II, Viscount Greystoke, would know the correct usage of first and second person pronouns.

– Lee Mosher – 2020-04-06T14:05:22.653

4@LeeMosher but that's not the story told in the movie. Flater: Tarzan uttered these lines in a language lesson scene, not as a greeting, so this translation into more verbose English is probably incorrect. – phoog – 2020-04-06T14:17:54.807

18

"Me busy" is not standard English. It's an example of "caveman speak", which is a form of English used in fiction when depicting characters who are capable of speech, but who are very stupid, brutish or "primitive".

Your character in Warcraft is probably an orc or some species like that. The game has your character speaking in "caveman speak" in order to show that he is unintelligent.

I don't know of any real-world varieties of English that are similar to "caveman speak". In my experience, it's not similar to the speech of children, non-native speakers, or people with language disabilities.

Tanner Swett

Posted 2020-04-05T22:19:56.620

Reputation: 4 341

2Well, I think it's quite common to see "me x" sentences on discord, not sure if gamers qualify as caveman, but it is used as cute/short/distancing form in those subcultures as well. – None – 2020-04-07T18:23:13.110

2@eckes that may be connected to /me which is a common emote command on a lot of platforms devolving into use in plain language. As for Tanner, you're correct, peons are an orc character and thus the low level of english. – Andrew – 2020-04-07T20:17:43.387