What is "Confused I am"?

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I often encounter in the Internet strange phrases like "Confused I am".

What does this strange word order mean?

Anixx

Posted 2015-04-21T00:56:02.213

Reputation: 1 888

3What's the context? It sounds like Yoda from Star Wars, a fictional alien who speaks with an unusual word order. – None – 2015-04-21T01:06:46.353

possible duplicate of What are the permissible things in the Yoda dialect?

– user3169 – 2015-04-21T01:24:25.867

That's only a duplicate if this person is actually talking about Yoda or his speech. – Nicole – 2015-04-21T01:39:16.557

@user3169 Is this Yoda dialect actually? – Anixx – 2015-04-21T01:58:04.577

@Anixx It is about transposed/reversed word order, in this case Confused I am vs. I am confused. Yoda is just an example most people know. – user3169 – 2015-04-21T02:10:15.663

And I would venture to guess that any instance of this on the internet is a parody of / in-joke-reference to Yoda-speak. – Jim – 2015-04-21T05:00:49.467

But it's also a possible word order in speech. Since we don't normally write it down, it looks strange in print. – snailplane – 2015-04-21T09:23:55.810

@Jim Possibly, but not necessarily. It's more common than people think! See my answer below :) – Araucaria - Not here any more. – 2015-04-21T10:24:55.580

@Jim The idea of altering word order describes something you can do with modern speech, but historical periods of English usage illustrate other standard practices. Spenser, for example, starts a line of The Faerie Queene (1590) with the phrase, "Straunge thing it is an errant knight to see [...]," an example of word ordering that was appropriate for the late 16th century. Uses of transposed word order don't necessarily invoke Yoda. Rather, they sometimes are meant to invoke a sense of tradition or age--the old. – R Mac – 2015-04-22T15:54:09.193

@RMac- Obviously context influences this a lot. I wouldn't jump straight to Yoda if I saw Spenser's writing. But "Confused I am" when read in an internet chat forum would be much more likely to make me think of the Jedi master. – Jim – 2015-04-22T17:03:16.823

Answers

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Confused I am.

This is a very interesting question about information packaging. When we write or speak we usually like to put the new information at the end of the sentence. Usually, the end of the sentence has more emphasis. We like to put things we have already talked about at the beginning of the sentence. If we have already talked bout something, it is easy for the listener to identify it.

This means that the words at the beginning of a sentence very often link back to an old idea we have already talked about. It also means that, often, the first words are almost like a "topic" that we are already thinking about, and the rest of the sentence is like a comment on that topic.

In the Original Poster's sentence, the emphasis is on the positive truth of the proposition:

  • I am confused.

The speaker or listener has already been talking about the idea of being confused though. The emphatic information is carried by the auxiliary verb am, because this is where we look to see if the sentence is positive or negative. Because of this, the speaker moves confused to the beginning of the sentence, where it will link back to something in the previous conversation (maybe the last word of the previous sentence). This means that am is now at the end of the sentence where it has the most emphasis. Here are a couple of contexts where we might expect to see this kind of word order:

  1. She said I might be confused. Well, confused I am!

Or

  1. A: You look confused.
    B: Confused I am!

This looked like an interesting question - and interesting it was!

Araucaria - Not here any more.

Posted 2015-04-21T00:56:02.213

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