John Myhill john at RESEARCH.HAIFA.AC.IL
Sun Apr 6 05:24:54 UTC 1997

Tom Payne wrote:

>Second, there is an interesting "misuse" of "be" that I have heard, that
>makes sense at some level. Here is an example:
>"He's not crazy, he just _bees_ crazy when he's around girls."
>IOW, he just acts crazy. This is an actual example that went totally
>unnoticed by the non-linguists in the conversation.
>I think I've heard others like this. Anyone else? If it has the
>validational force of downplaying the reality of the assertion, it might
>be thought of as in the same functional domain as a subjunctive.

What you heard is a perfectly normal usage in Black English, where
invariant BE is used with habitual meaning (`he just acts crazy'). The -s
inflection here,
at least in Black English, is a bit of a mystery--it doesn't indicate agreement,
because this occurs just as easily with non-3rd person or plural subjects.
Did the speaker stress the word `be(e)'? This is how I can imagine this
being said.
I personally think that the -s has some sort of emphatic function, but of
course this is completely vague and an empirical study would be needed to
confirm this.

If the usage Tom heard was by someone who was not likely to speak Black
English (e.g. a white person), I would guess that this is still likely to
be directly
or indirectly the influence of Black English--this is such a completely normal
usage in Black English, in terms of both structure and meaning, that it's
unlikely to be a complete coincidence.

John Myhill

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