done vs. through + gerund

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Thu May 11 18:22:42 UTC 2006

But my point is that, for me and any other black person of my generation -
born in the '30's or earlier and, perhaps, even
into the present, "integrated" generation - "I'm through" is not merely a
stylistic variation that alternates with "I'm done" from time to time.
Rather, it's that "I'm through" is grammatical and "I'm done" is
UNgrammatical and is, therefore, extremely unlikely to be used at all under
any set of circumstances, except as something memorized from a script
written by whites or some such thing. Hence, my long- and wrongly-held
opinion that the use of "I'm done" marked a white speaker as, at best, a
poorly-educated member of the working class.

Now I know that the use of "I'm done" tells me nothing whatsoever
about a white person's
social and educational background, since even the white, wealthy,
Ivy League-educated President of the United States
uses "I'm done" in preference to "I'm through," and he's
not just some white pizza-guy or cabbie needing a job badly enough to be
willing to go into the 'hood at night.


On 5/11/06, Amy West <medievalist at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Amy West <medievalist at W-STS.COM>
> Subject:      done vs. through + gerund
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> >My basic claim is that a black speaker is more likely to use, "I'm
> through,=
> >"
> >etc., whereas a white speaker is more likely to use, "I'm done," etc.
> I remain unconvinced: I think it's a general colloquial usage. I have
> used it myself, esp. in contexts like "I'm through talking to/with
> you about this." I think that you're spot on about the note of
> finality, frustration, exasperation in the usage.
> ---Amy West
> (White Urban Northerner)
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

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