done vs. through + gerund

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Thu May 11 20:14:46 UTC 2006

I'm willing to grant that possibility, since I'm too old both to fraternize
with those of the hip-hop generation or to appreciate their music, though it
is possible that the singer simply needed a rhyme.
"Through" definitely would blow up the rhyme scheme. OTOH, it also seems
possible that he could
have used
"through" in every line without blowing up the rhyme scheme or doing
much damage to the semantics.
That is, I admit that he could have done it the way that he did it simply
because he wanted to do it that way and saw no reason not
to. Sixty years is plenty of time for the pressure of WE combined with
"intgration" to force
a change in attitude toward the "I'm done" construction, especially
given its widespread, nay, universal,
use on TV. Whereas, in my case, for all practical purposes, growing up in
the bad old  days in a region where "I'm done" was/is? never used,
I never really heard "I'm done" till I was 22
years old, long after the "learn new language or dialect" window had
closed. Hence, for me, "I'm
done" still sounds "wrong," though I surely must have heard it
hundreds of thousands of times, by now.

FWIW, when I lived in St. Louis, about
the only white syntactic structure that really
caught my attention was "(No,) I never" instead of "(No,) I didn't."

You threw the stone through the window!

White: (No,) I never! Black: (No,) I didn't!


On 5/11/06, Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: done vs. through + gerund
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On 5/11/06, Wilson Gray <hwgray at> wrote:
> >
> > 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.
> This might be generational. "I'm done V-ing" shows up occasionally in
> hiphop lyrics, as in "One" by  the Detroit rap group Slum Village:
> -----
> One of these days I'm a show you what I'm made of
> Soon as I'm done with these silly little rap scrubs
> Soon as I'm done making my rap million dollar hits
> Soon as I'm done cleaning my soul of this old curse
> Soon as I'm one with the universe
> -----
> --Ben Zimmer
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

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