done vs. through + gerund (and - gerund!)

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Thu May 11 21:02:03 UTC 2006

And I concur with you, Charlie. My 95-year-old mother still uses
only "through" and I'm willing to bet that, though she's heard "I'm
it's never registered on her consciousness, since she was already over
thirty before we moved from East Texas to St. Louis. She likes to use
the _I done done it_ "done" when she's pissed off, the implication being
that, though I'm supposedly a college graduate, I'm still too stupid to
understand "proppuh Ang-lish." Hence, she has to lower her speech to
my level.


On 5/11/06, Charles Doyle <cdoyle at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Charles Doyle <cdoyle at UGA.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: done vs. through + gerund (and - gerund!)
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Concurring with Ben about the generational likelihood:  A
> white Southerner, I grew up using "through" constructions
> ("I'm through taking my exams!"; "Hurry up and get through
> brushing your teeth so I can shave"; "Are you through with
> the catsup?"). It wasn't so much that "done" (in similar
> constructions) was stigmatized; it was simply unheard--in
> the Southern dialects among which I dwelled--until maybe the
> 1980s. I still don't use it myself, but it's starting to
> sound more normal.
> Of course, the case was different with "done" as a modal-
> auxiliary ("I done learned that in grade school"; "I've done
> baked the biscuits").  That use of "done," while not deemed
> ungrammatical (in a descriptive sense), WAS stigmatized by
> the social and educational elites.
> --Charlie
> ___________________________________
> ---- Original message ----
> >Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-
> >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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