Who are you and what have you done with...

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Sat Sep 22 13:36:42 UTC 2007

i posted to Language Log recently about my granddaughter's awareness
of different languages and included the following anecdote:

At one point on that trip to Germany, Opal awoke from napping in her
mother's arms to find Elizabeth negotiating with a desk clerk in
German.  Opal shrieked, demanded to be let down, and ran to the door,
trying to get out of the pension.  Elizabeth asked what was going on,
and Opal explained that she had to go outside to find her momma and
daddy.  Apparently, she thought (for a little while, anyway) that
Elizabeth had been replaced by a German-speaking impostor.



i considered adding, "Who are you and what have you done with my
mother?", but decided against using the formula.

then i wondered about the origin of the formula "who are you and what
have you done with X", canonically used in situations where the
speaker is confronting X  but observes that this person lacks some
property or properties historically characteristic of X.

large number of google webhits.

a query about the formula came up on the bulletin board at
www.phrases.org.uk back in 2004, but the discussion shed no real
light on its origin.  the famous thurber cartoon with the caption
"What have you done with Dr. Millmoss?" was cited, but the meaning of
the caption is straightforward, not at all like the use of the formula.

the formula certainly feels like it must have originated in a
specific quotation.  anyone have any leads?


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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