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

Tue Sep 25 22:47:02 UTC 2007

        As opposed to what?  Certainly the intended use is literal, by
the screeching woman if not necessarily by the newspaper columnist who
is quoting her (or, more likely, paraphrasing her).  My contention is
that a catch-phrase of this kind would start out as a standardized way
of asking two literal, serious questions.  When the questions are meant
literally, I don't think that the presence or absence of "and" is
significant.  Subsequently people begin to use this for comic effect,
leading people to avoid this formulation when the questions are meant

        Although I described this use as nonhumorous, we don't know that
for sure.  The newspaper columnist likely wasn't recording his
interlocutor, or even taking contemporaneous notes (and, frankly, any of
us who have been quoted know how unreliable those are).  He may well
have been paraphrasing for humorous effect.

        It is significant that in this exchange, just as in the humorous
catch-phrase, the person addressed is thought by the speaker to be
impersonating the person she is asking about.  In contrast, most
real-life uses of the two questions together probably would not involve

John Baker

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf
Of Arnold M. Zwicky
Sent: Tuesday, September 25, 2007 6:19 PM
Subject: Re: Who are you and what have you done with...

On Sep 25, 2007, at 2:28 PM, John Baker wrote:

>         It's got to be older than this.  I can remember using it in
> the 1980s.
>         For a nonhumorous use, the Miami Herald (via Westlaw) has from
> 1/1/1985:  "Through my last seven or eight telephone numbers I've been

> periodically called by the same screeching woman who keeps asking for
> somebody named Francisco. She grows increasingly accusatory. "Who are
> you?" she snarls. "What have you done with Francisco?""

this one strikes me as just literal, two questions addressed to someone
who obviously isn't Francisco.


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