I am what I am ....

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Fri Apr 23 17:04:03 UTC 2010

On Fri, Apr 23, 2010 at 12:42 PM, Charles Doyle <cdoyle at uga.edu> wrote:
>Benjamin Zimmer wrote:
>>On Fri, Apr 23, 2010 at 11:28 AM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu> wrote:
>>> At 10:15 AM -0400 4/23/10, Benjamin Zimmer wrote:
>>>>Another one that has perhaps reached proverbial status is Woody
>>>>Allen's line about l'affaire Soon-Yi, "The heart wants what it wants"
>>>>(often misquoted more tautologically as "The heart wants what the
>>>>heart wants"):
>>> Hmmm.  Is that really *more* tautological than the original?  Maybe
>>> more obviously tautological.
>>Well, sure, since we're talking about repetition on the surface, for
>>rhetorical effect. The impact is lessened when one side of the
>>equation resorts to pronominal substitution. John Wayne wouldn't have
>>sounded quite the same if he'd said, "A man's gotta do what he's gotta
> I suppose it's not so well known that "The heart wants what it wants"
> appears in a letter from Emily Dickinson (1862).

Interesting! But it's the full (non-pronominalized) version that has
circulated more widely, despite Emily and Woody. TV screenwriters love
it -- I've heard it on recent episodes of "Lost" and "Law and Order."

Another variant is "The heart knows what the heart knows," used in
Stephen King's novel _Cell_, inter alia.

--Ben Zimmer

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

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