This is an email I sent in, thought I’d share it here as well and get some thoughts first hand!
Hi Grant and Martha!
I’m an avid listener to your show (via podcast) and am an aspiring linguist. I moved up last Fall to Bellingham, WA to attend Western Washington University and join their wonderful Linguistics and French programs. This was my first summer in Bellingham and since moving here (from Bremerton, WA) I’ve noticed a LOT of little nuances different than my own speech from a mere 150 +/- miles south, however I can save those for a separate email or a conference!
This summer I worked at a day camp with kids ages 4-12. The last two weeks of camp, one camper adamantly kept saying “I’m gonna win you!” instead of “I’m going to beat you,” or “I’m gonna win.” We would be walking up to a building and if I were to say, “Hey, I’ll race you to the door!” That would usher in the response “Nope, I’m gonna win you!” Again, this was said by him at least five times a day for two weeks (no joke). He is five years old and as far as I know has been raised in Bellingham.
While that was odd, I kept it in the corner of my mind and the last week of camp, I heard a different kid say it and just today (I work at the day care during the school year there) a random kid about 8 years old with no affiliation to the other camper said while playing Gaga ball “Oh no, he’s winning you!”
This is a bizarre thing and, though it makes perfect sense, I’ve never heard “to win” used that way. Any thoughts or record of that being used elsewhere?
Never heard it before either, in Arizona or Wisconsin, and I spent a lot of time in schools and working around kids.
I could excuse the 5-year-old as not yet having mastered the nuances of the language. But by 8, they should have picked up the difference in meaning. Given the competitive situation described, it’s obvious what the kid meant, though still a strange use of “win.”
I was thinking about suggesting the kids’ age as the factor causing such speech productions when I read the rest of Heimhenge’s response and realized that he’d already done that. :)ce
I guess parents’ literacy level should be considered as well. I say this because here I notice adjectives or verb conjugations used interchangeably or alike, when it’s not correct to do so, by children who have been raised in almost low-level-literacy communities and who may be weak at school themselves.
@Dick – That is a great suggestion, I feel like “I owned you” is part of my vocab, so maybe as you suggested “to win” is taking that same path. I have a pretty good ear for correct grammar (I often fight my prescriptivist ear) yet “to win someone” doesn’t hit a wrong cord, so maybe I’ve heard it more often than I think?
@Rafee – Yes I’ve also considered literacy levels and talked with the parents and his siblings in normal conversation and nothing has stuck out as being anything outside the standard. Bellingham is a very upper-middle class as well with a great school district. I think my next step is to start doing field search and asking various teachers – and definitely my professors when classes start up next week.
Thank you to everyone else for your responses as well! I love getting insight on this.
I grew up in northern New Mexico in the 70s and “I’ll win you” was commonplace, even prevalent, among kids my age back then. I knew it was wrong — my parents came from New England, so such a usage would NEVER be found in my home. Most of the kids in my school were native speakers of English but had Spanish-speaking parents or grandparents. I’m not sure if that explains it, but there were lots of other little idiomatic differences in the way English was spoken. Another common phrase was “I’ll beat you a race” (offered as a challenge). It’s almost the opposite, isn’t it?
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