declare if you're not a puzzle

Discussion in 'English Only' started by beppo, Jun 22, 2014.

  1. beppo Senior Member

    "Troyce, let's go over to the Cascades. We can stop for the night in Coeur d'Alene and go on in the morning. I'll show you the place where we can start up our café. We can have a good life there."
    "I declare if you're not a puzzle," he replied. From "Swan Peak" by James Lee Burke. What's the meaning of the last phrase? Thanks in advance for the help.
  2. Greyfriar

    Greyfriar Senior Member


    This does sound strange. However, I'm thinking back to some writing of Charles Dickens (David Copperfield, I believe.)

    One of the characters says, 'Well, I do declare - if you're not a puzzle.' It sounds like an English dialect meaning, oddly, 'You are a puzzle.'

    I will check this out further for you.
  3. Parla Member Emeritus

    New York City
    English - US
    I agree with Greyfriar. "I declare!" is an old-fashioned interjection known in AE as well; "do" just adds emphasis. To call someone "a puzzle" means simply that you're having a hard time figuring the person out.

    As to the "not" in the comment: ". . . if you're not a puzzle" means "you are a puzzle." It's the same sort of non-negative use of "not" as, um, here's an example: Father to very young daughter wearing a new dress: "Well, if you're not the prettiest little girl I ever saw!" He means, of course, that she is the prettiest little girl he ever saw. This is a relatively common sort of expression in AE.

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