'Me' instead of 'my' in British English [me mate; me burger; me dog]

Sibilla Vane

Senior Member
Italy, Italian
Hi forum,

I've noticed a lot of people from UK and Australia use me instead of my. For example: That's me burger not yours.

Does anyone know where this custom comes from? And where it's used mostly? I thought at the beginning that it was used in colloquial contexts in order to convey actually the colloquial, therefore in cases where the pronunciation of my is closer to me (e.g. in Australian English).

What do you guys think about it?
 
  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Actually, I would have thought your example sentence was the last place it'd be used. Normally the form 'me' [mi] is unstressed, as in 'Get your hands off me burger.' This is common enough in UK and Australian speech; but where the word is emphasized, the full form 'my' [mai] is used.

    It is, I think, not really the accusative 'me' here, but a development of 'my', which in Middle English was [mi:] with a long vowel. When unstressed, this was shortened to [mi]. In about the 1400s/1500s, the sound of the long vowel changed, eventually becoming modern [mai]. But this sound change didn't affect short vowels, so [mi] remained as it was.
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    Added to previous thread. Cagey, moderator.

    A criminal to Gabe and Ray:
    - You don't know me mate here. But he's been lookin' forward to kickin' your fuckin' brains in. Ain't you, Sonny?
    Tango & Cash, movie

    Is it a slang/dialect, meaning 'my'?
    Thank you.
     
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    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    Neither slang nor dialect. Half the time, in conversation, 'my' is pronounced /mɪ/ or /mi:/ rather than the thoretical /maɪ/. Many writers leave the reader to take this for granted; others spell it out.
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    Thank you all.
    By the way, the character saying it in the movie, though an American actor, is depicting a British -- speaks with British accent. Does it matter?
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    In Shakespeare's time (around 1600) and prior to that, my (and thy) would have a strong emphatic form with the vowel /aɪ/ and a weak form /ɪ/. This is similar to how we have the strong form of he /hiː/ together with the weak forms /hɪ/ or /ɪ/.

    Since that time, Standard English has moved towards using the strong form /maɪ/ in all contexts, whereas many regional varieties in the UK still have the weak form /mɪ/. When writers want to indicate this pronunciation in writing, they often resort to spelling this me, whereas in reality the speakers are actually saying my.
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    In Shakespeare's time (around 1600) and prior to that, my (and thy) would have a strong emphatic form with the vowel /aɪ/ and a weak form /ɪ/. This is similar to how we have the strong form of he /hiː/ together with the weak forms /hɪ/ or /ɪ/.

    Since that time, Standard English has moved towards using the strong form /maɪ/ in all contexts, whereas many regional varieties in the UK still have the weak form /mɪ/. When writers want to indicate this pronunciation in writing, they often resort to spelling this me, whereas in reality the speakers are actually saying my.
    Thank you !
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    I am not quite sure about one aspect of the discussion. Saying 'me' instead of 'my' is a very common speech habit along with several others of a similar sort but it does generally indicate a lack of academic education.
    But I always say 'me mate' deliberately because it's a collocation, with 'mate' replacing 'friend' and pronounced more like 'mite'. 'My friend Tom' is a different language from ''Me mate' Tom' - my husband wouldn't worry about my relationship with Tom.
     
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    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    I am not quite sure about one aspect of the discussion. Saying 'me' instead of 'my' is a very common speech habit along with several others of a similar sort but it does generally indicate a luck of academic education.
    But I always say 'me mate' deliberately because it's a collocation, with 'mate' replacing 'friend' and pronounced more like 'mite'. 'My friend Tom' is a different language from ''Me mate' Tom' - my husband wouldn't worry about my relationship with Tom.
    Thank you:)
    another meaning of "mate", which is to breed?
    ... which is "a husband, wife or other sexual partner" (noun)
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    'My friend Tom' is a different language from ''Me mate' Tom' - my husband wouldn't worry about my relationship with Tom.
    'Me mate' represents a style of speech, which is not my own nor that of the professional educated people I mostly associate with.
    I refer to my real friends as friends, not mate. 'A mate' is different, meaning somebody I know quite well usually a man. If I say 'me mate Tom' my husband understands I mean one of the cab drivers I know quite well or maybe some of the other men I know, like the handyman who's not a friend, not a 'boyfriend' and certainly not a mate in the sexual partner sense.

    When I don't need to stress the word me, I say m', (muh). I don't say 'Where's me book?' I say 'Where's muh book?'
     

    Englishmypassion

    Senior Member
    India - Hindi
    Ok, thanks, HG. But if I heard you say "Where's muh book?", I would take that to mean "Where's My book?" It wouldn't have ever crossed my mind that"muh" meant "me" there.
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    Ok, thanks, HG. But if I heard you say "Where's muh book?", I would take that to mean "Where's My book?":tick: It wouldn't have ever crossed my mind that"muh" meant "me" there.
    You would understand correctly.
    Saying me books and m' books are different ways of saying my books. I don't normally say me books because it's usually people who aren't well- educated who say me books, or of course people who are well educated but choose to use dialect forms, which is fine.

    If I habitually used the 'me' form of 'my', I'd be using a dialect form which is not my own. I do say 'me mate' pronounced 'mite', because that's a dialect phrase used in the area in which I now live, London. Me as a form of my is most definitely not in general use by the educated people who are native to this area who speak standard English, and who use the weak form m'(muh) when the strong or accented form does not have to be used.

    When 'me' is required then everybody as far as I know says me like mee. That's for example at the end of a phrase or sentence or to contrast 'my' with 'your' or 'our'.

    I make no claim to be a trained 'linguist'. I'm talking from my own experiences and observations.
     

    Mr.Dent

    Senior Member
    English American
    Added to previous thread. Cagey, moderator.

    I was watching a British TV show set in the Calder Valley and was struck by the use of 'me' instead of 'my' used before nouns. For example: this is me house, me dog is lost, and so on. I could not find a discussion of this in wordreference.com, but found the following entry in Wikipedia.

    A non-standard variant of my (particularly in British dialects) is me. (This may have its origins in the fact that in Middle English my before a consonant was pronounced [mi:], like modern English me, (while me was [me:], similar to modern may) and this was shortened to [mi] or [mɪ], as the pronouns he and we are nowadays; [hi wɒz] he was; versus [ɪt wɒz hi:] it was he. As this vowel was short, it was not subject to the Great Vowel Shift, and so emerged in modern English unchanged.)
    I also came across some posts by users on another site stating that in reality the speakers are merely pronouncing the word 'my' as 'me'.

    So, is this merely a matter of pronunciation, or is this a regional or socioeconomic variant, and are there any formal rules for its usage?

    Thanks.
     
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    cando

    Senior Member
    English - British
    I did it all the time growing up and still do sometimes (in fact quite often if I'm speaking quickly and informally). I have always understood it as a common variant pronunciation of "my".
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    Added to previous thread. Cagey, moderator.

    A wife says she has hydrotherapy at 11 today. The husband:
    -- I could take you, if you want, wear me Speedos.
    -- What an offer!
    Humans, TV series

    Does he mean "my"? Thank you.

    added: his wife: "I'm stuck on the loo with me knickers round me ankles ..."
    Is it common in BE? Or regional?
     
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    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    As a resident of the USA I would have guessed that "wear me Speedos" would be spoken by an Australian. This is based upon my exposure to "Tie me Kangaroo" song. I was a bit surprised to hear that it was British English too.

    Lyrics for "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport" by Rolf Harris

    Tie me kangaroo down, sport
    Tie me kangaroo down
    Tie me kangaroo down, sport
    Tie me kangaroo down
     
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