what you do with the gift is you


Senior Member
It's a documentary about back up singers.
An old lady speaks about the gift and how you use it.
She says,
"Now, what you do with the gift is you."

Is she saying "What you do with the gift defines you as a person"?

Or is it something else?

Thank you
  • Beryl from Northallerton

    Senior Member
    British English
    She might be saying 'what you do with the gift is up to you'. How can we possibly tell what she actually said? Is there a way? Please name your source.


    Senior Member
    Thank you, Berryl.
    It's been some posts with the same source.
    Documentary "20 feet from stardom".
    If it helps, before that, she says,
    "We have a gift. We can hear a song
    and find our part and harmonize with it.
    Children on the corner's doing it, little babies do it
    when they learn to sing. It's the gift coming out."


    Senior Member
    Don't know, Berryl.
    All I know is that their English is a pain, to put it mildly.
    Thanks again.

    Enquiring Mind

    Senior Member
    English - the Queen's
    Hello Chopin, I'm Bach again. It's clear that the woman's English at this point is non-standard: "... Children on the corner's doing it ...". There shouldn't be a singular verb 's (contracted form of "is", obviously) because the subject ("children") is plural, so perhaps this is an indication that the speaker is not being (or maybe not able to be) very precise in the way she expresses herself.

    I understand the sentence "what you do with the gift is you" here to mean not so much that it "defines you as a person", but "it reflects your own creativity. imagination, interpretative skills". As a backing singer, you will introduce to the performance of the song something that comes from you. A different backing singer will bring something different to the song, and that comes from them.

    This overlaps with Beryl's suggestion in the sense that it is up to you to decide what input of your own you wish to bring to the performance. You could decide to hum, whistle, yodel or whatever.

    But the meaning seems to be rather loose here, so how you interpret the sentence is you. ;)
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