"yam" as a verb

Discussion in 'English Only' started by vovick, Mar 15, 2009.

  1. "I yam what I yam and that's all what I yam, I'm Popeye the sailor man, *toot*, *toot*"

    So what does this famous Popeye's phrase really mean(if it means anything at all)? All the dictionaries I found have information only about the noun "yam", but not the verb.
  2. envie de voyager Senior Member

    Niagara Falls, Canada
    It means:

    I am what I am...

    This means "This is who I am and I'm not going to become anything more than this."
  3. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    It's simply an imitation of the way Popeye speaks. Envie de voyager has explained the meaning very well.
  4. That's what I thought at first, but Google gave me about 2000 entries for "I am what I am and that's all what I am" and about 1500 for the same expression with "yam" instead of "am". If "yam" is just a misspelling of "am" it was undoubtedly done on purpose, so I'm curious what speciality it gives to this sentence.
    JamesM, sorry, didn't notice your post. So there is no difference in meaning, just Popeye's fancy pronunciation. Thanks.
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2009
  5. TriglavNationalPark

    TriglavNationalPark Senior Member

    Chicago, IL, U.S.A.
    Slovenian (a.k.a. Slovene)
    Indeed. Popeye originally appeared in E. C. Segar's Thimble Theatre comic strip in the 1920s and '30s. His style of speech was that of a rough, uneducated sailor; it was full of grammatical errors (as well as spelling mistakes, which indicated mispronounced words).

    Here's a typical passage from the strip:

    "She don't want me to get hurt on account of I yam the only sweetny she ever had wich has persnal magnacism an' sex repeal."

    The more well-known version of Popeye from theatrical and TV cartoons retained some of these linguistic idiosyncrasies, including the catchphrase "I yam what I yam."
  6. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    It should be kept in mind that many speakers would pronounce "I am" and "I yam" identically.
  7. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    I agree with GWB. "I yam" for "I am" is an example of eye-dialect...
  8. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    This sort of writing was extremely popular in the 1920s as a means of representing a certain sort of speech. A famous example I remember is in a story called the Passing of Ambrose, one of P.G.Wodehouse's Mulliner stories, the story hinges on Ambrose's loss of his top hat in a theatre foyer. The hat is retrieved by the commissionaire who is described as a stout man in the uniform of a Czecho-Slovakian Rear-Admiral and who hands Ambrose his flattened hat with a speech which starts: "Here you are, sir," he said. "Here’s your rat. A little the worse for wear, this sat is, I’m afraid, sir.

    The whole speech is here, for anyone who likes this sort of thing. As you can see, from the site where I found the quote, the phenomenon is quite well-known. 'The yat' is a particularly brilliant touch in the context.
  9. suzi br

    suzi br Senior Member

    English / England
    LOL - I look forward to reading the philosophy now we've established the phonology!
  10. Once again, thanks everyone for your incredibly comprehensive responses.
    Now I seriously doubt if there is a need of asking what "finich" in his "I'm strong to the finich 'cause I eat my spinach" means :p
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2009
  11. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Just in case, finich = finish - pronounced with a similar ending to spinach.

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