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As I was writing an email to someone today, at the end of the message in jest I wrote:

Well, I best gets to workin’.

After I wrote it I looked at the phrase I best gets to. It came to me as if I’d heard it many times before, but I couldn’t place it. Anyone have an idea of the origin of its usage?

I’m originally from Pennsylvania, but I’ve lived in North Carolina for seven years now, so I was wondering whether it wasn't Southern or something.

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Related: english.stackexchange.com/questions/24163/… –  coleopterist Mar 19 '13 at 13:21
    
Also used in "I'll gets..." and with other verbs. –  Hugo Mar 21 '13 at 8:47
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1 Answer

Sounds like African-American Vernacular Language (AAVL) to me, which is a dialect that goes back probably hundreds of years to African slaves in the American South who were learning English, and (perhaps) didn't want to sound like their masters, so they consciously adapted English in argot-like fashion. To this day, some Blacks will generate some laughs among their peers by "talking White" in a mocking tone. A Black who talks "White" habitually, however, might be called an "Uncle Tom" by his fellow Blacks for trying to assimilate the majority's speech patterns, so as not to stick out or even be looked down upon.

In addition to the example you've given, the locution "I be, she be, he be, they be," etc., is an example of AAVL. Replacing the word their with they, as in "They shoes look [or looks] really clean!" is another example. (Clean, by the way, may be a strictly modern adjective in Black English--and may in fact be obsolete, and it means "spiffy" or "fashionable" or "sharp looking.")

Year ago, when I was teaching African-American high school graduates in a clerical training program, one expression that kind of threw me was, "You know you shame," which means "You know you are, or should be, ashamed of yourself." Regarding the last two examples I've given, I do not really know if they are still in vogue, to be honest, but I'm sure an expert in these things would have an answer. I'm surprised no one has "bitten" on your question yet!

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The standard term for the various BE lects is African-American Vernacular English, or AAVE in the trade. –  John Lawler Apr 2 '13 at 0:04
    
@JohnLawler: Thanks for the links. I appreciate it. –  rhetorician Apr 2 '13 at 0:50
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