Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Jim: Have a donut.

Steve: Don't mind if I do! [grabs honey cruller]

What exactly is Steve telling Jim here:

  1. Steve doesn't mind if he has a donut
  2. Steve warns Jim, lightly, not to mind if he takes a donut (Jim did offer, after all)
share|improve this question
6  
Steve is telling John that he will take him up on his offer and take a donut. Maybe one of my more esteemed peers will know why "don't mind if I do" has come to mean, basically, "I will, thanks!" –  Kristina Lopez Jul 18 '13 at 14:55
3  
The prolix way of responding to Jim's offer might be as follows: "My mind tells me not to be reticent, so therefore I will gladly partake of the donut!" To me, there seems to be a hint of litotes in the less-prolix version (i.e., "Don't mind if I do") in that instead of the positive "My mind tells me yes," the offeree says in effect, "My mind doesn't tell me no--thankfully!" (as Steve then inhales the donut). –  rhetorician Jul 18 '13 at 15:56
1  
@rhetorician: +1 for teaching me the terms prolix and litotes. –  CSJ Jul 19 '13 at 11:10
    
@CSJ: No mench (which is Julia-speak for "Don't mention it"). Julia, by the way, was a senior citizen who, like me, rented a room in the same apartment on Riverside Drive in Manhattan, from another elderly woman whose name I forget. This was way back in the 70s. I've never forgotten Julia's "no mench." –  rhetorician Jul 19 '13 at 13:29
add comment

3 Answers

up vote 15 down vote accepted

Don't Mind If I Do was a catch-phrase popularised by Colonel Chinstrap in the radio programme It's That Man Again. It means "thank you very much, I am pleased to accept your kind offer".

It is chiefly used in accepting the offer of a drink (well, that's usually when I use it, anyway), but will do for any other small gift.

share|improve this answer
add comment

This is said to politely accept an offer of food or drink:
"There's plenty more cake if you'd like another piece."
"I don't mind if I do."

Beginning in 1910, and then especially by the late 40s, this phrase was a very popular British way of accepting an offer - meaning "Yes, please!"

[I've summarised the gist of the article in A Dictionary of Catch Phrases here.]

To me, it now sounds a bit quaint and old-fashioned, maybe even with a tendency towards lower class. But this is a purely personal impression.

share|improve this answer
2  
I don't think I've ever heard it used with that beginning 'I'. It always starts with "Don't". It just sounds...weird with the leading 'I'. –  ryan Jul 18 '13 at 18:22
    
@ryan: That was my impression too. –  CSJ Jul 18 '13 at 19:22
    
@ryan: I had the opposite impression ... that the initial "I" is commonly pronounced, and is always understood to be there even if elided. I think there's even an Irish song whose chorus is "I don't mind if I do", where the narrator ends up accepting a proposal of marriage that way. –  LarsH Jul 18 '13 at 19:59
    
P.S. shamrocksinthewind.com/lyrics_frolickn.html; see "I Don't Mind if I Do". –  LarsH Jul 18 '13 at 20:15
    
@ryan: Same here - but not being a native speaker, I thought I must have missed it somehow. –  Mac Jul 19 '13 at 7:16
add comment

Adding a little to the good information in the other answers...

I think key to seeing why the answer is "1" and not "2" (Steve warns Jim, lightly, not to mind) is to realize that there is an elided "I" at the beginning of the idiom. That "I" is often explicit. See e.g. the song

I entered the kitchen, 'twas cosy and bright
Soon a fine hearty supper, I put out of sight
Says she "Have a drop of the old mountain dew"
And me darlin', says I, I don't mind if I do

(http://www.shamrocksinthewind.com/lyrics_frolickn.html) The Rovers perform this song at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKi00SVmLJ4

The other aspect to understanding the form of this idiom is British humorous understatement. "I don't mind", taken literally, is a very weak and modest affirmation. But it's understood as understatement for a stronger "I'd like that" or even "I'd love to", with humorous effect. I think, the greater the disparity between the literal and understood meanings, the funnier it is.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.