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With seemingly increasing frequency I come across a phrase using 'learn' when I think it should be 'teach'.

The classic example is 'that will learn them!', as in "Shoot all criminals - that will learn them!". I thought this was being deliberately wrong for comedic effect, in keeping with the general sentiment of the sentence.

Another example from a Stack Exchange site (http://programmers.stackexchange.com/questions/53880/stuff-you-should-have-learned-in-school-but-didnt-pay-attention-to-at-the-time)

I don't know if you can learn someone to write at this age

Am I being overly fussy/old fashioned or is this just wrong?

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2 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

In standard English, using learn to mean teach is incorrect. It is, however, a feature of some non-standard dialects. The examples you give all seem to be to be using learn for comedic effect, mimicking the non-standard dialects where this sort of thing is common.

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In addition to what @JSBangs said, you might consider the possibility that the word is being used by the authors in a humorous or ironic sense.

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