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As a non-native speaker, I found Stephen Colbert’s book title I Am America (And So Can You!) a little hard to dissect. Why so can you? Why isn’t it So Are You? What’s the full phrase that And So Can You implies?

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It's going to be difficult to come up with a single best answer to this question, but +1 for a good example of an -- I assume -- intentionally malformed title. – Neil Fein Aug 25 '10 at 1:44
I asked about what exactly makes this title ungrammatical, on Linguistics. – Mechanical snail Dec 12 '12 at 14:04
up vote 17 down vote accepted

It's a play on titles from self help programs which utilize ellipsis. For example

I lost 20 pounds in 4 days, and so can you.

This is a kind of strange ellipsis, because just tacking on "[lose 20 pounds in 4 days]" doesn't really create a grammatical sentence, but it's something like that. The ellipsis would be clearer if the sentences were

I lost 20 pounds in 4 days, and you can [lose 20 pounds in 4 days] too.

I am America, and you can [be America] too.

And the ellipsis is not so great with "to be", either. Here's some discussion from Language Log:


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I had my own answer on this before, but I deleted it because you've convinced me that this is what Stephen was going for with his title. – Kosmonaut Aug 24 '10 at 20:54
Are you suggesting that it is ungrammatical to say "I lost 20 pounds, and so can you."? – JK2 Apr 2 '14 at 14:10
And isn't "I am America, and you can be too" much better than "I am America, and you can too"? It seems to me that the latter is almost ungrammatical. – JK2 Apr 2 '14 at 14:12
@JK2 That would be known as the joke. – KRyan Oct 27 '14 at 18:37

It follows the form

I <verb> <rest of predicate>, and so can you!

For example, in

I use computers, and so can you!

the "...so can you" means "you can use computers, too." The part where it becomes confusing, and funny, is that the verb is not an action verb, but "am." So "...so can you" means "You can be America too" in this case.

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It's a satirical joke. The title is deliberately confusing, that's the whole point.

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I always took "I Am America" to be hubris inflated for comic effect, and the "(And So Can You!)" part to be a backhanded slash at Americans who can't even speak their own language good.

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It's a joke on mistakes made with the English language by foreign countries. If you look at the book there are many more jokes about the book being printed in some Asian country and it seems to make fun of engrish type mistakes.

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