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Why would someone frequently say "Someone set us up the (thing)" when referring to things done to or for them.

For example:

  • "Someone set us up the breakfast."

  • "Someone set us up the game."

  • "Someone set us up the fail."

Is this a common phrase?

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4 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

I agree with @GEdgar; that phrasing does come from the internet meme, All Your Base Are Belong To Us. The meme is derived from the game Zero Winghere is a YouTube video that shows the introductory sequence of the game, to which the techno dance track "Invasion of the Gabber Robots", by the band The Laziest Men on Mars, has been added. (You can watch the original cutscene here.)

Note that the phrase "someone set up us the bomb" is not grammatically correct. In fact, the whole script abounds with both grammatical errors and nonsensical sentences/sentence fragments. ("What you say !!", and "you have no chance to survive make your time", to give examples other than the all time classic: "all your base are belong to us".)

It is this abundance of "Engrish", (i.e., poorly translated phrases), which makes the Zero Wing cutscene so endearing to us Westerners.

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I disagree that "you have no chance to survive make your time" is ungrammatical, although it needs a comma. Otherwise, super answer! –  Matt Эллен Jul 22 '11 at 5:11
    
@MattEllen: Good point... Now that you mention it, there are a few lines like that, which are gramatically correct but simply don't make any sense. (Will edit later.) –  bracho monacho Jul 22 '11 at 6:02
    
The OP is technically asking about, "someone set us up the thing" instead of "someone set up us the thing." –  MrHen Jul 22 '11 at 15:07
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Thanks for the great answers. Especially from Colin below. I think this is the correct answer and the person I was referring to in my question is misquoting "set up us". –  Kalamane Jul 25 '11 at 16:40
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The other answers are all assuming that these phrases are fractured English, and in context that may be the case. But the examples you give are perfectly grammatical, as far as I can see, and abnormal only insofar as their underlying phrases are odd.

Normally indirect objects ("to him", "to John", "for us") require the preposition; but as long as the direct object is specified, there is an alternative where the indirect object can come before the direct one, without a preposition. So

Give the book to me.

is idomatically

Give me the book.

This construction is common with so-called "ditransitive" verbs such as "give", "show", "tell". But it can also be used with many verbs that don't naturally take an indirect object, in which case the indirect object is interpreted as benefactive (i.e. "for").

So I would find

"They set us up a stage", or "They set us up a game"

to be perfectly normal alternatives to

"They set up a stage for us", and "They set a game up for us".

What is odd about your sentences is that the underlying phrases "set up the breakfast/game/fail" are rather strange and unlikely. (I don't know what "set up the fail" would mean").

A further complication is that the sentences you gave are confusable with a different idiom, the phrasal verb "set somebody up", which means "create a situation where a person is going to fail, or be a target". The sentences cannot be examples of this, because it would require an infinitive "set us up to fail" not a noun phrase. But it would be easy to mistake the structure.

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+1 for actually answering the question. I think the "someone set us up a thing" phrasing is awkward but it does parse. The meaning is clear. –  MrHen Jul 22 '11 at 15:09
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The original video with the quote is still up on Youtube. The game is Zero Wing, a rather generic side-scrolling shoot-em-up that spawned the “all your base are belong to us” meme. I have not actually seen or heard variants of that quote, but from the OP’s question, it seems they do exist.

It is noteworthy that the original line (from the video game intro) is “Somebody set up us the bomb”, and I have met video game purists who insist on that as the only correct form of the meme.

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I think they are referring to a funny video (All Your Base Are Belong To Us) that parodies badly translated video games. It contains the line: Someone set us up the bomb

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