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In a recent episode of the television show Entourage, Ari Gold (a 40 year old man) says:

I've known her since I'm 19.

In an episode of Sex and the City, a character, who is 15, tells Carrie:

I've been giving blowjobs since I'm 12.

The speakers are replacing the past tense of the verb to be (was) with the present tense (am).

Is this simply a mistake of the writers (seemingly specific to HBO), or is this usage a trend that is developing? I've heard it in other television shows and in person, as well.

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It's not standard English, but may be a common mistake by French speakers. –  tenfour Oct 4 '11 at 13:41

4 Answers 4

Dr. Google to the rescue; looks like they didn't make it up. About half the results include that usage. (The other half has the normal usage: since meaning because.)

However, that usage is, at best, slang. As yet it is not grammatically acceptable.

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Interesting! Do you know, or can you find, if this is associated with any particular places, communities, subcultures, etc? Many widely-used-but-nonstandard constructions get that way by coming from a particular dialect — AAVE, Scots, etc. — but this is completely unfamiliar to me from any of those. My only association with this is as an ESL error, from people whose native languages use the present tense in such contexts. –  PLL Sep 20 '11 at 19:34
    
I can only hypothesize right now, since I don't have the wherewithal to research it, but methinks it is likely that it originated from ESL, and then was incorporated into modern slang. However that may be, it certainly looks to me as if the error is not only found in ESL. –  Daniel Sep 20 '11 at 19:40

It's not exactly a mistake on the part of the scriptwriters. They're just reproducing the poor grammar of their characters (who may be fictional, but feasibly could exist and speak like that).

Unquestionably in my opinion the usage is ungrammatical, but that certainly doesn't mean no-one ever says it. Possibly it's related to since I's, which is "non-standard", but at least could be considered correct in terms of verb tense (the 's could stand for was, which is perfectly okay).

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I don't buy the "they did it on purpose" argument. –  Robert S. Sep 6 '11 at 4:48
    
@Robert S.: I don't understand. Are you suggesting that the scriptwriters are so illiterate they made this "mistake" by mistake because they didn't know any better? I would think that one of the job requirements of scriptwriters is that they should at least know the basics of the language they're writing in. –  FumbleFingers Sep 6 '11 at 11:25
    
in the very least, adding one case of poor grammar to Ari Gold's character in a throwaway scene makes no sense. The character is a Harvard and Michigan grad. –  Robert S. Sep 6 '11 at 14:14
    
@Robert S.: Sorry, I still don't understand (bear in mind I don't know the sitcom at all). It still seems possible to me that the writers/the actor had their character emulate "street speech" for some context-related reason. But I find it hard to believe it was a matter of either party simply not being aware of basic grammar, if that's what you're saying. That explanation makes the least sense of all to me. –  FumbleFingers Sep 6 '11 at 15:19
    
Unfortunately, your lack of understanding of the context makes your supposition inapplicable. Ari Gold is talking to his divorce lawyer about his wife, who is a high-society heiress. I don't think "street speech" would come into that conversation. –  Robert S. Sep 6 '11 at 16:14

If we change the crude example to something like, "I have been giving provocative and insightful lectures since I'm 12," the grammar would still be judged to be incorrect by the vast majority of native speakers (I think). I have heard that particular construction in two places -- in ESL classrooms, and in populations that typically speak regionally-based dialects of non-standard English.

I doubt it is a general trend. Were the characters non-native speakers? Or speaking in a strong dialect?

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When you say you've heard it in ESL contexts, do you mean from ignorant pupils who hopefully will learn better, or from really ignorant teachers, who should be sacked? –  FumbleFingers Sep 5 '11 at 18:00
    
Both characters, in my examples, were affluent Jewish people. The girl lives in NYC, the man lives in Los Angeles. –  Robert S. Sep 6 '11 at 14:15

COCA has these two further citations:

I've been coloring my hair since I’m 25.

I’ve been a marksman since I’m 11 years old.

I’ve not come across the construction before, and can only suppose it is found in some non-standard American dialects. That still doesn’t explain its use in the show, given the status of the characters.

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