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.

In what way is "are us" used? Like: what does "toys are us" mean.. Or what does "heavy weights are us" mean?

Does "are us" always refer to several people? Or can one also use it when referring just to oneself?

share|improve this question
add comment

4 Answers

It's invariably used in fairly lame "witty trading name/slogan" contexts, which as others have pointed out, all derive from the original "Toys R Us". The noun that precedes it is always something "we" (not "us") specialise in supplying.

I can easily imagine someone in a group of enthusiastic drinking buddies saying, for example "Alkies are us!", but after Googling "are us" -shopping and leafing through several pages of results, I have to say it's not exactly a commonplace idiomatic usage outside commercial contexts (that's to say, I didn't come across a single instance of anything 'non-commerical').

Grammatically speaking it's, well, not. You can say, for example, "We are human" in standard English, and "Human are we" in Yoda-speak, but "Human are us" is never going to cut it.

share|improve this answer
    
Grammatically speaking it's fine: Toys (subject, plural) are (verb, plural) us (object, plural). Your "human" example doesn't apply because "human" is being used as an adjective in that context—that example's a totally different construction than "Toys are us". –  andyvn22 Jan 26 at 15:58
    
@andyvn22: I've no idea what you mean by "Grammatically speaking it's fine". The closest comparable usage I can think of is "Knock, knock!", "Who's there?", "It's us" (subject:singular, object:plural). To my mind, if there's a form of words that in principle ought to be commonly used, but in fact never actually is (except by way of echoing the quirky Toys R Us tradename), it seems reasonable to say that (idiomatically speaking) it must be "ungrammatical". Grammar describes what people say; it's not a pre-existing set of rules allowing forms no-one actually uses. –  FumbleFingers Jan 26 at 16:27
    
We are using the word "grammar" slightly differently then; in any case, my meaning was that while "us" as the object of "are" is not a common usage, it is not obviously nonsensical like your example is. It's interpretable as similar to "toys are dogs", whereas "human are us" is not (as there is no subject in the whole sentence)! –  andyvn22 Jan 26 at 17:34
1  
@andyvn22: Ah, right. I see what you mean now. You're focussing on the we/us, subject/object aspect of grammaticality here. Interestingly, actual speakers don't seem to care much about that in some contexts (they're often just as happy with "It is I" as with "It is me"). On the other hand, I bet This is us, which has a truly dismal 3.8 stars on IMDB, would have got an even worse rating if it had been This is we or (God forbid! :) These are us. –  FumbleFingers Jan 26 at 17:50
add comment

If you accept the first of the following then the rest follow in a similar pattern:

  • It is me
  • It is us
  • They are us
  • Toys are us

So the last is a possible response to the question "Who are toys?" but the shop's name is simply saying "You can buy toys here, as they are what we do."

share|improve this answer
    
They are not all part of the same pattern. “It is me / us.” is a special construction that uses the empty “it”. Or do you think it’s normal to say, “Henry is me.”? –  Pitarou Mar 3 '12 at 15:46
1  
@Pitarou "Henry is me" works in response to "I just got a letter from some idiot called Henry" and usually produces profuse embarrassment and apologies –  Henry Mar 3 '12 at 19:54
    
But "Toys are us" is semantically quite different. "They are us" and "Henry is me" are both identifying the referent of an existing expression whose referent is hitherto unknown. "Toys are us" is making a substantive claim, and arguably not one of identity. –  Colin Fine Mar 4 '12 at 0:36
    
@Henry That’s not the English I speak! I’d say either “That’s me!” or “I’m Henry.” Maybe the coiner of “Toys Я Us” spoke a dialect similar to yours? –  Pitarou Mar 4 '12 at 14:38
add comment

It clearly isn’t standard English grammar and, as others have pointed out, this form is hardly ever used except in shop names.

My best guess is that the founder started with “We are Toys”, and then experimented with ways of moving the word “Toys” to the beginning of the sentence to make it more prominent.

share|improve this answer
add comment

In the store name, it is not "are" but a backward letter R.
enter image description here

share|improve this answer
2  
-1: the name of the store is a clear pun on "toys are us", so much that even on their website you can see it spelled are Toys"R"Us. –  nico Mar 3 '12 at 14:25
    
So much so that the ARE was shortened to R when the founder of the company opened a store and the original name could not fit on the store's sign. Source answers.com –  Laure Mar 3 '12 at 14:41
1  
That’s really not helpful. It’s perfectly clear that the ‘Я’ is meant to mean ‘are’. –  Pitarou Mar 3 '12 at 15:37
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.