In some places (e.g. stories from call centers on /r/TalesFromTechSupport), I’ve seen the term “I’m showing (some text/output)…” – apparently as a synonym for “I’m seeing/I’m being shown/it’s showing me…”. Is that interpretation correct, and where did this term come from? It sounds foreign but is used also by people who otherwise seem to be (mostly) native English speakers, and it’s one of the weirdest phrases I’ve read so far…

  • One must remember that "call centers" are often staffed by people for whom English is not their first language. – Hot Licks Oct 19 '15 at 18:20
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    I'm not sure you're going to find a specific origin for this. It's probably mostly just easier to say, so it became idiomatic. Note that although @HotLicks is correct, in this case I don't think that's the cause of this expression. – Kevin Workman Oct 19 '15 at 18:49
  • Based on the title alone, I thought this question would be about the (possibly regional) euphemism for "I am visibly pregnant." – cobaltduck Oct 19 '15 at 20:06
  • Based on the question's body, it is not. – user1686 Oct 20 '15 at 4:54
  • I've heard that before also. "I'm showing you have a balance of $29. Would you like to take care of that today?" I never thought about it till now. It is weird. – michael_timofeev Oct 31 '15 at 0:29

Interestingly, the etymology of the word comes from Old English sceawian "to look at, see, gaze...". So the question seems to be not when did the term come to mean "seeing" instead of "exhibit" but rather the reverse, when did the term change to mean "exhibit" which is our common modern day understanding? According to etymonline.com this occurred about 1200 "for unknown reasons and is unique to English (German schauen still means "look at)".


It would be interesting to know if the usage you describe is more prominent among German/English speakers.

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"I'm showing ..." is simply a shortcut way of saying "My computer is showing ..."

This reflects the natural tendency of people to develop "shorthand" expressions for phrases that they use frequently. There are no deep, dark secrets hidden in its etymology.

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  • Ok, so why would a group of speakers start using "I'm" for "my computer"? – michael_timofeev Oct 31 '15 at 0:23
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    @michael_timofeev - They have become one with their computers and achieved Nirvana. – Hot Licks Oct 31 '15 at 0:24
  • Not sure about this one – wouldn't "It's showing" be a more obvious shorthand? – user1686 Oct 31 '15 at 15:10
  • @grawity - No, "It's showing" would confuse the person on the other end -- does the speaker mean his computer is "showing" or mine? – Hot Licks Oct 31 '15 at 19:38
  • ("I'm seeing" would perhaps be more universally meaningful, but that's simply not the terminology everyone chooses.) – Hot Licks Oct 31 '15 at 19:40

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