We went to an electronics showroom, where we chatted with a sales girl. She explained some technical stuff about the things we were interested in. When she had finished explaining, she said

"By the way, I have been Jessica."

This usage is not new to me: it's pretty common in the US, and in Hollywood movies. But I have always wondered about how it could be correct (if indeed it is). I understand what it means, I just don't see it as grammatical. What is the logic of taking it as grammatical?

You have been Jessica. So what are you now?

A lot of people in the comments are saying that they never heard nor saw anyone using this line to tell their name. Here is an example:

Apple Store Scene in Captain America, The Winter Soldier at 00:25

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    If there is a fault, it's with the suitability of the wording, not the way the words are strung together. 'Colourless green ideas sleep furiously' is perfectly grammatical, as one of the most famous grammarians ever points out. // Would you say that 'I am flying to Iceland tomorrow' uses the wrong tense? It's perfectly acceptable even though it uses the present continuous to reference [an anticipated] future event. Idiomatic English often laughs at what would appear more logical constructions. Here, doubtless 'I have been ...' is used as a hedged version ... – Edwin Ashworth Nov 9 '15 at 11:20
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    The sentence looks crazy written down, totally ungrammatical. And I've never heard it before by anyone (AmE). So basically this question is asking for corroboration that others have heard this kind of usage. Has anybody else other than the OP seen/heard this usage? – Mitch Nov 9 '15 at 14:10
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    I've never seen this usage. I could imagine using it to describe a name that I used to have but don't any more, but even then, it sounds strange. It is, nevertheless, perfectly grammatical. – Andreas Blass Nov 9 '15 at 21:19
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    Excellent find on YouTube, hearing is believing! – Mari-Lou A Nov 10 '15 at 10:18
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    If you need anything, my name is Mark. Otherwise my name is Kika Belli Ruckus Armani Nemesis. – MetaEd Nov 13 '15 at 0:41

Although this usage is new to me, I think the formation of the idiom is fairly clear: It marks a (somewhat uneasy) merger of professional and personal registers as a sales technique. Thus, we wouldn't be surprised to hear a service person use a phrase like this: "I've been your flight attendant today," or "I've been your chef for the meal tonight." However, in a setting like the Apple Store, the simulation of a personal relationship with the clerk is a part of the service, thus the offering of the first name of the clerk.

Combined together, the idiom implies that the clerk offered you "friendship" but that it was just part of the service. "I've been (your buddy) 'Eric,' but now our relationship is over because you're leaving the store. But I can be 'Eric' for you again if you need me to be." This idiom represents the fact that the friendliness of the clerk is an acknowledged assumed persona. He may actually be named "Eric" but you are not interacting with the real Eric whom his friends and family know, but with a persona called "Eric." The use of the past tense releases both you and he from any obligation to think of the relationship between the two of you as persisting beyond the sales interaction.

In a cultural setting where people are encouraged to use personal relationships and traits for marketing purposes, it's probably a psychological necessity to establish some distance between the fake self and the real self. It also highlights how even constructions that seem obviously wrong can carry hidden meanings.

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  • Exactly...spot on! – michael_timofeev Nov 12 '15 at 5:52
  • I liked the second paragraph. Verdict is that it is grammatically not correct?``It is just slang/colloquialism, right? – paul Nov 13 '15 at 10:55
  • The grammar is not wrong, it's just a construction that doesn't typically occur in normal speech. You don't usually introduce yourself in the past tense, because an introduction normally opens a relationship, not closes one. This construction also uses a personal name as a pseudo title, which is non-standard. – Chris Sunami supports Monica Nov 13 '15 at 12:51

Like others, I've never see that construction. But I remember listening to the BBC World Service a lot in the late 90s and the reporters were often signing off with "This has been _________." Although that sounded a lot more natural, at some point different reporters were joking about it themselves, joking that it made them has-beens.

Unless it's some kind of deliberate, specialised usage (a company's quirky greeting), I would say it's a mistake and to be avoided.

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  • The real question is what "this" means in "This has been..." I suspect there is a meaning difference between "this" and "I" – michael_timofeev Nov 11 '15 at 13:55
  • @michael_timofeev I may have been unclear. My point was I'm calling it a mistake. – Daniel Stowers Nov 11 '15 at 13:57
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    No, no...I think it's quite important...I remember reporters saying "this has been..." also. I'm commenting in the hopes that someone might pick up this trail and help us figure out what's going. I don;t think it was a mistake. I would never say "I've been Michael." Maybe Apple tells their employees to say this? – michael_timofeev Nov 11 '15 at 14:00
  • @michael_timofeev Well that was my other point; I can see it being some peculiar company thing (I've worked for enough companies to have been made to do some crazy thing), but other than that, the only thing I can think of is a problem with the girl's ability with English. I've worked with some people who speak better English than me (to listen to), but as it's their second language, they often trip up on idiomatic phrases. Could this girl have possibly been ESL? – Daniel Stowers Nov 11 '15 at 14:09
  • Check out the youtube link the OP posted. It's from a recent Apple commercial. There's some kind of "in" joke going on, but I don;t know what. "This has been Walter Cronkite reporting from Vietnam." is fine with me, but "I've been Dave." is just weird. – michael_timofeev Nov 11 '15 at 14:11

I feel like this is an expression that shows a little whimsy and fun and doesn't necessarily HAVE to grammatically be correct.

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  • I tend to agree with you but for a native English speaker to say "I have been" and use their name I think is quite weird. I think there is some kind of joke going on but I can't put my finger on it. – michael_timofeev Nov 11 '15 at 14:08
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    I'm not convinced whimsy has anything to do with this. – Chris Sunami supports Monica Nov 11 '15 at 14:42
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    It reads like the second sentence of a statement in which a long but relevant preamble was left unspoken: "I have been talking to you all this time without identifying myself, and I know that you are about to move on to something or someone else, so let me end by belatedly saying, 'By the way, I have been Jessica.'" – Sven Yargs Nov 11 '15 at 22:36

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