I came across a sign in the "TSA pre-check" lane at the airport today that said "Keep those shoes on. You busy traveler, you.":

enter image description here

There are three things here that caught my eye. First - "those" shoes, rather than "your" shoes. Second - the period after "on." - it seems that it is not needed. Third - "you traveler, you". I am familiar with the usage, but don't know what that construction is called, nor what effect is the author is trying to achieve with it? It feels to me they are trying to be lighthearted. Is that correct?

A bit of context for people outside of the USA: the TSA "pre-check" lane is a fast lane for "trusted travelers". The benefit is that you get to keep your shoes on (in the regular check, your shoes go through the Xray), you don't have to go through the body scanner (just metal detector), and don't have to take your laptop and liquids out of your carry-on. When you are in a hurry, that does save a few seconds.

PS - earliest hit found on Google for "you busy traveler, you" is from December 2, 2013 in a tweet by TSA

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    Using 'those' instead of 'your' is a hedging device, making the demand less confrontational, more 'we're-all-mates-together-ish'. It probably connotes cartoon sergeant-majors. The staccato effect of the two sentences reinforces this impression. The matiness is continued by the sympathetic note (you must be in need of a sit and a cuppa after all your travelling) and the second 'you' which is very colloquial and thus non-formal/institutional. Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 17:44
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    The TSA can't even get being the TSA right. Don't expect them to get their grammar right, too...
    – corsiKa
    Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 18:33
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    @corsiKa that may be true, but i don't see anything wrong with their grammar in this case. not all writing is formal writing. this is a sign that conveys its meaning exceptionally well in a grammatically correct, friendly way.
    – user428517
    Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 23:50

4 Answers 4


Keep those shoes on. You busy traveler, you.

Let's take each of your points one by one.

(1) "Those shoes" versus "your shoes"

Both are grammatically correct. "Those" shoes changes the tone. It is not true that using "those" instead of "your" always makes the tone more lighthearted, but in this example that's exactly what it does; it makes the tone more playful. It does this by making it less accusatory. Saying "your shoes" implies that "you" are responsible (and thus at fault if you fail to comply). "Those" redirects the blame elsewhere and thus makes it less likely to put the reader on the defensive.

(2) Period after "...shoes on."

You are correct; the period is not necessary. "Keep those shoes on." is a complete sentence, but "You busy traveler, you" is not a complete sentence. By omitting the period after "...shoes on", you now have one longer sentence: "Keep those shoes on, you busy traveler, you." With that being said, on a large sign/poster like this, grammatical correctness is not necessarily of greatest significance. The author likely chose to use a period for emphasis, to enforce a larger pause, or even just because it looked better visually. While this wouldn't be appropriate in formal writing, greater creative license is granted to signs and other short form writing like this.

(3) "You busy traveler, you."

Adding the "...you" at the end definitely increases the playfulness. It's meant to be jovial and playful.

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    I've already commented that I think analysing the grammar of such signs is fairly pointless. But I must disagree with your assertion that "You busy traveler, you" is not a complete sentence. By any normal definition of "sentence", it is - as my two examples should show. Here are a few more for "You poor thing, you" (he said, comfortingly) Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 18:14
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    I have no interest in deconstruction to that level. All that matters to me is that You poor thing, you! is a perfectly normal thing for many native speakers to say, and no-one ever writes it with a full stop instead of a comma. Which means as far as they are concerned, it's a sentence. Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 18:20
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    FumbleFingers and Rathony: I think what you are saying is, there are two complete sentences in the following: "Keep those shoes on. You busy traveler, you." I agree that the first is a complete sentence. I disagree that the second is a complete sentence. The second is a perfectly valid thing to say, and in colloquial speech it may certainly be considered a "sentence," but from a purely grammatical point of view, no textbook would state it's a sentence. Compare to: "It's a boy. The baby." We understand that, but that doesn't make "the baby" a complete sentence.
    – Nonnal
    Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 18:27
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    Jovial and playful: two words I usually associate with the TSA,.
    – corsiKa
    Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 18:34
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    @FumbleFingers No interest in deconstruction? Well played! It's a matter of semantics. If you decide every utterance understandable from context is a sentence, then it's a sentence. If you demand that every utterance have a unique predicate, stated or implicit, then it's not.
    – deadrat
    Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 20:28

It is used as vocative according to OED.

As vocative, chiefly in apposition to a following noun or noun phrase. Also in contexts expressing reproach of or contempt for the person addressed often emphasized by being placed or repeated after the noun. Cf. thou pron. 2.

Here are some early examples from OED:

Fy, fy, you counterfait, you puppet, you.

1600 Shakespeare Midsummer Night's Dream iii. ii. 289

You asse you, d'ee call my Lord horse?

1606 G. Chapman Gentleman Vsher iii. sig. D4v

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    "contexts expressing contempt". Haha. That is so unlike the TSA... thank you!
    – Floris
    Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 18:56
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    A grammar book says that the pronoun is reduplicated in token of excitement, as, you rascal you!
    – ermanen
    Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 18:59
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    @Floris: Well, the real answer is from OED and we can consider that it is one of the most authoritative sources. It seems like the feeling expressed changes depending on the context. I would add more references if I can find it in English grammar books.
    – ermanen
    Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 19:44
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    @spirographer: Specifically, it is the repetition of the vocative for emphasis and it can convey different feelings depending on the context.
    – ermanen
    Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 20:21
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    +1 for finding it in OED. I was originally thinking of making that point about expressing reproach of or contempt for the person addressed myself, but decided against it because of positive things like "Ah! You darling, you!". But you (and OED) are quite right that more often that not there's an element (sometimes, mock) scorn. Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 21:01

ploce in rhetoric is applicable for this type of emphasis, but is uncommon.

A rhetorical term for the repetition of a word or name, often with a different sense, after the intervention of one or more other words.

diacope is even better for this type of emphasis.

Diacope is when a writer repeats a word or phrase with one or more words in between. A common and persistent example of diacope is Hamlet’s:

To be, or not to be!

Another famous example:

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God, Almighty, we are free at last!

— Martin Luther King, Jr.

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    That definition certainly seems apply to the use we see here, but the examples in grammar.about.com/od/pq/g/ploceterm.htm are a little different.
    – Floris
    Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 18:47
  • @Floris i agree that the typical use case in rhetoric is not to repeat a pronoun, but your example is colloquial, and the goal is identical: emphasis Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 18:54
  • @Floris I have added an even better term for your particular question Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 21:53
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    If you provides a link, and perhaps another example, less famous than Shakespeare's; tyou might convince the "hmm..." crowd, like me, for instance :)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 23:45
  • @Mari-LouA thanks for the encouragement! Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 1:39

The repetition of you in such "exclamatory" usages isn't particularly common. It took me a while to find these written instances in Google Books...

"Why, you idiot, you," cried Borton, jumping to his feet. "What can you know of my feelings?"

"I just wanted to tell you I love you, you wonderful person, you!

It's an "informal" usage. Probably intended to convey lightheartedness in OP's context.

  • Does this lighthearted repetition have a name?
    – Floris
    Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 17:48
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    So far as I'm aware, it's just "repetition". No different to, say, Floris! Listen to me, Floris! It's not inherently lighthearted, as you can tell from my first example above. I'm just saying that it's probably a deliberately colloquiial usage on your somewhat quirky sign. But really, if you're not a native speaker I wouldn't waste any time thinking about the "grammar" of signs like that. They don't necessarily reflect normal use of English at all. Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 17:53
  • Not sure if you saw @spirographer's answer. Apparently it is called "ploce" (pronounced ploh-see).
    – Floris
    Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 18:58
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    @Floris: Nah. That would be things like John will be John and He's more Irish than the Irish - where the first use of the noun simply identifies the referent, but the second means something significantly different (usually, the "abstracted essence" of that referent, familiar to both speaker and audience). That's "high rhetoric", whereas your example is just a feature of "colloquial speech". Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 20:53

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