Is it popular to use 'I says' in conversations in spoken English? Especially when we talk about the past in the present.

  • "Hey, John do you remember Linda?"
  • "Yeh"
  • "We were talking yesterday and she says, how's John?"
  • "And I says, oh, he's okay, and then she says, are you still friends?"
  • "I says, sure."
  • 2
    About 550,000 results for "I says" found on the web, including (esp. transcripts of speech); About 452,000 results in GoogleBooks -- Has been in use all the time: books.google.com/ngrams/… – Kris Nov 25 '16 at 8:13
  • Popeye, I think, used it. So if you want to sound like Popeye ... – Edwin Ashworth Nov 25 '16 at 14:25
  • Popeye the sailor? – SovereignSun Nov 25 '16 at 14:27
  • Yes. Anything wrong with "I said"? – aparente001 Nov 25 '16 at 23:47
  • 1
    @Kris -- those ngram results are misleading. Even from 1800 many are high-class authors writing the halting imaginary dialect of low-class characters. Top 1810 example: "So I says, says I, my Lord, says I, if your Lordship i'n't engaged particularly, my father is a silversmith." These aren't good evidence for "should I speak this way / do people speak this way." – JeremyDouglass Dec 3 '16 at 15:58

While "I says" appears often in spoken, informal speech, it is also often used as an example of extremely (excessively?) casual language -- almost a stereotype of a relaxed storytelling mode in which proper speech does not matter.

"I says" was a staple of Vaudeville comedy routines -- the fact that the speech is slightly wrong / informal helps to characterize the speaker as lower class / foolish, and make the story funnier. When you find "I says" in this kind of writing you often find it alongside a combination of informality / slang and silly grammatical mistakes, like improper verb conjugation. Popeye the Sailor also uses this kind of speech a lot, with wild grammatical errors reflecting both his lack of education and his relaxed confidence.

Here is a Vaudeville example:

I says to him, says I, “Mully, ould boy, will you have the kindness to fetch me in the mustard?” An' he was a long time bringin' it, an' I oppertuned him for kapin' me ... (Choice Dialect and Vaudeville Stage Jokes, 1902, p 109).

Currently a huge number of the recent search results hits for "I says" are all related to "so I says". These memes (including images, animations, video clips, etc.) are almost all inspired by a brief scene from The Simpsons which played on Bart using the casual, know-nothing style of storytelling that is a historical throwback to old Vaudeville: "So I says to Mabel, I says."

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I have friends who use this, but only when recounting an incident or telling a story. It's almost like speaking in the third person.

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