0

Oprah: I thought 'bout seein' everything and then... I saw a pregnant man.
YouTube

It sounds very much like Oprah Winifrey, the iconic show woman and world-famous TV host, is parodying African American Vernacular speech (AAVE). I love hearing the intonation, the dramatic pause, and rise and fall in her speech as she gently mocks the stupor of people when they first heard about Thomas Beatie, the first man to become pregnant.

My question is focussed on the statement. Is this construction accurate? Now, I might be wrong in transcribing this piece but I've listened carefully several times, and it's the reason why I stopped watching the video because I'm not sure if it really is AAVE. I'm aware that Black English has its own unique grammar, tenses, and "rules"; it's not slang or lazy speech, it's a proper dialect, one which I will never be really familiar with because I'm not exposed to that kind of talking; however, I do find it fascinating.

I understand Oprah's opening line, ‘I thought I had seen everything until I saw a pregnant man’ but when I checked online, Google did not find a single result for the "I thought (a)bout seeing everything"

  1. Is this a typical AAVE sentence? If not, what would it be?
  2. If it is genuine, what is the grammar behind this construction?
  • If you think Oprah is trying to mimic AAVE, listen to a few episodes of The Andy Griffith Show. Pretty much lily white, but much the same vernacular. – Hot Licks Mar 26 '18 at 21:38
  • 1
    I did watch it. And she doesn't need to "imitate southern American or AAVE" -- because she's both. Her grammar is impeccable, too. It just sounds funny to people who aren't used to it. – Bread Mar 26 '18 at 22:14
  • 1
    @Mari-Lou A ~ Okay, are you then suggesting her enunciation doesn't meet your standards? What she says and what you hear may very well be different things (you could even say it's pretty typical for many people). But that doesn't mean she didn't say it. It's like with singing. I was interested to learn recently, that great singers don't even come close to enunciating the lyrics perfectly -- far from it. Yet strangely enough, we understand it. I think many of us talk as if we are singing. I've heard that n some cultures (i.e. modern Mayans), their speech comes out in a sort of sing-song manner. – Bread Mar 26 '18 at 22:32
  • 2
    She says: I thought I'd seen 'bout everything. It's definitely there. Her I'd is very loooong. – Lambie Mar 26 '18 at 22:44
  • 1
    even if not, this can be easily confused with trolling. – dandavis Mar 26 '18 at 22:59
5

It's hard to tell -- not only are the words all slurred together, but the extended "I..." at the beginning further confuses it.

But my take is that she's saying

I thought I'd 'bout seen everything, and then I saw a pregnant man.

Note that "I thought I'd seen everything" is a common idiom (and the title to a 2008 song by Bryan Adams). And injecting "'bout" ("about") into such an idiom is a sort of intensifier.

  • That's my read, too. – StoneyB Mar 26 '18 at 21:51
  • So the "seeing" is really a "seen", it's pronounced as if it were bisyllabic – Mari-Lou A Mar 26 '18 at 22:05
  • She also lengthens the I'd, to my ear. – Lambie Mar 26 '18 at 22:46
  • 1
    From Walt Disney’s Dumbo. Crows put on a minstrel show and use a similar phrase in song. genius.com/… – AllInOne Mar 26 '18 at 22:49

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.