In 2007, Steve Jobs announced the first iPhone. During the presentation, he introduced a feature called Multi-touch; he said,

"And boy, have we patented it!"

What I am wondering about is the reason why the subject "we", and the auxiliary "have" are inverted here. It doesn't seem to be an interrogative sentence to me, or is it a rhetorical question, by any chance? I have no idea of it. I would really appreciate it if you answer my question.

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    Unfortunately I am not equipped to provide any kind of syntactical analysis. But in case it helps, this kind of inversion is quite common, and it simply lends emphasis. It’s a kind of intensifier. The canonical set phrase of this type is “Have we ever!” or “Did they ever!”, used as a response to a yes/no question. “Did the Giant win last night?” “Boy, did they ever!” (emphatically yes: they kicked butt). – Dan Bron Nov 13 '18 at 1:02
  • Thank you for the comment. That's interesting. Then is this kind of inversion never understood as a question? – Tzetachi Nov 13 '18 at 1:19
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    It can. For example “Can you believe he accused us of short changing him?” “Unbelievable. Have we ever?”. Though in that case the question is rhetorical, but you get the idea. You can use it for legit questions too. “Are we going to harvest the crops in August this year?” “Have we ever?”. These kinds of examples can be distinguished from the emphatic statement kind Jobs used because they end with question marks and the Jobs-like ones don’t. – Dan Bron Nov 13 '18 at 1:21
  • Oh, then this is a totally different kind of inversion from those common ones like question inversion and negative inversion, etc. Never thought there’s something else. Thanks, Dan Bron. Your comment is really helpful. – Tzetachi Nov 13 '18 at 1:38
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    Yes, indeed. I am glad my comments were helpful to you. But as I said, I’m not equipped to give you a proper analysis of the syntax underlying it. I’m hoping you get proper answers or comments from our resident experts, like Prof. Lawler, Prof Shor, BillJ, sumelic, Arucaria, StoneyB, or any of the several others. They know their stuff. I’m looking forward to learning the answer as much as you are. Good question, thanks for asking. – Dan Bron Nov 13 '18 at 1:47

This construction is known as an exclamatory inversion, common in German, Dutch, and English, less so among Scandinavian languages. As in your example, it is often preceded by an interjection:

And, oh man, was I ever going to have a talk with probable arsonist Mr. Rouse the Louse, whether my detective liked it or not. — Maggie Shayne, Deadly Obsession, 2014, 38.

For many years, lots of purse-lipped parents, uptight teachers, and pontificating pundits frowned upon computers because they saw them as noninteractive machines that only served to encourage anti-social behavior. Boy, did they ever get that wrong! — Paul McFedries, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Microsoft Windows XP, 2001, 219.

Dave Mustaine is famed for going out and finding the best players he can when Megadeth’s lineup goes into flux, and damn did he ever deliver this week. 3 Apr. 2015, Metal Insider.

Whether such clauses are truly exclamatory or, following Huddleston, “represent a type of interrogative/question that can be used with the indirect illocutionary force of an exclamatory statement” is the object of scholarly debate.

  • Thank you very much, Karl! That’s exactly what I wanted to know. Thank you also for those greatly useful references. My curiosity has been completely sayisfied. – Tzetachi Nov 14 '18 at 20:57
  • Oops, satisfied* – Tzetachi Nov 14 '18 at 21:52

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