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In his opinion piece, "My dear Russian friends, now is the time for your own Maidan", Jonathan Little uses this phrasing which to my ears sounds very strange:

And if you won’t give it him what it he wants, you can either try to leave, somehow, or be crushed.

To my American English ears I would say it even sounds incorrect (though I'm sure the use is intentional). Is the writer making a reference to something, is he just using stylized phrasing to evoke a specific tone or is this phrasing that sounds natural to some English speakers?

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  • The Brits do say: Give it him. However, followed by what he wants sounds wrong to me, too. On the other hand, he may be making fun of Russians speaking English? Also, bear in mind this could be a translation. Le Monde in English has translated articles....
    – Lambie
    Apr 8 at 15:36
  • Note, English can sometimes conflate "give it to him" into "give it him", but this usage is mostly archaic (you might see it often in Shakespeare, e.g. "Give it me!"). But this wouldn't explain the sentence, since "what he wants" is the antecedent to the pronoun "it", so you wouldn't use both, and "what it he wants" matches no existing pattern. I'm guessing the piece underwent translation, and the sentence was first cast with "it" used twice, then updated to "him/he" without removing the "it"s. Apr 8 at 15:37
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    @AndyBonner The British often say: give it him. It isn't archaic to them.
    – Lambie
    Apr 8 at 15:38
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    The mistake appears as it should elsewhere in the article. Just a mistake; not a question about a correct or debatable English usage. Apr 8 at 15:50
  • I appreciate the feedback. It looks like I was just overthinking it.
    – Keith
    Apr 8 at 16:07

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It looks like just a typo, if you look earlier that exact quote is called out in blue text and it shows the phrase "give him what he wants" like you would expect.

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  • ahhh... I think you're right. It looks like a case of me overthinking. I'll give it a bit before marking this as the answer in case we get some other thoughts on this.
    – Keith
    Apr 8 at 15:48

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