I see people using this redundant phrase a lot. How/why did this phrase become so popular and where is this used most frequently?

I personally hear this frequently in academia (STEM) on the east coast of the U.S. I wonder if this is also popular outside this bubble, perhaps even in the UK.

Maybe this is part of a class of expressions, i.e., "what I am eating is I am eating..." This one sounds weird though.

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    It would be helpful if you could list some actual usages of the phrase from real life academia...on the other hand, I am reminded of Popeye's signature phrase, "I yam what I yam. Dat's what I yam" Jun 8, 2022 at 15:50
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    Is this distinct from "What we are going to do is we are going to..."? Or other variants? ("What we're gonna do...")
    – Stuart F
    Jun 8, 2022 at 16:32
  • How do we get from "going to" to "gonna"? Well, it is what I get when I say "going to" as quickly as I can. Phonetically, the 'ng' sound is a the back of my throat and the 'to' sound is at the front, so I have to make a shift that slows me down. "Gonna" can be said using just my tongue without moving my lips, which is faster. If I then write it as I say it, "gonna" is a pretty good representation of the sound. Many children get nagged by their parents and teachers not to do this. Without the influence of class consciousness, it might even develop into a dialect.
    – Tuffy
    Jun 8, 2022 at 17:11
  • I would say that, in most of the US, it's unremarkable.
    – Hot Licks
    Jun 9, 2022 at 0:27
  • Maybe ask at Movies & TV. I have a vague memory of having seen this on a screen, and maybe that was the origin. Jun 10, 2022 at 5:39

1 Answer 1


The construction is one stage of the derivation of a Wh-cleft, aka Pseudo-Cleft.

  • We're gonna fix the sewer.

is the original sentence, and then Wh-clefting (among other changes) inserts a Wh-word, a pro-verb do, and a dummy is as fulcrum of cleavage

  • [What we're gonna do] is [we're gonna fix the sewer].

Then conjunction reduction deletes the repeated we're gonna, leaving a normal Wh-cleft:

  • [What we're gonna do] is [fix the sewer].

In the case of the example sentence in the question, conjunction reduction hasn't applied, leaving the intermediate structure. This is fine, since conjunction reduction is an optional rule.

All these sentences are grammatical, and they all mean the same thing.
Syntactic transformations don't change meaning, only structure.

  • In saying they're 'fine', John, do you mean that none will grate on the ears of a fair section of society more than any other? Jun 8, 2022 at 18:18
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    Like all variants, they vary. Among people and among contexts. Who knows what will grate on the ears of the ignorant, or the cognoscenti? Let them use earplugs. Jun 8, 2022 at 18:22
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    Made of cake, perhaps. Jun 8, 2022 at 18:31
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    They change more than structure. They also change tone.
    – Robusto
    Aug 18, 2022 at 1:00

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