Recently I've noticed that quite a few native English speakers ask like "What does XYZ means?" instead of "What does XYZ mean?" (There's an s at the end)

I know this is unacceptable in formal English, so I initially thought it was an outright typo. But I feel I keep seeing native English speakers use this pattern too often for a simple typo — maybe once a week or so, on Japanese Language Stack Exchange. (Here's the search results for what means)

My question: "What does XYZ means?", "What does he says?", and so on... Are these really simple typing mistakes? Or are they actually used as slang, dialect, etc? Is this usage increasing somewhere?

PS: I'm sorry if this is a duplicate. It's really hard to search for a duplicate of this with the search box :-)

  • 2
    They're mistakes. How do you know that the people writing it are native English speakers? – stangdon Apr 27 '17 at 15:33
  • I can only guess. But if this is nothing but a mistake, that's fine to me, maybe I was overthinking about this. – naruto Apr 27 '17 at 15:42
  • I have never seen a native speaker say this. Those are most probably non-native speakers. It's a common mistake among learners. – M.A.R. ಠ_ಠ Apr 27 '17 at 15:45

It's either deliberately "wrong" English as slang (for humorous effect) or dialect. There are some English dialects that don't conjugate the verb in a "standard" way, but these are usually spoken not written.

Alternately these might simply be misspellings or laziness. Most of the questions in your search use the construction "what means X?" which is a kind of slang-y inversion of the expression:

X means what?

Note this also is not "formal" English, but I don't think it's considered wrong. The expression "what means X?" is a kind of "baby-talk", though, used to indicate a low level of development or intelligence (like "give cookie!" or "Mommy slow!"), so someone might think it sounds funny to speak that way.

Curious that it shows up on the Japanese language SE though. It could be these are not native English speakers who are also learning Japanese.

My guess is that, if it is slang, it's a passing fad and not something you would emulate. For example, there is a "I can haz cheeseburger?" website that, some years ago, really started the whole "lolcat" and "lolspeak" fad. But if you see a funny picture with the caption "Im in ur foldur keruptin yr fylez" you know this is not meant to be "good" English but just a humorous interpretation of how cats would talk, if they did talk.

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