"I Eats My Spinach" is an old Popeye the sailor episode (1933). Shouldn't it be "I Eat My Spinach" instead? How come there's the 3rd person singular "s" there?

Reference: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0024152/

And here the episode itself: https://vimeo.com/152216667

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    It's a deliberately "affected pseudo-dialectal" usage, similar to comedian Ali G's Is it because I is black?!? I'd advise you not to copy this kind of grammatical rule-breaking as a non-native speaker unless you're certain none of your audience will think you don't actually know the "correct" version. – FumbleFingers Jan 23 '18 at 16:13

There is a pattern in some dialects of English called the Northern subject rule where the terminal -s is frequently added to present-tense verbs, particularly when describing habitual actions. This pattern particularly common in Newfoundland, but it's a non-standard practice and should be avoided by people who do not naturally speak these particular dialects.

Popeye's dialect isn't a precise match for anything in the real world, but it's similar what you'd hear from a working-class, early 20th-century resident of New England. I suspect that the writers who created Popeye were at least unconsciously aware of this Northern subject rule as being used by non-formally-educated sailors from the northern Atlantic coast of North America.

Edited: I'm linking a video I found of a couple of Newfoundland natives deliberately exaggerating their local accent. At about 1:05, you hear one of them saying:

"I likes the gravy; I sweats gravy in the mornings."

Then, at 4:25, he lists a bunch of other common uses, including I wants..., I needs..., I likes..., and I loves you. I'm pretty sure that both Popeye and Olive Oyl (his girlfriend) say "I loves you" to each other in the cartoons.

I know someone from Newfoundland who has mostly adapted to "standard" Canadian English grammar (though he still has quite a strong accent), but occasionally I hear him say something like, "I knows that."

  • That's very interesting, you could include that Newfoundland video in your answer as an example. Thanks! – Francesco Casula Jan 24 '18 at 13:38

This is part of Popeye's own unique pattern of speech (possibly based on a New England dialect, see Canadian Yankee's answer), along with such phrases as:

I yam what I yam and that's all what I yam (I'm Popeye the sailor man!)

That's all I can stands, 'cause I can't stands n'more!

Well blow me down!

plus his characteristic laugh.

Many famous cartoon and other characters have similar uniquely identifiable patterns of speech and catch-phrases, such as Bugs Bunny's

Nyaah .... What's up Doc?

Or Elmer Fudd's pronunciation of "r" as "w":

Be vewwy vewwy quiet, I'm hunting wabbits.

Plus many, many more. These should only be imitated if you intend to sound like these characters.

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    It's not unique to Popeye. See my answer referencing the Northern subject rule. You're correct that a non-native speaker shouldn't be imitating this usage. – Canadian Yankee Jan 23 '18 at 16:35
  • @CanadianYankee Thanks, I did not know that. Edited my answer. Are there any videos of people speaking this dialect? I know the New England dialect has elongated short "a" sounds (e.g. Pepperidge Faaahm remembers), and other differences, but otherwise I can't recall hearing anyone speak with the Northern Subject rule. Might just be a faulty memory. – Andrew Jan 23 '18 at 18:37
  • I found a video of a couple of people deliberately playing up their Newfoundland accents. At about 1:05, you can hear one of them say, "I likes the gravy; I sweats gravy in the mornings." – Canadian Yankee Jan 23 '18 at 18:57
  • @CanadianYankee Perfect! I can only understand about half of what they're saying! :) – Andrew Jan 23 '18 at 19:09

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