0

"Ah, if Harry Potter only know!" Dobby groaned, more tears dripping onto his ragged pillowcase. "If he knew what he means to us, to the lowly, the enslaved, us dregs of the magical world! Dobby remembers how it was when He Who Must Not Be Named was at the height of his powers, sir! ... ..."

As I understand, "to the lowly, the enslaved, us dregs of the magical world" explains the preceding "to us". But I'm not sure what the second 'us' really does there? How should we understand the whole phrase correctly?

-- From Harry Potter.

2

The nominative is We dregs of the magical world.

It's like "we the people".

We dregs of the magical world, in order to form a more perfect union, ...

The phrase is in the objective case there in your quotation because it's governed by the preposition to:

... to us, to the lowly, the enslaved, (to) us dregs of the magical world.

I would analyze we dregs... as we with the noun phrase headed by dregs standing in apposition.

The same apposition is occurring with us and dregs... in the prepositional phrase.

P.S. Dobbie would be referring to house elves as the dregs of the magical world whether he had said

"... to us, to the lowly, the enslaved, dregs of the magical world!" as you're suggesting, or

"... to us, to the lowly, the enslaved, us dregs of the magical world!" as he does.

But there is a rhetorical difference between the two forms of statement. To say "we {x}" where {x} is a noun-phrase, is an expression of identity, not merely the predication of an attribute. Compare: We prisoners of fear. That is to say, prisoners of fear is who we are or who we have become.

  • Why are there two us's? Can we drop one? how about: If he knew what he means to the lowly, the enslaved, us dregs of the magical world? – dan Nov 3 '18 at 14:18
  • @dan: Please see the P.S. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Nov 3 '18 at 14:47
  • i suggested dropping the first us, not the second one. – dan Nov 3 '18 at 14:54
  • @dan: You wrote "But I'm not sure what the second 'us' really does there? " and "us dregs". – Tᴚoɯɐuo Nov 3 '18 at 14:58
  • 1
    He is describing house elves, of which he is one. "to the lowly, the enslaved" is a prepositional phrase that is parallel to "to us", and us dregs of the magical world is apposite us in "to us". – Tᴚoɯɐuo Nov 3 '18 at 17:36
1

Dobbie-speak uses some forms of working-class and or regional British English (which may exist in some parts of the US but that is not where JK Rowling got them). He also uses forms that occur nowhere else in English. Rowling has given him a funny and peculiar ideolect. His speech in English can be compared to another literary character, Salvatore, in Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose. Even the into-English translation preserves the oddities of the Italian.

These authors work hard to create these characters. Their speech is "awe inspiring" for linguists.

One of the main features of these speech patterns (the English variety) is to use, an object pronoun, like "us" next to a noun, rather than as an object pronoun (Give it to us.)

"Us dregs" in standard form would be: We dregs [of society are much maligned]. We, the good people of [town] are convinced that [etc.]

"It was us men that seen him." for (We, men, were who saw him).

This "us + noun, where the noun and object pronoun are in apposition is very common, for example, in Dickens. The standard apposition is "we [noun]"

[Nothing should be dropped. The author constructed Dobbie's speech patterns very deliberately. They reflect of mixture of working-class or regional usages plus her own tweaks to make his speech even "weirder". As I have said before her re her books, she has tons of highly paid editors and rather than look for what one thinks is wrong with her writing, one should try and learn something from it.]

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.