In a teaser for the new series of Doctor Who the Doctor asks Clara :

Clara, be my pal and tell me... am I a good man ?

My problem is that in French it simply doesn't have any other sense than the fact that he wants Clara to be his friend, which doesn't make that much sense in this sentence.
So what does "be my pal" mean in this context? Is it an idiom ?

  • @StoneyB I see... but when I translate it in French "Clara, soit ma copine et dis moi... suis-je quelqu'un de bien ?" it doesn't make that much sense. Is "be my pal" a way for him to ask her to be indulgent with him ? Jun 28, 2014 at 19:29
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    Be my pal means "be my friend" - that is, "Do for me what a true friend would do: tell me the truth". But that's LitCrit, not English! :) Jun 28, 2014 at 19:30
  • @StoneyB Ok thank you... I updated my post anyway... But should I delete my question then ? Jun 28, 2014 at 19:32
  • My French isn't good enough to judge - is the English idiom be a friend, a pal, a good boy, a man meaning exhibit the behavior of X, show yourself to be X transparent, or do you think other readers would benefit from having it explained? If so, rewrite to focus on that, and I will answer (and withdraw my closevote). Jun 28, 2014 at 19:35
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    Yes, thank you. I think CarSmack has provided an answer (or is in process of providing it). Jun 28, 2014 at 21:05

2 Answers 2


Be my pal and tell me....

It is an idiom or expression, meaning Be a true friend and tell me... or Prove that you are my friend by telling me...

As an idiom, the meaning is not so literal. When we are saying it, we are not asking for a legal proof of friendship.It is, rather, an informal way of goading (prodding) our friend into giving us the information.

editing my answer as the question gets edited :)

  • I think "be my pal" could mean, "be blatantly, brutally honest with me, and tell me the truth," or, "be flattering to me, and tell me something kind, even if it's insincere." There's room for it to go either way.
    – J.R.
    Jun 28, 2014 at 19:41
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    @J.R. Yes, and since the specific context is a short trailer involving the new(est) Dr Who, I don't think we have enough context to know which way he is going with the phrase, especially since I (at least) don't know the characteristics of this New-estWho.
    – user6951
    Jun 28, 2014 at 19:52
  • Ah ah, and edited my question back so that it really completely fits to your answer ;) Thanks a lot, I have learned a new thing today :) Jun 28, 2014 at 20:28
  • @TrevörAnneDenise Well, it makes the question easy to answer if you edit the question to fit the answer. Haha. Seriously, I'm glad you learned something new. Now, just use the idiom five times today and once a day for a week, and you'll really learn it. :)
    – user6951
    Jun 28, 2014 at 21:54
  • Another, less literal interpretation is "Do me a favor". Or "Because you are my friend, I trust that you'll do me this favor."
    – TecBrat
    Jul 7, 2014 at 18:42

*In order to really understand this Answer, one must absolutely dedicate 19 seconds to watch the Dr. Who trailer.

Scene: Creepy music. Anima-reality. Sharp lines. Dark shadows.
Dr. Who: Clara, be my pal and tell me... am I a good man?
Clara: I don't think I know who the doctor is anymore.

Be my pal and do something. (Replace do something with any common small favor.)

This idiom is an exhortation to do something. The core meaning is the imperative do something. The "be my pal" part is completely rhetorical. (The implication is that if you do something you are considered to be "a friend" but if you don't do something then you are not being a friend.) Being rhetorical, it can be used in contexts that are ironic or otherwise not completely sincere. Also, it's extremely informal; it's typically used for relatively small favors like "be a pal and pour me another (drink)", "be a pal and help...", "be a pal and give me a hand".

It's based on be a pal and do something. See Google Ngram: be a pal,be my pal,be a pal and. It's practically identical to the more common "do me a favor and do something (NGRAM link)", though the latter doesn't have the same level of rhetoric. Also, compare with, "Would you (please) do something?" which would be a sincere and standard way of asking someone politely.

This is, after all, the premier line of the trailer, and it smartly functions like the climax of a story. The line is well crafted and complex. The intonation by Dr. Who is subtle yet tangibly creepy. The register of "be my pal and" is informal and rhetorical which contradicts the more formal and supposedly sincere "am I a good man?"

One must conclude that Dr. Who is absolutely not asking Clara to be his pal and neither is he being sincere in asking her if he is a good man. Everything is a contradiction. His question, his tonality, his character, his relationship with Clara, and the situation. It all points to an atmosphere of danger; it's dangerous to even answer this question.

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    [Cue the creepy music, as we observe CoolHandLouis typing out advice and wisdom in a dimly-lit room. Now, start the baritone voice-over]: Be a friend of mine and upvote this fine answer, will you? :^)
    – J.R.
    Jun 29, 2014 at 6:34

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