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I'm watching this clip of Friends in which everybody was making fun of Rachel when they found Rachel would freak out when something comes close enough to the eyeball.

Monica said "Me, Myself, and I?"; Chandler said "How much did I love The King and I?" The word "I" makes sense in both contexts, but what Ross said seems to be:

Hey, does anybody want to get some lunch? All those in favor say I?

I don't understand how the word "I" fits in this context. I looked up the word "favor" in Cambridge Dictionary and I see there are a few "in favor" expressions:

  • be in favor of sth/doing sth: to support or approve of something
  • in your favor: When something is in your favor, it gives you an advantage
  • find in sb's favor: If a judge finds in someone's favor, he or she says that that person is not guilty.

Although I can understand each expressions separately, none of them seems to make sense in Ross's context of "lunch". Could someone explain the use of "I" in Ross's line and why "I" is appropriate there?

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  • Did you hear it or see it written? If written, it is a typical mistake for an automated system. AKA a voice vote. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voice_vote
    – Lambie
    Oct 21, 2021 at 16:36
  • @Lambie See it written here which seems to be transcribed by a native speaker (but I'm not sure). YouTube's CC says "eye" which doesn't make much sense, either.
    – yaobin
    Oct 21, 2021 at 18:20
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    Yes, well, thanks. It is in any case a transcription error.
    – Lambie
    Oct 21, 2021 at 18:25

1 Answer 1

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The word you are asking about is aye.

Merriam-Webster provides this definition:

Definition of aye (Entry 1 of 3)
: YES
aye, aye, sir

Wiktionary adds this:

aye aye, sir
(idiomatic, nautical) The correct and seamanlike reply, onboard a Royal Navy (or US Navy) ship, on receipt of an order from someone of senior rank or authority. It means "I understand the command and hasten to comply with the order."

This sense is commonly used in English-speaking navies and films about space ships. It is also common among inhabitants of northern Britain. The character Chief Engineer Lt. Commander Scott on Star Trek frequently said aye or aye, Captain when responding affirmatively to questions. This was intended to reflect both the naval influence and his Scottish ancestry.

Variations on aye aye, sir are often used humorously in friendly conversation.

The following is another Merriam-Webster definition:

Definition of aye (Entry 2 of 3)
: an affirmative vote or voter
the ayes have it

This usage is common in the British Parliament and in the United States Senate and House of Representatives when matters are put to a voice vote. Ross is using aye this way, and he uses favor in the first sense that you have provided. The chairperson of a body that follows parliamentary procedure (including committees of many types) will say, All those in favor say 'aye' when a proposal is to be voted upon.

It's important to note that Ross is playing with words. The humor depends on the fact that aye, eye, and I sound exactly alike.

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  • In some parts of northern England, the use of "aye" isn't at all humorous but is just part of the local dialect. It is also used quite seriously in Parliament when voting by voice - this presumably corresponds to entry 1 ("yes") rather than 2, since no one would shout out "affirmative vote", but shouting out "yes" would make a lot of sense.
    – rjpond
    Oct 21, 2021 at 12:52
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    Oh, now I totally get it. So Ross was saying "All those (people who would like to get lunch, please) say yes." Because Monica's and Chandler's uses of "I" use the meaning of "I" itself, I thought Ross also used it that way, not to mention I have not learned "aye" yet.
    – yaobin
    Oct 21, 2021 at 13:55
  • @rjpond I'm curious why "aye" is used in Parliament but not "yes". Is it just some habit carried on or is there any specific reason behind?
    – yaobin
    Oct 21, 2021 at 13:58
  • @yaobin Yes, there's a lot of history behind it. The simplest explanation is "because governing bodies, especially the Parliament of Great Britain, set great store by tradition." A more complicated question is how the evolutions of "Aye," Yea," and "Yes" got all tangled up. Oct 21, 2021 at 14:22
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    All those in favour say 'aye' is a traditional expression used in formal debates. They were evidently competing to say phrases with a word that sounds like 'eye'. Oct 21, 2021 at 15:12

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