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When I was in high school, a kid skipped class and walked through a wooded park by the school and three other kids followed him, beat the shit out of him, tore his gauges out, and then proceeded to light him on fire.

KIDS BE SCARY

(Source)

Another example

The term is often seen on internet forum as a remark to say kids are scary, I guess.

Is this a specific hip term or what does it mean to use "be" as the verb instead of "are"/"were" in this kind of construction?

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    Not to mention the granddaddy of them all in terms of "jocular, facetious" (as opposed to genuine dialectal) usage - Here be dragons! Commented Aug 23, 2014 at 17:04
  • There is the fantastic poster (which I now fail to locate) which lists the verb to be in "regular English": (I am, You are, He/she/It is, We are, They are). It then proceeds with "pirate English": (I be, You be, He/She/It be, We be, You be, They be). Lastly, the Jamaican version: (I is, You is, He/She/It is, We is, They is). Depending where you are in the world, you are likely to hear all manner of things (either intentionally or unintentionally)!
    – JMB
    Commented Sep 25, 2014 at 13:43

1 Answer 1

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In some varieties of English, people say 'I be ...', 'you be ...', 'he be ...' instead of the standard 'I am ...', 'you are ...', 'he is ...'. Sometimes speakers of standard English use this form jokingly or, as you suggest, to be hip. In this case, it's probably more to emphasise disbelief - to say, in effect 'I'm so shocked about this that I can't speak properly'. 'Kids are scary' would be too straightforward a comment.

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  • In this case, it's specifically to sound like Black American English.
    – Ben Kovitz
    Commented Dec 7, 2014 at 2:22
  • I agree with @BenKovitz. Similar to the iconic "Women be shoppin'!" comedic line of Chris Rock.
    – valbaca
    Commented Dec 17, 2016 at 1:07

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