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I watched a interview with Hillary on Ellen Show.

Hillary was talking about her granddaughter. Ellen asked what she called Hillary

Hillary said on the show :

She’s got a couple of words. I’m waiting to see what she wants to call me. If I like it, I’ll say “yeah that’s a good one”. If I don’t, then I’m gonna have to work on what else can she call me.

I thought that the last sentence was supposed to be like I'm gonna have to work on what else she can call me. Because 'what else she can call me' is not a question. So, I thought she said it grammatically wrong. But I'm not sure if it is her slight mistake.

You could watch it at 3:53 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RihhE7Qgkww&t=3m50s

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    Strictly speaking you are entirely right, and if you're writing a formal essay you should use the uninverted form; but expressing "embedded questions" in the inverted question form, as if the clause were enclosed in quotes, is quite common in speech, even among very sophisticated and highly educated speakers. – StoneyB Jun 12 '16 at 13:37
  • I don't think it's "quite common" in everyday speech. It's not common at all among the native English speakers I've been around all my life. – Alan Carmack Jun 12 '16 at 14:14
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    That seems like perfectly unexceptional usage to me (I grew up in the Midwest). – mkennedy Jun 12 '16 at 17:35
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The construction is a type of rhetorical question.

Hilary gives a slight pause after "I'm gonna have to work on" and then asks

what else can she call me?

notice that there is an inflection in her voice as if asking a question, and hand gestures and a determined look at Ellen for emphasis in repeating Ellen's original question of "What does she call you?"

It's along same lines of

I've done the laundry; tidied the house; walked the dog; what else do I need to do?

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Unlike @Peter, I don't hear a slight pause. In this case, "what else can she call me" is not a question. Substitute "think of other words that" for the "work on what else" and you've got the meaning.

If I don’t, then I’m gonna have to work on what else can she call me.

versus

If I don’t, then I’m gonna have to think of other words that can she call me.

  • I agree that it's worse, but I was trying to reword the sentence to not use "what" to make it more understandable for the OP. – mkennedy Jun 12 '16 at 21:28

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