36

So I heard it from a character in a movie, and looked it up.

If it's correct, why add '-s' to say when the subject is "you"?

  • For context purposes, which movie? – kando Jul 6 '16 at 17:13
  • I hear that in my head as a truncated "So says you.", which is marginally clearer and more grammatical. – StuperUser Jul 7 '16 at 8:37
  • I wonder if "Says you!" isn't a form of "Thus says you" or something similar, so that the actual subject isn't "you" but "This, thus, so." – user37468 Jul 7 '16 at 21:00
  • @Ann But that would be subject–dependent inversion, so it doesn't solve the problem. The semantic roles don't support the analysis of you as complement and thus as subject. – snailcar Jul 8 '16 at 13:09
  • @kando The Big Short, @ about 48 min, and I think later someone said that again. – Qian Jul 9 '16 at 10:37
44

It does not conform to standard grammar, but is fairly common in speech.

Treat it as an idiom. It only works with "says", not other verbs.

  • 4
    Here are a couple of written examples. I was initially suspicious of not with other verbs, but I've racked my brains and can't think of any others. I also note that I'd most likely write it in the deliberately quirky eye-dialect form Sez you! (as thousands of other writers there) - maybe that's my subconscious acknowledgement that it's not really the same word as says, when used in this idiomatic "informal speech only" construction. – FumbleFingers Jul 5 '16 at 17:47
  • @FumbleFingers Sez??? Your link showed a lot more examples like "I sez", "you sez to him" besides "sez you". Can you explain that? – Qian Jul 6 '16 at 4:38
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    @TheoYou: What's to explain? The link claims almost 10,000 instances of the specific collocation Sez you. Glancing at a few pages of the results I have the impression the majority are for the context under consideration - but even if only 10% were, it would still prove my point. Consider this case-sensitive NGram if you still need convincing. – FumbleFingers Jul 6 '16 at 11:59
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    @TheoYou: As implied by my first comment, the "illiterate eye-dialect" spelling sez is often used to suggest that the speaker is ignorant / stupid / badly educated / rustic. More accurately, was often used in this way, but NGram will show you the usage overall has tailed off considerably over the past century. However, the specific collocation Sez you hasn't gone down anywhere near as much as the total of all instances of the aberrant spelling. I suggest that's at least partly because it's something of a "syntactic one-off, seen as being a different word, not just spelling. – FumbleFingers Jul 6 '16 at 13:29
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    @User112638726: You think that "thinks you!" occurs? I don't. GloWbE has 1893 examples of "thinks you", but almost all of them are followed by a verb (eg "thinks you are" or "thinks you want" etc). – Colin Fine Jul 7 '16 at 22:29
23

As ColinFine says, it is not standard or correct grammar. It's slang.

It means, "So you say" or "That is what you say". The implication is that the statement in question is not true, and the only proof that the person is offering is his own assertion that it is true.

For example:

You Ruritanians are all stupid!

Says you!

The phrase is very informal. It is commonly used in verbal arguments. You would not use it in a scholarly paper -- except to add a humorous touch.

20

I believe "says you?" arises from the fact that "who" rhymes with "you".

Consider as an example the following exchange between fans of rival baseball teams:

Joe: The Cardinals are indisputably the best baseball team.
Frank: Says who?
Joe: Says me!
Frank: Says you!!!

Your phrase is not strictly grammatically correct, but it flows as a rhyme from other phrases that are grammatically correct and has now become idiomatically correct.

  • 7
    I sympathize with Joe, but he's wrong this year. – StoneyB Jul 5 '16 at 22:22
  • 1
  • 1
    Now your left with Is 'says me' grammatical? What does it rhyme with? :) – Alan Carmack Jul 6 '16 at 20:43
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    Ironically, you're left with a comment about grammar saying "now your left". – Monty Harder Jul 6 '16 at 21:08
  • @Nicholas Bet he's got the best OPS+ in the College. – StoneyB Jul 6 '16 at 22:18
13

"Says you" is a specific case of a more general way of refusing to agree. When a listener disagrees with a proposition, he may amend it by attributing it to a source. For instance, if you say, "It is good to buy hats", I might respond, "Says the haberdasher" (someone who makes and sells hats). This indicates that I don't necessarily agree that it is good to buy hats, but I agree the haberdasher says that it is good to buy hats.

Because this is an unusual word order (the verb "says" precedes the subject "the haberdasher") it's not uncommon for people to conjugate the verb improperly. As you noted in your question, "you" would ordinarily imply "say" rather than "says".

  • 3
    I was about to provide a similar analysis. One important caveat, though: As this is a fixed expression, it would sound wrong to say "Say you." – Scott Severance Jul 6 '16 at 4:30
0

"Says you" is indeed mostly used to disagree.

But it is also employed as a signal that the preceding comment is unsupported scientifically -- a specific refutation, not a mere disagreement.

This usage follows this idea: If any assertion can be entirely refuted by responding "Says you," then -- even if it's a fact claim -- it is not one that is based on demonstrable evidence.

Refutation by "Says you" is a diagnostic tool to uncover hidden opinions and relative comparisons masquerading as facts ("I own a big dog," "This is how to solve math problems like this," or "You should at least finish out the semester.")

"Says you" doesn't necessarily refute all assertions completely. Sometimes the response can be "No, not 'Says me' -- says 'This evidence right here.'"

protected by Community Jul 8 '16 at 11:04

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