17

I do not listen (but do read) much to English lately, but honestly, I heard it once or twice. Would you consider it old-fashioned?

"I don't mind if I do" said to politely accept an offer of food or drink -

  • A: "There's plenty more cake if you'd like another piece." B: "I don't mind if I do."

Source: Cambridge Advanced Learners Dictionary

  • 12
    Worth noting: As an American, I have never heard "I don't mind if I do", always "Don't mind if I do." Also, see this similar question on ELU. – thunderblaster Jul 18 '16 at 17:37
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    "No TV and no beer make Homer something something…" – Jivan Scarano Jul 18 '16 at 17:57
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    Not at all, if I say so myself. – PCARR Jul 18 '16 at 21:28
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    Interesting comments about the use of the first person personal pronoun "I" at the beginning. As a native UK speaker, I'd say that both are equally valid, and I don't see any significant change of implied meaning from including the pronoun. The only real distinction I'd draw is that leaving the pronoun off adds a degree of informality or colloquialism to the phrase, but it's a subtle distinction at best. Quite often the pronoun gets 'buried' by the rest of the phrase, in any event, which is probably why it's often ignored. Rolls off the tongue more easily. – flith Jul 19 '16 at 12:43
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    @Tyress: "(Please, you,) don't mind if I do" sounds more like a question ("You don't mind if I take one, do you?") while "[I] don't mind if I do" is a response to an offer to take one. – flith Jul 19 '16 at 12:45
26

It's not that common of an expression, but it doesn't strike me as old-fashioned, either. I disagree a little with the Cambridge Advanced Learners Dictionary here when they emphasize that it's a polite acceptance. It is polite, but more to the point, I'd say it's something like an eager acceptance; it's almost a little playful.

  • 2
    Likewise hunter, it stroke me as a bit strange to get the badge "polite". I was of two minds whether to use it in a kind of formal setting. BTW, +1 for "more to the point". – learner Jul 18 '16 at 13:03
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    @learner - I am fascinated by your usage here. What do you mean to say by "to get the badge" in your comment? (Also, "stroke" is not the past tense of "strike," but it is a near-homonym for the correct one...) – P. E. Dant Jul 18 '16 at 17:48
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    I think the "playful" part is important. If you used this phrase in a completely serious manner you might get some funny looks. – Nathan K Jul 18 '16 at 18:36
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    @P.E.Dant He/she meant “to get the label”. Likely better said “to be categorized as”, since “badge” & “label” tend to only be used when there's a physical/visual badge or label involved. – Slipp D. Thompson Jul 18 '16 at 20:58
11

In your example (politely accepting cake) I think it could be considered old fashioned.

But more generally I don't think it's that uncommon, as currently many people use it to be slightly tongue-in-cheek. E.g. if you were offered some cake and grabbed a big slice you might smile and say "don't mind if I do, I'm starving!". This might make your host smile if you are in an informal context, but wouldn't be acceptable in a more formal context (e.g. restaurant).

Even Homer Simpson says it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5SLdg0BGGQ0

  • So... accepting cake with the phrase is old fashioned but accepting doughnuts isn't? Aren't doughnuts just mutilated cake? – corsiKa Jul 18 '16 at 15:13
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    @corsiKa "s people use it to be slightly tongue-in-cheek" said or intended as a joke, not taken seriously. Edit: sorry, I didn't know you are Canadian-Assuming you're a native speaker of course. – learner Jul 18 '16 at 15:18
  • @corsiKa good question, I was obviously just thinking about Homer... Updated to stop everyone thinking about doughnuts. – stripybadger Jul 18 '16 at 15:19
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    @stripybadger I literally just went to my company's rotunda and grabbed a donut. Thanks. THIS IS ON YOUR HEAD. – corsiKa Jul 18 '16 at 15:38
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    The first thing I thought, seeing the title in the Hot Questions List, was indeed Homer Simpson. Perhaps the fact that it is a bit old fashioned is what makes him saying it so amusing/the phrase feel so tongue-in-cheek. (Not that I disagree at all with the answer!) – pjs36 Jul 18 '16 at 16:22
7

I don't know if the previous posters are Americans, but while it seems a little formal, it's certainly not outdated and I would expect to hear this quite regularly here in sunny Buckinghamshire, England.

  • Definitely, it's a fairly common phrase even among the young here in Essex. – SGR Jul 19 '16 at 8:06
3

Yes I would, but the average person today would still know what you mean.

According to Google Ngrams, the phrase was most popular from the thirties to mid forties but came back and is just as popular today.

  • 1
    ...with the caveat that Ngrams are taken from written sources, so any usage trends may or may not accurately reflect how a word or phrase might have been used conversationally over that same time span. – J.R. Jul 19 '16 at 16:25
  • @J.R. — Spoken ignorance versus written sources ? – Brice C. Jul 20 '16 at 7:31
  • @BriceC. - When it comes to language, "popularity" could be measured both ways. With a phrase like, "don't mind if I do," I don't think it's wise to rely on an Ngram to tell the whole picture. – J.R. Jul 20 '16 at 9:18
  • This phrase can only be used in dialog, so Ngrams is the closest thing we have. – 54 69 6D Jul 20 '16 at 15:25
  • There is also COCA, which deliberately culls from transcribed interviews in an attempt to get instances of spoken words and phrases. – J.R. Jul 21 '16 at 20:09
-2

I think it sounds old fashioned.

However, I think the interpretation would depend a lot on the delivery, speaker, and audience. For example, someone could be using it ironically, and if the the audience were able to notice the irony, then it might sound ironic rather than old fashioned1.

Why the phrase old fashioned?

I'm not Noam Chomsky or a linguist, but I think that the reason that it sounds old fashioned is because it's wordy, and overly polite and submissive sounding. I think that the current trend is to speak concisely and to be respectful rather than submissive or polite.

I also think that the phrase itself is a little ridiculous and empty, and this might contribute to the interpretation. Afterall, if the answer is "yes" 2 then of course you don't mind. And anyway, why would you ever mind your own actions? You would sound a pretty crazy if you said "I really mind if I eat this, but I'm going to eat it anyway" (but nobody would be evaluating whether or not you sound old fashioned).

I didn't notice other answers actually diving into why they feel this phrase sounds old fashioned, only giving statistics or examples. Answering "why" is a harder problem, but I think it's part of the answer. I would definitely defer to someone who actually studies language, and I would be interested in their answer. Although I don't care about this phrase in particular, I think the evolution of language is interesting and important.


Notes

  1. Note that that the phrase is still an old fashioned phrase, it's just that you're using it ironically. To borrow the Homer Simpson example, Homer's saying "Well I don't mind if I do" in an effort to sound silly, and part of the reason that he sounds silly is because he's using an old fashioned phrase, and part of the reason is because he's pretending to sound polite, which you might also say is also old fashioned (just take a sample of comments anywhere on any StackExchange site to observe this).
  2. By "yes" I mean any variation of agreement which can be reduced to the affirmative. "Yes" is used here for brevity and clarity.
  • 5
    I disagree on nearly every point here, but it may be a regional difference (Canadian). It's not particularly uncommon, and unlike most old-fashioned terminology it is most appropriate in informal rather than formal contexts. It's not at all submissive; I hear (and use) it as appreciative acceptance of an offer in a friendly, outgoing manner. Simply saying "yes" is much more self-effacing, as you are accepting the offer in as few words and in the most generic manner possible, like a shy toddler. – Mikkel Jul 18 '16 at 20:37
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    This answer is 100% wrong. The expression is one of enthusiasm. – Andrew Medico Jul 18 '16 at 22:02
  • My first reaction was that it sounds old fashioned, and I felt that it was a fair answer. Out of consideration, I thought further about why, and remembered hearing it in old movies, mostly spoken coquettishly by female actors. – geneorama Jul 19 '16 at 13:29
  • Separately, simply saying "yes" is not the only alternative to saying "I don't mind if I do". There are other ways to show enthusiasm. A South Park character might say "hella yes", I might say "great idea, thanks". All answers still mean "yes". – geneorama Jul 19 '16 at 13:32
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    @AndrewM - I think "100% wrong" is an overstatement. Specifically, I think the phrase does have an old-fashioned ring to it, and I wholeheartedly concur with this sentence: the interpretation would depend a lot on the delivery, speaker, and recipient. Someone could use this phrase in an attempt to be humorous. – J.R. Jul 19 '16 at 16:29

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