Submitted by ccourt on May 13, 2005

You Joking Me?

I have a friend insistent on saying the phrase “You gotta be joking me” when I think he should be saying “You have to be kidding me”.

Does anyone know anyone else who says this and can you tell me how wrong it is?


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I know this thread is past it's due date but I just felt I had to express my annoyance at this phrase. Now in 2013 I hear "You are joking me" used on TV, radio and even by my own family members (though I think they just say it to wind me up). For me this is not correct English but I'm sure as time moves on it will gradually become the norm. As for me I am thinking of starting a campaign solely for the purpose of ridding us of this annoyingly incorrect use of the English language.

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What has happened to good grammar?
"You are joking me" is grammatically incorrect. I cringe every time I hear some one say it, I dispair when I hear it on television, especially on the BBC. They should know better.

Joking is an intransitive verb and therefore should not be used in this way. It's as ridiculous as saying "you are laughing me". You can neither laugh me nor joke me. You can make a joke or say you are joking but please do not use "joking me".

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"You must be joking!" or "You've got to be joking" are correct, "You must be kidding me" or "You're kidding me, aren't you?" are also correct. You cannot 'joke' someone but you can play a joke on someone. I hope this helps. John.

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My vote is for "You must be joking!" or, more simply put, "You're joking, right?"

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Rufus, after two years, you're probably no longer checking this thread, but "gotta" is NOT a contraction of "have got to". It is only a contraction of "got to".
You've gotta... = you have got to....
You gotta... = you got to....

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I agree with you.

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Actually, you can "joke" someone.

"joke, v.


2. trans. To make the object of a joke or jokes; to poke fun at; to chaff, banter, rally."

--from the online OED

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Your question is about the use of the word "gotta", as opposed to "have". Gotta is a colloquial contraction of the verbal phrase "have got to," an idiom. Therefore, your friend's sentence becomes, "You have got to be joking."


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it's just lazy slang

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They are both so awful why even discuss it?

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What's awful? They seem perfectly reasonable to me, although I have never heard "joking" used transitively before. Is that a Southern thing, maybe?

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I hear people say both all the time. While it is true that what your friend says is more colloquial, your alternative is still colloquial as well, despite being a little more "proper," so I don't think either is much more "wrong" than the other.

Also, you would probably never use either in any type of writing unless it's in dialogue, so there's really not an issue of which is more correct anyway.

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Yes, I've heard "You've gotta be joking me." From a descriptive POV, I don't think we can say it is right or wrong. It's right for the dialect of the person saying it. My grandmother (not a native speaker of English, but she learned to speak English) used to say, "I just joshing you." :-)

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I burst out laughing (or perhaps I should say I Iolled) when I read Anonymous's "correction" of Rufus, saying 'gotta' was a contraction of 'got to', not 'have go to', giving the examples:

You've gotta... = you have got to....
You gotta... = you got to...

'You got to ...' is ungrammatical of course, at least in Standard English. And if someone uses 'gotta', are they really going to bother with the 've? - surely it would be something like 'I gotta go', or from my generation - 'I gotta split, man'. (which is perhaps a little ambiguous!)

When I checked a couple of dictionaries, sure enough 'gotta' was defined as "the written form of the word some people use to mean ‘have got to’ or ‘have got a’, which is not considered to be correct". An example of the latter being 'Gotta cigarette? (= Have you got a cigarette)'. Which by Anonymous's reasoning would presumably be (= Got a cigarette?) - which we do say, but is itself an ellipsis of 'Have you got ...'.

And I was thinking of some examples when I realised that there's one case where Anonymous might unknowingly (I suspect) have a point. The well-known expression 'A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do' had just come into my mind, and here indeed we have one construction, third person singular, where 'gotta' does in fact mean 'got to' - 'He's gotta go now'. But one person out of six doesn't really make a rule.

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