BUGS BUNNY: You got me dead to rights, Doc. I'm a wabbit all right. Would you like to shoot me now, or wait till you get home?


BUGS BUNNY: *You* stay out of this. He doesn't have to shoot you now.

DAFFY DUCK: Oh yeah? Well, I say he DOES have to shoot me now! So shoot me now!

(ELMER shoots Daffy.)

(DAFFY puts his bill back in place)

DAFFY DUCK: Let'th run through that again.


DAFFY DUCK: Shoot him now. Shoot him now.

BUGS BUNNY: He doesn't have to shoot you now.

DAFFY DUCK: AHA! That'th it! (to camera) Pronoun trouble. (to BUGS) It'th not "he doesn't have to shoot YOU now", it's "he doesn't have to shoot ME now." (grows excited) Well, I say he DOES have to shoot me now!

(ELMER shrugs and shoots him again.)

--from Rabbit Seasoning, 1952. Chuck Jones, director. Michael Maltese, story.

There's another kind of pronoun trouble that doesn't involve wanton violence or rotating beaks, but does involve confusion. I'm referring to a difficulty I often have in the Thai language due to the fact that people often do not use pronouns at all. Think of how perplexing it would be if people just used verbs with no pronouns. People don't say "I'm going to the market", or "You go to the market", they just say "Go market" (in Thai of course). So for my first few years of trying to speak Thai I was wailing "Who's going to the market?" all the time.

You notice astutely that "go to the market" became "go market". That's because there aren't so many prepositions or articles in Thai as in English. That part's relatively easy. It's the dropping of subject pronouns that got me.

The other thing about Thai is that verbs are not conjugated, either according to person or tense. You get a time sense from context words like "yesterday", "long ago", "soon". And those words are often omitted. So "Go market" might mean "I'm (or you're, or he's, or she's, or we're...you get the picture) just going to the market now" or "I just came from the market" or "I went to the market last week". The end result of all this for me, as a neophyte Thai speaker, was that I spent a year or so constantly wondering "Who?" and "When?"

The funny thing is that after a while I just got used to it, and started to twig to the implicit sense of what was being said. It's like you know the context of the sentence and so your mind fills in the "missing" pronouns and time-sensitive words. It helped that my Thai had improved, of course, but I think equally as important was just my familiarity with how the Thai communicate non-verbally, so effectively, on so many levels.

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