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well done you /her/him etc

This phrase annoys me. It seems increasingly used. I know what is meant.

Yet it has no grammatical sense. It is not mentioned in ANY on line dictionary. And the definition of well (-) done is as an adjective, or exclamation.

I believe we may have first heard it in the film "Love Actually" spoken by Keira Knightley's character.

Today I was dismayed to see it in a Guardian "best books of 2018" review: "I liked Conversations With Friends, but in Ireland we tend to completely overhype Irish writers (in my opinion) so when Normal People came out I was worried that it would be a second book that had been overdone. I could not have been more wrong. I’m going to read it again over Christmas. I admire Sally Rooney so much but am also extremely jealous of her ability to build characters. ## Well done her!" https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/dec/20/genuinely-brilliant-from-cover-to-cover-your-favourite-books-of-2018

Can we discourage it or will we have to make "well done" some new grammatical form?

Lindsay

Comments

  • I know what is meant.

    Yet it has no grammatical sense.

    If you understand the structure irrespective of the pronoun used, then of course it makes grammatical sense!

    Starting with well done you, there's nothing remotely novel in stating the recipient of congratulations. The King James Bible of 1611 has

    Well done, thou good and faithful seruant.

    The trivial difference is the omission of a comma.

    With other pronouns, the congratulations are overheard rather than directly addressed. But this isn't really such a novelty. The latest edition of the OED devotes a section to

    well done that man (hence also well done that woman),

    which they characterise as British colloquial. The earliest quotation they've found is from 1944.

    OK, the extension from that man/woman to a personal pronoun may be fairly recent. But it's a perfectly logical extension.

    And the form of pronoun is entirely conventional: him, her, us, them are not just objective forms — they are emphatic forms. We no longer say

    It was he/she/we/they

    We say

    It was him/her/us/them

  • No, sorry David, If your thing is about grammar, then how is the omission of a comma trivial? The correct third person sense would be: Well done John. No comma needed unlike your biblical reference. But "well done John", or Mike or Jenny, or "all you people", is NOT well done him (or he) nor "well done them". It would be "well done by them/him/her". Or we could say: "it was done well by him". Well done seems to be the past tense of do with a qualifier. However, I do agree that "well done" is likely an emphatic.

    Though for the record we do say: It was him/her/us/them. Or at least I do and that is correct. And so we should say it like that.

  • No, sorry David, If your thing is about grammar, then how is the omission of a comma trivial?

    Because grammar is grammar, and punctuation is punctuation.

    Well done thou good and faithful servant without a comma is grammatically identical to the KJV text.
    Likewise, Well done you is grammatically identical to Well done, you.

    This step of my argument was addressed to Well done you.
    From there, it was an easy extension to Well done that man and (more recently perhaps) to Well done her.

    Well done seems to be the past tense of do with a qualifier.

    To me it seems nothing of the sort.

    Done is a PASSIVE PARTICIPLE used as an adjective.
    As for well, the term qualifier seems more appropriate for adjectives.
    Well is an ordinary adverb used in an ordinary way.

    The collocation isn't really an idiom since the constituent words retain their normal meaning.
    Well means 'well' and done means 'done' — just as they do in It was done well.
    But the collocation has become a lexical unit — used in much the same way as Congratulations or Bravo.
    Grammatically its use differs from Congratulations, which demands to before a THIRD PERSON expression.
    But I suspect you don't mind Bravo John or Bravo Mike and Jenny or Bravo all you people.
    Personally, I wouldn't mind extending it to Bravo him, Bravo her etc.

    These are positive expletives. Negative expletives are more likely to include objective pronouns:
    Damn him/her/them — and ruder.

    It may not be a coincidence that well done has independently become another lexical unit — used as an adjective to describe cooked meat. This is much closer to being an idiom since well is used in an unusual sense and The steak was done well tends not to mean the same as The steak was well done.

    But "well done John", or Mike or Jenny, or "all you people", is NOT well done him (or he) nor "well done them". It would be "well done by them/him/her"

    I find this argument baffling.
    Nobody says Well done done by them/him her. Therefore it is ungrammatical.
    Or rather it's currently ungrammatical.
    If everybody decided to say it then it would become grammatical.

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