Je suis ce que je suis, et si je suis ce que je suis, qu’est-ce que je suis?
zhuh swee skuh zhuh swee, ay seezh swee skuh zhuh swee, kess-kuh zhuh swee? Click below to hear this!
I Yam What I Yam (or maybe not!)
What DOES this mean, anyway? It could be a commentary on Popeye the Sailor Man’s theme song, or on Descartes’ famous Je pense, donc je suis, a mix-and-match game, or just a piece of nonsense.
Here’s the thing. Je suis means two things: I am, from the verb être (to be), and I follow, I am following, from the verb suivre (to follow. How to know which is which? You can’t, without context. But in this tonguetwister, the context is part of the problem.
So take your choice!
I am what I am, and if I am what I am, what am I?
I follow what I follow, and if I follow what I follow, what do I follow?
I am what I follow, and if I am what I follow, what am I?
I follow what I am, and if I follow what I am, what do I follow?
I am what I follow, and if I follow, what I am…
And so on. You get the idea. Any one of the incidences of je suis could have either meaning, and whatever combo you come up with, the whole meaning of the sentence will change.
How many different possibilities exist, mathematically? Here’s your homework: choose one combination and write an essay supporting or criticizing the point of view expressed by the statement. All papers are due next week.
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