In the BBC Sherlock episode "The Sign of Three", Sherlock is reading the guest list (checking RSVPs) and asks "Major James Sholto. Who he?" Why does he say "Who he?" instead of who is he? It seems like lazy speaking, which is unlike Sherlock. enter image description here

  • 2
    "It seems like lazy speaking, which is LIKE Sherlock."
    – madmada
    Jan 27, 2016 at 0:59
  • @madmada I really don't think he does speak lazily - to me his speech is formal English, not an Estuary or Essex accent. Kind of upper-class maybe?
    – NiceOrc
    Jan 28, 2016 at 22:05
  • @NiceOrc the two aren't mutually exclusive... He has a slight upper-class accent and uses proper grammar etc, but also, strictly the minimum effort necessary to get the result he wants Feb 5, 2016 at 12:45
  • Are you sure he actually said that? Are you sure it's not just the caption that is wrong?
    – Tim
    Nov 28, 2016 at 1:10

2 Answers 2


I think this is a UK idiomatic usage. It seems to be fairly common these days although I can't find any references to origin or reason for current usage. I suspect that the writer is trying to be hip.

It's like some form of pidgin English. It reminds me of the line from Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness (bit of a spoiler):

"Mistah Kurtz - he dead."

  • 1
    I'm sure it was used in Yes Minister too in the 80s, I think Jim Hacker said it, though can't find it. I don't think it's particularly modern (though anachronistic speech has been a bit trendy for several years now). I think you kinda over-pronounce both words, as if speaking English as a foreign language, and the subtext is "This is all alien to me, I couldn't possibly know who this person is". Feb 5, 2016 at 12:42

At least, from my knowledge, it's just another way of talking, like taking out a g (i.e takin') or abbreviating words.

  • Yes, but Sherlock doesn't usually speak like this, which is the point of my question.
    – NiceOrc
    Nov 30, 2016 at 21:55

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .