TV Show Cops: Ending interrogatives with "at."

So, I’m watching Cops a lot these days, 'cause it seems to be on a lot between 7:00 and 8:00 when nothing else interests me.

In every single episode, from every part of the country, cops will end every question beginning with the word “where” with the word “at.”

Where’s your ID at?
Where do you live at?
Where’s your gun at?
Where’s your wife at?

Is this a regional thing? I would guess not, since it seems to follow from episode to episode. Is this police jargon of some kind? Is this a USA thing I’ve never really picked up on before?

Written American English doesn’t contain this idiosyncrasy. So, where does it come from? It’s jarring to my ears.

Could be regional. I am from Wisconsin, and I say it all the time. Some sentences seem incomplete to me without it, but some seem wrong with it. I’m not sure if that is because the “proper usage” makes a distinction, or if I have picked up “better” grammar by moving away from home.

My wife is one of those “never end a sentence with a preposition” people and the “at” ending bugs her, so if either of us uses the ‘…at’ construction, the other follows with “, asshole!” from the old joke about the library at Hahvad

It’s not that it’s a preposition that bothers me; we all do that. It’s that it’s completely superfluous.

Where’s your ID?
Where do you live?
Where’s your gun?
Where’s your wife?

Oh, I agree it is superfluous, but I can’t help it! It ‘feels’ right to add it.

This is one of those things you never give any thought to, but if you do you realize you can’t explain it. Don’t know if this makes sense to anyone but me.

I think it is a case of ‘specific’ vs. ‘general’:

I would not say “Where’s your ID at?” unless I knew you had it recently and now do not have it. Like, if I saw you coming into work without your badge, I’d say “Where’s you badge?” because you have not had it that day. But if I see you around work, and since the last time I saw you you no longer have your badge, I can say “Where’s your badge at?” because it isn’t where it should be (like you left it at your desk?). It also seems less accusatory than asking “Did you lose your badge?”, but maybe that’s just WI politeness.:slight_smile:

“Where do you live?” “Wisconsin.” Implies the general area, region, whatever.
“Where do you live at?” “123 Fake Street.” Specific address.

“Where does your wife work?” “Harley-Davidson.” Company.
"Where does your wife work at? “Accounting, third floor.” Specific department or location.

“Where’s your wife?” “At work.” General location.
“Where’s your wife at?” “I buried her behind the garage.” Specific location.

I guess none of them are set in East Texas.

“Where at is your ID?”
“Where at do you live?”
“Where at is your gun?”
“Where at is your wife?”

Then you’re gonna hate Basement Jaxx.

WAGging here: Maybe it’s based in a bit of German language construction? For instance, Minnesotans have a common sentence construction where a sentence will end in “with”.

“Would you like to come with (us)?” is quite common and it usually omits the implied “us”. (And could be from the verb conjugation where the preposition that goes with the verb flies to the end of the sentence.)
“Kommst du mit?”, which is German for “Do you want to come with” comes from the German infinitive mitkommen=with to come. The “with” gets thrown to the end.

In the case of “at”, it could be based loosely on this type of sentence construction or a repeated word for emphasis/clarity.

I never heard it until I went to Cleveland, where it’s just the way people talk. Now, in NYC, I never hear it anymore.

New student at the university stops a prof and says, “Excuse me, sir. Can you please tell me where the library is at?”
Prof says, “Young man! At this school we do NOT end our sentences with prepositions.”
Student says, “I’m so sorry! Can you please tell me where the library is at, asshole?”

I wouldn’t bet hard-earned cash on it, but if that were in Tennessee, instead of “asshole” it would be “y’all” appended to the “at.” As in,

“Where is your ID at, y’all?”
“Where do you live at, y’all?”
“Where is your gun at, y’all?”
“Where is your wife at, y’all ?”

Move a bit further north and it might be “you’ins” and if you run into a Dirty Harry inspired officer, either would be replaced with “punk.”

Likewise in Wisconsin, where I grew up. As in “we’re going down by my brother’s house, you wanna come with?”

Regards,
Shodan, ainna?

Could be regional. I’m from Cleveland, and it sounds completely normal to me.

I suspect it’s distinctive of class, sorry to say.

This might help - even if not geographically relevant.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yat_dialect

I grew up in southern Ohio, and it sounds totally normal to me, too.

Grew up near Chicago, in Indiana. I speke gud English, I swear. However, these constructions are completely normal to me.

“Hey, Pete, where’s your girlfriend at?”
“She had to pick up some paper towels down at the Walmart.”
“Oh, well, we’re about to go out to eat. Does she want to come with?”

Luckily, I married a Yat, so we’re mutually intelligible.

Also, Just Asking Questions, I like your descriptive analysis re: connotations of adding “at.” I would have been hard pressed to describe it that coherently myself, but you’ve nailed it.

I’m from Chicago, and it sounds like regular speech. And, like Shodan, hearing “Do you wanna come with” sounds entirely natural.

Yep, I was gonna say the same. From Chicago, and totally natural construction. I do realize the redundancy, but it doesn’t bother me. That’s just a common feature of at least my dialect, but it seems that it’s pretty widespread (even making its way to the famous joke about the guy walking through Harvard Yard and asking a student “Where’s the library at?” The student says “Here at Hah-vahd, we don’t end our sentences with a preposition.” To which the guy replys, “OK, where’s the library at, asshole?”) I don’t think the joke would be as widespread if it wasn’t a common construction.

Anyhow, “come with,” which I also use, is (from what I can tell) regional, centered around Wisconsin and parts of Illinois, including Chicago. I assume it comes via the German verb mitkommen. (ETA: Which I see is mentioned above.)

That’s a bit different, though. That’s the idiomatic usage of the phrase “where you at” or “where y’at” to mean “how are you,” which is only done in the New Orleans area so far as I know. The “at” in the OP is just the usual locational or temporal preposition and is (I would think) easily understood everywhere in the US, while the “where you at?” to mean “how are you” is specific local idiom and you’d have to be aware of it to know its meaning.