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Consider the following dialogue:

Person #1: "You're crazy!"

Person #2: "I'm not crazy. I merely claim to be Napoleon come back from the grave."

After doing a Google search for "I merely claim to be", I was surprised to find that the phrase is not nearly as common as I had thought. Strange, it sounds perfectly natural to me in this context. Is is unidiomatic? If so, can you suggest a different way of saying it that would also underline the irony of the above statement?

P.S.: Can you let me know if you spot any mistakes in my message not necessarily related to the question? I seem to be "verbally impaired" at the moment...
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It sounds perfectly natural to me too. I agree, the number of Google hits is surprisingly low.

(Since you asked, you made a typo in "Is is unidiomatic?". But I think you may be forgiven for that!)
The word "claim" is one of those words that is often used with some skeptism. Example: "He claims to be President of the United States. Where are the Secret Service people?

~R
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Yes, RonBee, I am aware of that. Do you share Mr. Wordy's opinion that its use is appropriate in this context?
RonBeeThe word "claim" is one of those words that is often used with some skeptism.
When you add "merely" to that, the skepticism mounts.

The expression lends itself to two interpretations: (1) The claim is false. (2) I don't want to fight with you. I'm simply stating a fact.

I don't know which interpretation would better serve (or preserve) the irony of the Napoleon story.

Its ambiguity may contribute to its uselessness. But that doesn't make it unidiomatic. (I just noticed something: idiomatic.)
- A.
AvangiWhen you add "merely" to that, the skepticism mounts.

The expression lends itself to two interpretations: (1) The claim is false. (2) I don't want to fight with you. I'm simply stating a fact.

I don't know which interpretation would better serve (or preserve) the irony of the Napoleon story.

Its ambiguity may contribute to its uselessness.
To me, "merely" here most naturally means "I don't claim anything else", not "I don't do anything more than claim it", so doesn't add to the doubt.

Since we may reasonably assume that the statement claim is false, the question for me is whether the speaker himself believes it. This point seems ambiguous -- he may firmly believe it, he may partially believe it, or he may not believe it at all (despite the fact that he claims it) -- though I suppose that "claim" tends to suggest he might not fully believe it.
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Allow me to clarify then. The second character is supposed to be a psychiatric patient. This simple exchange is meant to inform the reader that, although the character does not consider himself crazy, he has deluded himself into believing that he is Napoleon resurrected. I used the word "merely" to reinforce the notion that he is completely unaware of how preposterous his claim is. Apparently, I failed to convey my intended meaning... Unfortunately, I can't think of any other way of putting it.
MarvinTheMartianAllow me to clarify then. The second character is supposed to be a psychiatric patient. This simple exchange is meant to inform the reader that, although the character does not consider himself crazy, he is deluded in his belief that he is Napoleon resurrected. I used the word "merely" to reinforce the notion that he is completely unaware of how preposterous his claim is. Apparently, I failed to convey my intended meaning... Unfortunately, I can't think of any other way of putting it.

Well, most readers won't be micro-analysing the sentence, so, in context, I think what you have is probably fine. Or perhaps you could say something like:

Just because I'm Napoleon come back from the grave doesn't make me crazy.
As long as it sounds natural to you, I'm satisfied. I was just trying to come up with something witty for the character to say. Of course, I don't claim to be Oscar Wilde...
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