Thursday, 21 February 2013

Scrabble Apps, I's, Is Is, Isos

If you play Scrabble nowadays, perhaps using the app on your computer or phone, you will find that not only does your opponent Crome (see that? I typed "come") up with very strange little words to fill those awkward or triple-scoring spaces, but that many of the silly, random combinations you try are accepted too. It is not just the famous QI, but LI, ZO, ISO or even ST. After a while you think, "Oh, it just isn't fun any more" [de-autocorrected from "anymore"]. Or rather, "It's not very fun anymore!"

I was grateful to Barrie England of the excellent Twitter account
for replying to my query about "I's" (see previous post). He tells me that there are citations in various corpuses (corpi?) going back twenty year or more. I suspected there would be but suggested, slightly tongue-in-cheek, that it might be becoming standard. Barrie tells me that "the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language" does indeed list it as a "variant Standard English form". So there.

But I was also rather deflated. This is an amateur blog, in the sense that it is fairly off-the-cuff, random and done only for love. In my innocence, I note down usages or phrases that I think are interesting or amusing, or  just new or changing. But then I make the mistake of asking for help or advice from proper linguists. They nearly always tell me that this was first noted decades, or perhaps centuries ago, that it is now moving towards standard, appears in grammar books and indeed the President of the United States says it. At least that's what happened with "double copula" or "is is". And I thought when I heard John McEnroe say it twenty or so years ago that it was an interesting departure in and from native speaker grammar!

But, by the by, I do recommend looking at Barrie England's satirical (I think) website "the Proper-English-Foundation" (and his other sites and contributions). It makes fun of prescriptivists in an
ironical, deadpan way which you may like. On the other hand, I have had problems with irony and
did invent an Irony Warning Scale for previous posts.
NB I am not one of those prescriptive people, more an amused descriptivist who finds it rather less amusing (as with Scrabble) when he realises that now anything goes. Even things that conflict with basic English structures using the verb "to be". But  as the POTUS says, "The thing is is that..."

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