April 11, 2018

Can You Conjugate

Just like "A Case of Pronoun Misuse," we're going to look at verbs today! I want to make a note - not all dialects of English have the same conjugational patterns. African-American Vernacular English, for example, has its own conjugational pattern. Some English creoles also have different conjugational patterns. Different conjugations are not strange between dialects. We are not going to look at people who natively speak these dialects. We are going to look at people who are using non-standard forms for the sake of sounding cool or rhyme or some other reason. Got it? No dialect shame here.

"Now that I've become who I really are." - Break Free, Ariana Grande

There exist dialects where you can say "I is." I am not familiar with any dialect of English where you can say "I are." This lyric was written by Max Martin. The "are" appears intentioned to rhyme with "heart." This lyric was mocked for its ungrammaticality. Perhaps Max Martin had witnessed the "I is" construction before and thought that meant any conjugation of "to be" will do. More likely he just didn't care, since Ariana complained about it to him and he told her to sing it anyway. This is an example of ungrammaticality to force a rhyme - two things people really don't like.

"I overthink your p-punctuation use - not my fault, just a thing that my mind do." - The Louvre, Lorde

Another rhyming one, but this one also is vaguely set up for with the whole focus on language subtleties in "I overthink your punctuation use."

"I don't care who you are in this bar it only matters who I is." - Blah Blah Blah, Kesha ft. 3OH3

Here's one that's copped from AAVE. "I is" is a standard conjugation in AAVE, and you can find it in songs that are attempting to... portray... AAVE, like "Porgy, I Is Your Woman Now." 3OH3 are from Boulder, Colorado - this is not their native dialect. It looks like they're copping AAVE for the assonance (di,shi,is).

"You are the question and the answer am I." - Shadow Dancing

This one's very interesting. Now you would expect "and the answer is me," but remember that in high English, "to be" is sort of an equivalency verb. There is no object - both are subjects. "The answer am I" therefore shouldn't be a strange construction if you follow logic, but by now we should know that logic and language only rarely hang out in the same circles together. See, in English we also have a strict word order where the subject must precede the verb and the verb must agree with the object (there are exceptions - for example, the "there is/are" construction). If "to be" agreed with "the question," we would get "The question is I." "Is I" sounds pretty bad to me, though. "Am I" would make sense if "The answer am I" were a scrambled version of "I am the answer" (and "the answer am I" is perfectly acceptable in other languages), but English doesn't really allow that kind of scrambling. Who are we to stop Andy Gibb from using old-fashioned constructions, though?

"Don't matter who you are, just love me the way I are." - The Way I Are, Bebe Rexha

Another case where it looks like they're trying to mirror a prior prhase. "you are" & "I are." The "are" might also be a long-term rhyme with "part" one verse back.

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