Nonfiction Screed: I’m a writer, am’n’t I?

Proposal: Let’s bring back “am’n’t,” because “aren’t” ain’t right in the usage of “I’m a writer, aren’t I?” which is the same as saying, “I’m a writer, are I not?” or, similarly, “I’m a writer, I are.” [And, yes, “ain’t” isn’t formal either — though some sources explain that “ain’t” derives from “am’n’t” — but it’s the only one-syllable verb-negation combo we have in English.]  This inconsistency is just hard to justify to my students.  And if language is just how we use it, let’s introduce this, shall we?  Not that this is really a fight worth fighting, but my wife, who picks up language changes quite easily, is afraid she’ll use “am’n’t” in a formal setting and be perceived as dumb, so she doesn’t want me to use “am’n’t” by myself.  But if a lot of us start talking this way …

While I’m on the subject of first-person verbs (and how often IS one on this subject, really, outside the classroom), I’d like to propose that we — OK, I, Matt — be allowed to use my name sometimes instead of being stuck using “I” all the time.  If we can replace third-person pronouns with names (“he”/”Steve”), why can’t I (since “I” is always relative to who’s speaking, and therefore potentially confusing) use “Matt” instead of “I” and let the verb indicate the person-level: “Matt am writing right now.” I tried this on my students today, and they reacted as if I’d just said 2 + 2 = 5 (but then, we were having a philosophical discussion about the metaphysical reality of numbers).

— MH, today

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