Letters to the Editor SpecGram Vol CLXXXIX, No 4 Contents Linguimericks—Book ८२

University News

Tag Question Causes Communicative Breakdowns Across Four Continents, Innit?

by Ruthlessly Roving Reporter Miss Deakina Andrea Kirkhamia

The Linguistics Association for the Promotion of Tag Questions Across Languages (LAPTagQAL), based both at and out of the University of Puddlebury, has issued an unprecedented amber warning following a series of communicative breakdowns involving a form of the English tag question which has now spread to four continents.1

The danger arises from the colloquial, uniform2 British tag question form ‘innit’ ([ɪnɪʔ]) which has been stalking the sleepy villages, leafy shires and kebab-shop inundated inner cities in an increasingly going up kind of way since it was first spotted in 1998. It has replaced good ol’ ‘... wouldn’t you?’, ‘... didn’t he?’, ‘... can’t we?’ etc in 87% of the idio(t)lects of the British people. If we had a graph to show you, it would corroborate this claim.

The first recorded instance of a communication breakdown resulting from [ɪnɪʔ] occurred last year in an otherwise peaceable conversation between a father a son who were out deer stalking. Apparently, the exchange went thus:

Father:Maybe there’s some deer in those woods over there.
Son: Yeah, I can see some deer in it.

Due to the homophony of ‘innit?’ with ‘in it’, the father, hearing ‘innit?’, mistook the son to be executing the illocutionary act of ‘Annoyed With Interlocutor For Stating Obvious’ when in fact, as police interview transcripts show, the son was simply identifying where the deer were. A fight ensued, father and son have not spoken since, and friends report that both have left their jobs through stress. This and similar incidents of ‘in it’/‘innit’ confusion are spreading fire wildly.

We caught up with LAPTagQAL Director, C. de Marma(ra)duke (of W)ellington in a local café but on taking our seats he replied to the waiter’s proffering of coffee with ‘I take milk [ɪnɪʔ]’ at which point we left in disgust at such rudeness.

In other [ɪnɪʔ]-related scare stories, due to the lack of any need to invert an auxiliary when the [ɪnɪʔ] form is used, English language teachers across the globe are preparing to go on strike. Spokesindividual of the Associated Commune of Economically Threatened Activist Teachers of English (ACETATE), Dr Polly ‘Dolly’ Molly3 spoke to us exclusively with the worrying words that ‘With no subject auxiliary inversion in tag questions to teach, English teachers are finding there’s very little else to teach in the classroom and are being made redundant. If you take out the auxiliary system, the English grammar curriculum has very little complexity left [ɪnɪʔ]’.

1 My mother remains unaware of this but then she is incontinent.

2 As in ‘uni-form’, not BDSM.

3 Who is certainly no silly-billy.

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SpecGram Vol CLXXXIX, No 4 Contents