Aren't I?

Are I or aren't I speak good? Yes, I are!

Aren't I? versus Ain't I?

Hardly an episode of Dr. Who goes by without someone saying, "Aren't I?" (Or so it seemed during a recent Dr. Who marathon at my house.) I often hear this bizarre phrase used in the most proper of settings by the most proper and "educated" of people. This is likely the most knee-slappingly ironic usage in all of English grammarandusagedom, because it's chiefly those who think highly of themselves and their command of the language who botch it up.

When given time to reflect on this usage, everyone knows this is wrong. So why do we do it?

I blame the grammar bullies who outlawed a perfectly good word for no good reason—ain't (as a contraction of am not). Ain't has been tossed up on a shelf, not totally out of reach, but high enough where only the bravest writers dare to climb. And why? It's the same scorched-earth, nuclear-overkill logic employed by post-9/11 legislative bodies. Just because some people were using ain't in place of isn't, aren't, haven't, didn't, etc., the word just had to be removed from our vocabulary.

Now we have those same "uneducated" folks still running around using ain't in place of isn't, aren't, haven't, didn't, etc., but now "educated" people are running around saying "Aren't I?". The funny part is, in the early days of grammar bullytude, "uneducated" people saying "Ain't" for "am not" would have passed Go and collected $200, but "educated" people saying "Aren't I?" would have been burned at the stake. And rightly so.

The Cure

Okay, fine. We can't say "ain't." But do we really want to make a habit of saying "I are" or other permutations thereof?*

Here's the compromise: Say "Am I not?" instead. It sounds snooty enough for "educated" gatherings and it teams the correct be verb with the pronoun I.

So there. That should put the English-grammar-and-usage universe back in balance.

No charge.

* Are you really taking grammar-and-usage advice from a man who runs around saying "permutations thereof?"

This article satisfies Squid Commo Objective (SCO) #2:

- Untangle and simplify the rules