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Aren't I?

Notice anything strange here: I'm allowed to write this sentence, aren't I?

It occurred to me recently that the phrase "aren't I" is peculiar. Either it is an exception to normal grammatical rules, or it is a commonly accepted mistake.

(5 minutes later)

The internet tells me that "amn't I" is still used colloquially in Scotland and Ireland (one more reason I love the Isles). A suggested etymology is that the difficulty of pronouncing the "m-n" combination develops the contraction into "an't I" which in a British non "r" pronouncing dialect, sounds remarkably the same as "aren't." Which is what it became over time.

In other etymological news, I had been puzzling over the phrase, "the world is your oyster," for some time. I knew what it meant - that the world is at your fingertips, everything is available to you, etc - but not why.

So I looked it up a couple of weeks ago. It's a quote from Shakespeare's Merry Wives of Windsor.

Why, then the world's mine oyster,
Which I with sword will open.

If you have money, you have anything you want. Thank you, Shakespeare, for yet another cultural staple.

(I really am a nerd, aren't I?)


Terra said…
you really should read "The Secret Life of Words: How English became English" by Henry Hitchings. You would love it! How many languages do you think english has absorbs words from over the years? 100, 35? Try 350!
Sarah said…
The "nerdiness" is part of your charm, one of the things we love about you :) Thanks for sharing your discoveries!
Anonymous said…
I personally prefer saying "amn't I". It just makes so much 'sense'. "Aren't I" is clearly from Oprah's dikionary.
Mindy said…
My parents just went to Stratford-upon-Avon (Shakepeare's birth place) and said he actually invented over 1500 of phrases and words we use in the English language. Check out this website:

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