Tuesday 01 April 1997
"The very opening line is something of an enigma," explained Athelstan Fowlbit, Murdoch professor of creative grammar at the University of Milwall. "It runs: `Is you is or is you ain't my baby?' and I think you can already see what we are up against."
The professor went on to explain that since the line is couched in the interrogative, he deduced that the indicative forms of the first verb must be "you is is" which raises the question of which "is" is the primary and which the auxiliary verb. "This, of course," he went on, "we took to be explained by the subsequent `is you ain't' - or `you is ain't' in its indicative form, which appears to imply that the first `is' in `you is is' is the primary and the second the auxiliary - a most unusual occurrence."
Warming to his theme, he continued: "So we proceeded to line two in the hope of further enlightenment. The result, however, was precisely the converse. It goes: `The way you's actin' lately makes me doubt.' Now surely that should read: `the way you is is actin' lately makes me doubt', or possibly, `is makes me doubt', at the end.
"We were frankly bewildered, yet the third line threw up an alternative theory: `Honey, won't you be my baby, baby?' Perhaps the repetition of `is' in the verb form `you is is' is no more than a simple echolalia, grammatically cognate with the repetition of `baby' in `baby, baby'."
Yet the question remained why the "is" was repeated in "is you is my baby", while it was the "baby" in "Honey, won't you be my baby, baby?" The professor moved to the final line of the manuscript, which read: "Guess my flame in your heart done gone out."
His earlier research had indicated that a primary echolalic repetition of the auxiliary verb "to be" appeared to take precedence over the dittographic "baby, baby", yet there was no repetition at all in the conjectural last line. Not even a "did done gone out".
"It's most infuriating," said the professor, "when you come across such documents written by people who are clearly not sufficiently adept in the language they are using; but I think we can now begin to piece things together. We are speaking here of auxiliary echolalia in the interrogative and a complete conjugation of the verb `to be' that runs I am is, you is is, he is is, we, you and they are is, or possibly is are - we need more information on that latter matter.
"The first line of the song, if song it be, is a masterpiece of consistency, but I'm afraid the author made a bit of a hash of the rest of it." The professor smiled benignly, adding, "but perhaps he was under some sort of emotional strain."
Life & Style blogs
Three in every four British men will be overweight by 2030, says World Health Organisation
Rihanna's Met Gala dress took one Chinese woman 2 years to make, was reduced to omelette meme in 2 seconds
Women think Irish men are the sexiest, survey finds
How to gain confidence and maximise your sexual potential
What do the emoji on Snapchat mean?
In defence of liberal democracy
General Election 2015: Post-election 'shambles' looms as 70 per cent of voters say SNP 'should not be able to veto UK government policies'
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
General election live: SNP suspends two members for disrupting Labour rally
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils
- 1 Katie Hopkins gives rare glimpse of sensitive side with heartfelt open letter to her children penned in case she dies from epilepsy
- 2 Rihanna's Met Gala dress took one Chinese woman 2 years to make, was reduced to omelette meme in 2 seconds
- 3 Top Gear: Jodie Kidd, Philip Glenister and Guy Martin 'in advanced talks' to replace Jeremy Clarkson and co
- 4 Women think Irish men are the sexiest, survey finds
- 5 Florida couple forced to register as sex offenders for having sex on public beach
£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...
£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...
£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...
£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...