Date: Fri, 25 Jul 1997 11:54:02 -0700
From: Peter McGraw pmcgraw[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]LINFIELD.EDU
Subject: Re: "is is" (formerly "as best as")
I'm with Bryan's mother. I've been hearing "the 'is' stutter" for a long
time now, and it bothers me, too. I once even heard someone, I think on
the radio, say, "The thing of it is is, is that (there are too many
sheepdogs, or whatever)." Here at Linfield we have a computer director
who will string together five or so "is's" before he quits spinning his
wheels and resumes the sentence.
The first such construction I ever heard was from a friend in a place
where I formerly lived, who was wont to say, "The point being is..."
Obviously he had reanalyzed "being" into a modifier of "point" and thus
still needed a verb. Something of the sort must be happening with the "is
is" utterances, though it seems less clear why.
I, too, have always figured that "as best as" was a conflation of "as
best (you can)" with "as well as (you can)."
On Fri, 25 Jul 1997, Bryan Gick wrote:
The recent thread on "as best as" reminds me of something pointed out to
me by my mother. She's been noticing, to her continual annoyance, that
seemingly respectable and well-educated TV newsfolk and politicians have
taken to saying "is" twice in some constructions, like:
"The problem is is there are too many sheepdogs on the board of directors."
This has the same intonation as -- and is presumbably an analogy from --
constructions like: "What the problem is is..."
Anybody heard this?
What the reason the "as best as" thing reminded me of this is is (whew)
that I suspect "as best as" is similarly based on analogy from "to do x as
best one can/could/etc." (without the second "as"). This sounds a bit
archaic to me and wasn't in my native dialect of NW PA, but I have heard
it often in other dialects. Much more common, of course, is the "as...as"
comparative construction, and hence, presumably, the analogy.
On Thu, 17 Jul 1997, Duane Campbell wrote:
Watching the Senate Finance Committee hearings just now (I don't have
much of a life), an attorney asked, "As best as you can remember . . ."
It seems to me that in the last few years this phrase has almost
completely replaced "as well as", even among well educated speakers. It
grates on my ears. Am I wrong to think that this is grammatically
incorrect, that you cannot compare a superlative? Is it language
inflation? Or am I just being picky?