Monthly Archives: April 2013

Is that all there is is?

is isToday I was named in Language Log, in a contribution by Ben Zimmer, distinguished language columnist for The Boston Globe (now for the Wall Street Journal).

When I watched today’s White House press conference, I noticed that the president repeatedly used a faulty phrase. I took to Twitter and shared my observation with fellow language lovers and word nerds. Ben Zimmer wrote his column about it.

The phrase in question is “is is.” People mindlessly say it, as in, “The trouble is, is that the Nats aren’t pitching well.” (The correct expression would be, “The trouble is that the Nats aren’t pitching well.”) As smart as the president is, he seems to have latched onto this construction after hearing other people use it, and he unthinkingly put it into his vocabulary. The habit makes him seem less smart than he is.

He made a similar lapse in the same press conference when he said “as best as they can.” “As best as” is an idiom. It is not standard English. As best they can, or as well as they can, would have been correct.

My concern was not political in nature, of course. Any prominent, respected communicator being broadcast or streamed would have prompted my tweet by saying “is is” repeatedly.

When defective words and phrases creep into our language because people hear and repeat things without pausing to question them, our language becomes a little less lovable.

Read Zimmer’s analysis:


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