One of the more distressing verbal infelicities committed by young persons nowadays is the strewing of their utterances with “innit”, as in “I was like oh my god innit”. My chief objection is that it is almost always ungrammatical. It used to be the case that “innit” was a truncation of “isn’t it?”, but if you listen carefully to teen persons, their “innit”s can rarely be construed as such.
The changing fads and fashions of teensprache are a mystery, at least to me, for I have not studied these matters properly. But I think I have stumbled upon the reason why “innit” has become so ubiquitous. Last night, I watched a snippet of BBC4’s John Lennon Night, an edition of Top Of The Pops 2 (recorded some years ago, I think) in which Yoko Ono did little introductory pieces to camera for a selection of songs by her bespectacled Liverpudlian husband. The programme began with Yoko saying:
“We didn’t think [Give Peace A Chance] would be a big song, but it is, innit?”
Yoko was, of course, using “innit” in a grammatically correct manner, but I am convinced that a generation of young persons heard this when it was originally broadcast and, bowled over by the Beatle relict’s verbal flourish, duly began to imitate her on any and every occasion.
I am thus forced to revise my view of “innit” and will henceforth say a little prayer for world peace and a wish for no possessions whenever I overhear it.