For reasons that completely baffle me, the tendency of younger people these days to qualify almost every statement they utter with the word ‘innit’ leaves them ripe for mockery. Really, what does ‘innit’ actually mean?
I first became aware of the word about ten years ago when I lived in an area that had a substantial Asian community. The word was popular amongst the young guys in particular and had, as these things tend to, been picked up by the young non-Asians; boys and girls alike. As a result a typical conversation amongst youngsters went along the lines:
“Going out tonight, innit?”
“Yeah, man, innit?”
“Gonna go to the pub, yeah, then to a club afterwards, innit?
“Innit!” (by way of agreement)
Most of the time they don’t even realise they are doing it, something I brought home to a couple of young guys who worked in their parents’ corner shop just down the road from where I lived.
I jokingly called them the ‘Innit Twins’. They were seventeen and eighteen years of age respectively and just typical teenage Asian lads. They found a middle-aged white guy taking the piss out them highly amusing, especially when I mimicked their manner of talking to one another and others. But it was only when I did so that they realised how often they used ‘innit’ in their everyday speech.
Just for fun one day, while they were chatting with a friend, I listened to the three of them talking - in English – and counted thirty-seven uses of ‘innit’ between them in a conversation that lasted less than five minutes!
Nowadays, like a lot of ‘new’ words that creep in to the language – and the consciousness - it has become yet another everyday slang word as meaningless as the word ‘ain’t’. I am ashamed to admit that I have found myself uttering the damn word at times! It’s insidious and creeps up onto your tongue without you even realising it.
Along with the influence of Aussie television on the way youngsters (and not-so youngsters) speak with that awful-sounding questioning inflection on the last word of every sentence, the word ‘innit’ has negatively impacted on our beautiful language a little more.
With the influx of immigrants from many parts of the world to our shores the chances are excellent that the English language will be further influenced and impacted upon by all the new words and phrases the newcomers will bring from their homelands.
There is nothing new in that, of course. English contains hundreds of words that have slipped into our speech that did not originate here. However, that doesn’t mean to say that all of those words have had a positive impact. It’s doubtful that in future not all of the new words we’ll get used to using will either.
That’s the real problem…