‘The way I are’

I recently stumbled on a song with the questionable grammar ‘the way I are’. (Any resemblance to ‘the way we were’ in my last post is purely coincidental.) If this is part of any recognised variety of English, I haven’t encountered it before. In searching for more information, I found another song with the same grammar, and those two appear to be the only occurrences on the internet, so I must conclude that it’s not part of any recognised variety of English which has ever been posted on the internet. The first few pages of search results were references to one or other of these songs, then came ‘about 897,000,000′ results of one, two, three or all of those words in some combination or order.

One writer wrote ”Cause I like you just the way you are … Can you handle me the way I are?’, the other ‘Don’t matter who you are, just love me the way I are’. This is not a ‘mistake’, because both writers chose to do it, and I’m sure they’re aware that it’s ‘wrong’. For every other verb in English than be, you and I are followed the same verb form: ”Cause I like you just the way you eat … Can you handle me the way I eat?’ or ‘Don’t matter who you eat, just love me the way I eat‘. (Sorry, I’ve still got eating pizzas on my mind from two posts ago. (There are increasingly risqué and indeed outright rude alternative verbs.))

I would like to cite my sources, but want to protect innocent minds, linguistically and musically. Search and ye will find. Here be dragons.

Some better writers do things like this with more style:

Sir Joseph Porter: I thought so little they rewarded me by making me the Ruler of Queen’s Navee!
Chorus: He thought so little they rewarded he by making him the Ruler of the Queen’s Navee! (WS Gilbert)

and

I had written him a letter which I had, for want of better
Knowledge, sent to where I met down the Lachlan, years ago,
He was shearing when I knew him, so I sent the letter to him,
Just ‘on spec’, addressed as follows, ‘Clancy, of The Overflow’.

And an answer came directed in a writing unexpected,
(And I think same was written with a thumb-nail dipped in tar)
‘Twas his shearing mate who wrote it, and verbatim I will quote it:
‘Clancy’s gone to Queensland droving, and we don’t know where he are.’ (AB (Banjo) Paterson.

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2 thoughts on “‘The way I are’

  1. Somewhat off topic but the line, He was shearing when I knew him brought immediately to my mind’s eye a visit to a cousin’s sheep station at shearing time when I was 4 or 5. I can still see and smell (oh! the smell!) everything. l have no idea whether or not the shearers, who seemed (to my childhood self) to be able to remove the entire coat of wool in one enormous piece so quickly it might have been by magic, would say something so obviously wrong as “who I are”.

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  2. Even allowing for poetic licence and rhyme, Paterson must have thought it was a plausible thing to put into the mouth of a shearer in the 1880s. Google Ngrams records ‘he are’, but most of these are in the form of ‘[noun] and he are’ or ‘[pronoun] and he are’. There are records of ‘where he are’ before 1889, but they are sparse and possibly accidental (misreading of OCR etc). Even without knowing the date of the poem, it is possible to deduce it from the graph.
    In the absence of further information, I’ll just shrug my shoulders and say ‘It’s poetry’.

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