is you ain't, ain't you is (1904)

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Tue Aug 30 18:01:00 UTC 2005

I posted previously on "is you is or is you ain't", which appeared in the
dialect humor of Octavus Roy Cohen in 1921 (long before Louis Jordan's
1944 hit "Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby?"). But a dialect joke
involving "is you ain't" and "ain't you is" appeared even earlier...

Atlanta Constitution, May 2, 1904, p. 2/3
As They Say It in Texas.
(From The Philadelphia Press.)
"Have you ever been in Texas?"
The man who thus inquired had very evidently been there. He proceeded:
"You know they speak what is almost a lnaguage of their own down there.
Here's an example:
"A little girl went into a rural grocery store.
"'Ain't you got no eggs?' she asked.
"'I ain't said I ain't!" replied the storekeeper.
"'Well, responded the girl, 'I ain't ast you is you ain't, I ast you ain't
you is. Is you?'"
Atlanta Constitution, Nov 19, 1909, p. 8/3
Senator Taylor, of Tennessee, is responsible for this story:
"There was an old negro whose worthless son was married secretly. The old
man heard of it and asked the boy if he was married. 'I ain't sayin' I
ain't,' the boy replied.
"'Now you Rastus,' stormed the old man, 'I ain't askin' you is you ain't;
I is askin' you ain't you is!'"
Atlanta Constitution, Dec 11, 1910, p. B7/4
Down at Houston the other day Dinah went to borrow some sugar from Aunt
Chloe and the following conversation took place:
"Yo' ain't got no sugar, is yo'?"
"I ain't sez I ain't, is I?"
"I didn' ax yo you ain't, I ax you ain't you is. You ain't is yo?'"

--Ben Zimmer

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