Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Not sure why etymology was reverted. I've reinstated it; but if this is a problem, please discuss. Ammgramm 07:19, 11 August 2010 (UTC)

  • Do you have any actual evidence for your etymology. All other sources give it as a simple contraction of "isn't it". Etymology reverted while waiting for evidence. SemperBlotto 08:56, 11 August 2010 (UTC)

During the late nineteen seventies and early eighties, I heard the idioms 'isn't it? and its further contraction 'innit?' being used in an over-generalised way in the English speech of native Punjabi speakers in London and in Manchester. This was before 'innit' had a entered the general culture of cities as a 'slang' word and usage in the way this entry describes.

In Punjabi, the negative tag question 'hana?' is used for all forms, and it appeared that native Punjabi speakers were importing this generalised use into English as a means of simplifying our more complex formation of negative tags.

In the mid-nineties and subsequently, this usage of 'innit?' imported from Punjabi was 'sent up' in the British Asian comedy, 'Goodness Gracious Me' (BBC), along with a number of other 'Punjabisms' in Asian British English. The comedy team was clearly satirising a usage that was becoming endemic among British Asian young people. Subsequently, 'innit?' appears to have passed into British youth culture generally, in a process of 'reverse acculturation' that can be seen elsewhere in styles of speech and dress moving from British Asian and Afro-Caribbean youth culture into mainstream youth culture.

Of course, it is very difficult to gather documentary evidence for this process, as it is a spoken language phenomenon. But I believe that the scripts written by Sanjeev Bhaskar, Kulvinder Ghir, Meera Syal and Nina Wadia draw upon the real world usage of 'innit?' and provide some supporting evidence for its origins in the speech of young British Asians.

See <>, last paragraph: "The cast casually drop Punjabi and Hindi/Urdu slang phrases into their speech, in the manner of many British Asians living in the UK."

I should perhaps add that I am simple White British, not British Asian, so I have no axes to grind here! But I spent a lot of time among British Asians in the seventies, eighties and nineties, and thus have some personal familiarity with the process I am describing.

Do you have any thoughts on what might count as a better way to evidence this process? And, should my account of the etymology be challenged, there remains the problem of accounting for, rather than just asserting, the over-generalisation evident in the usage of 'innit' (as in phrases such as, 'You like listening to pop music, innit?'), which the current entry does not address. Etymology reverted pending reply to discussion.Ammgramm 10:17, 11 August 2010 (UTC)

Anecdotal evidence cannot be considered acceptable or anybody could just make up anything in any entry. Also, how does your theory explain utterances like "He's a gentleman, inne, Mr Star?" (inne = isn't he?) Equinox 15:52, 11 August 2010 (UTC)
My father, an Israeli who immigrated to North America as an adult, also uses "isn't it?" as an invariable yes/no tag question. I don't see why it has to be specifically Punjabi — lots of languages have invariable yes/no tag questions — and I don't see how a Punjabi tag question literally meaning "yes no" is a particularly compelling source. Actually, the closest analogue I know of is French "n'est-ce pas?", which is an invariable yes/no tag question that literally means "isn't it?". —RuakhTALK 17:29, 11 August 2010 (UTC)

@Ruakh >>> The entry in question is specifically about UK slang. As such, it has a particular cultural context, and the use of innit referred to in this entry was originally a feature specifically of English as spoken by urban British Asian teenagers. Of course, if this entry is meant not to refer specifically to UK slang, but to all uses of an over-generalised contraction of 'isn't it?' of whatever origin internationally, then the entry should be edited to cover occurrences other than in UK slang. My proposed edit refers only to the origins of the UK slang usage. And this is not anecdotal, as my citation of the broadcast satirical references to 'innit' demonstrate. These broadcasts are widely known in the UK, and will be familiar to the many people who watched the popular BBC television series between 5 July 1996 and 19 February 2001. (See my Wikipedia citation above.) The humour in the use of 'innit' by young British Asians in that show was only possible because it was familiar as a developing feature of the English spoken within British Asian youth culture at that time.

I understand that, but you've provided no evidence that Punjabi hana is relevant, let alone decisive. —RuakhTALK 18:15, 11 August 2010 (UTC)
Sure it's associated with Asians, though I hardly think a TV comedy series it the best example of 'real usage'. Some sort of citation from a book, serious magazine or newspaper, academic journal (etc.) would be ideal. Mglovesfun (talk) 18:16, 11 August 2010 (UTC)

It is notoriously difficult to provide documentary citations for slang usages, which, by their very nature, are features of the spoken language rather than the written language. So the scripts written by Sanjeev Bhaskar, Meera Syal et al, satirising the speech and language of their own youth culture, are in fact rather better evidence than we normally ever have about slang expressions. See a clip from the programme here, where the British Asian usage of 'innit?' is exemplified passim, but particularly from 0.39 seconds into the clip:

The key linguistic issue remains, that, without an account such as the one I outline, an explanation of the over-generalisation in the use of 'innit' as a negative tag question is completely absent from the current entry. I contend that this over-generalisation precisely reflects the usage in Punjabi (and related Indian languages) of the negative tag question 'hana?', and that the Punjabi usage is relevant because the UK slang use of 'innit?' derives from the British Asian youth culture (in predominantly Punjabi-speaking communities in London and other major UK conurbations).

How would you otherwise propose to account for the over-generalisation? Ammgramm 20:07, 11 August 2010 (UTC)

It's better not to account for it than to make an assumption we cannot defend. And this over-generalization precisely reflects the usage in many, many languages, including French as I mentioned above; and I think my father's generalized use of "isn't it?" shows that it's a rather natural over-generalization, in that he seems to have developed it independently. There is no shortage of plausible explanations; to choose among them, we need evidence, preferably in the form of reliable sources. —RuakhTALK 20:30, 11 August 2010 (UTC)
"The humour in the use of 'innit' ... was only possible because it was familiar as a developing feature of the English spoken within British Asian youth culture at that time." But perhaps just because they didn't understand English well. That doesn't prove a link to hana. Equinox 20:30, 11 August 2010 (UTC)

The use of 'innit?' in the above video from about 39 seconds in corresponds exactly with how 'hana?' would be being used if the conversation were in Punjabi; in other words, the usage of 'innit?' in the clip would be immediately recognised as a "Punjabism" by any educated English-speaking Punjabi. But since we do not have such a person contributing here to verify this, I can see that we are not going to resolve this matter.

The same is true for Welsh, where innit (and the more welsh derived "ife" come from the tags present in Welsh. It goes back a very long time in Welsh and adjacent culture long before Londonders caught it


This touches on both the welsh and other suggested parallel rises of the use of innit both from existing celtic roots and the other possible sources for the general rise of innit 15:04, 22 February 2019 (UTC)

[1] Equinox 23:28, 11 August 2010 (UTC)

@Equinox: Watch the video.

More definitions?[edit]

From personal experience this word is commonly used in at least 2 other ways

3. Simply to express agreement.

A: Rafael Nadal's going to lose this match!
B: Innit!

4. (rarer and very slangy) Please

Turn that off, innit!

and then there are the people who just throw this word in the middle of every clause with no real meaning, maybe to replace a posher "you see" or "you know"

He was singing innit, but he was getting really annoyed with himself, innit, because he couldn't remember the words, innit

Not sure if these are too urban dictionary for here but really, this word is pretty versatile in UK slang. 07:07, 4 July 2011 (UTC)