I have long wondered about the phrase “aren’t I?” As contractions go, it runs afoul of the norm and this bothers me.
It was only recently that it bugged me enough to do some digging.
Logic would dictate that the proper phrase be “am I not?” But how would it be contracted?
“Are you not?” is really “are not you?”and is contracted as “aren’t you?” This makes sense.
But here’s the problem. “Are” does not agree with “I” in a sentence. “Am” does: I am. I am not. Am I not? Am not I? So then why not “amn’t I?”
Well, I consulted a lot of sources, and each took me deeper into obscurity.
This might not be the absolute truth, but what I gleaned from all I read is that “aren’t I” is incorrect but accepted. Just like plenty of words and phrases we’ve talked about here.
It also seems that, at one time, “amn’t I?” may actually have been considered correct in contemporary Scottish-English as an informal contraction of “am I not?”
Further, some say “ain’t” may have first come about as an attempt to contract “am I not” and later became used colloquially in lieu of “are not” and “has not.” Ain’t that something?
There is also a theory that “amn’t” made appearances as “an’t” in 18th century texts but, when pronounced by the British, sounded more like “ahnt” and later became “aren’t.”
I’ll bet there are readers who know the answer to this mystery and would be willing to share it with the rest of us.
Aren’t I just opening up a can of worms?