To my posh friends, when you casually drop ‘innit’ into your conversation, on your Facebook, in your tweets, to my face, this is what I think about:
I think about all those times we were ridiculed for using it by our middle class teachers. The exasperated looks they’d give us before they’d tell us over and over again how incorrect we were. How lazy. How inappropriate. Imagine if the Queen were here, they’d say, would you say ‘innit’ then? They also used the Queen thing any time we were caught chewing gum. Seriously. No exaggeration. This whole imagine-if-royalty-were-around scenario was considered an effective method of behaviour modification in the late ’90s, early ’00s.
Bear in mind that these teachers, some young, some old, were talking to a classroom full of multilingual kids. Teenagers who spoke one language at home, one at school and another with friends. These kids – my friends – had adjusting their vocabulary, their register and their tone down to a tee. If they spoke a certain way, they did it with purpose. They needed no one to tell them that when it came to a job interview or writing an essay, they’d need to switch it up.
When you say ‘innit’ I think about the command you have over language and how everyone assumes you know what you’re doing. I think about the way teachers assumed we were limited in our ability to be thoughtful or shrewd with language. I think about the reasons I consciously stopped using it, how that made my friends feel and how they began to see me. I think about how seriously I’d be taken in my field if I used it the way you do. I think about how much I miss hanging out with people who actually know how to use ‘innit’ for all its many, varied purposes. Purposes that you still don’t get. I think about what you might say to this post and how fucking ridiculous the word ‘brouhaha’ is.
And of course I won’t tell you not to say it because I don’t believe in policing language. But I want to you know what I think about when you say ‘innit’.