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On the NPR radio program Wait Wait Don't Tell Me (http://www.npr.org/programs/wait-wait-dont-tell-me/) Peter Sagal introduces the week's panelists using 'it's,' as in "She'll be performing Friday at the Comedy Club, it's Paula Poundstone." I'm not sure it is grammatically incorrect, but it doesn't seem appropriate to refer to a person as "it." Wouldn't it be better to say "she is" in this case? Or better yet, use another phrase, such as "we welcome..." or "say hello to..?"

I have heard similar usage on other radio and television programming as well when the gender is known to the speaker, where "it is" replaces "she/he is/has." Is this now acceptable usage?

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In your context, the expression "it's Paula Poundstone" can be considered to be a truncated it-cleft. -- This usage is acceptable and has been for a long time. It is part of today's standard English. –  F.E. Apr 18 at 19:32
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Totally. This is not 'referential it' (as contrasted with 'he' and 'she') but 'delexical it' as in 'It's raining / It's eleven o'clock / It's John on the phone). "It's" in 'It's Tommy Cooper!" has virtually the same meaning as "Look who it is!" in "Look who it is – Tommy Cooper!" French has two different usages (ce as opposed to il/elle). One can even say 'It's us' which apparently contravenes agreement-for-number rules as well as agreement-of-gender-if-any rules. –  Edwin Ashworth Apr 18 at 19:33
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This flavor of it is never intended to agree with what comes after. “It’s your parents. It’s me. It’s you.” –  tchrist Apr 18 at 19:41
    
As King Arthur sings in Camelot, C'est moi, c'est moi, T'is I. –  bib Apr 18 at 19:43
    
Paula Poundstone has no gender. –  Buttle Butkus Apr 18 at 23:15

3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

It's Paula Poundstone seems to me to simply be the answer to an
(unspoken but presupposed) question

Q: Who is it?
A: It's Paula.

A question like Who is this person? is taken as a given in any formal introduction.
And this is the introduction of a number of speakers on stage before a performance.

There are special conventions for this context, as there are for telephone conversation,

(e.g, consider the strangeness of "Hello, this is Bill. Is this Mary?", outside a phone conversation)

and one of the conventions is that the introducer often says, of each introducee,

  • It's (but almost never It is) <Insert Name>!

frequently adding phrases like And now; Appearing at the Palace nightly; The one, the only, etc.

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  • "She'll be performing Friday at the Comedy Club, it's Paula Poundstone."

In your context, the expression "it's Paula Poundstone" can be considered to be a truncated it-cleft. This usage is acceptable and has been for a long time. It is part of today's standard English.

The it-cleft's relative clause has been omitted, because its info is redundant and can be recovered from the context. The subject of the main clause of the it-cleft is the dummy pronoun "it". The dummy pronoun does not refer to anything or anybody: that is, it has no antecedent or referent.

The following is what your example basically means, with the omitted relative clause stuck back in using italics:

  • "She'll be performing Friday at the Comedy Club, it's Paula Poundstone who will be performing Friday at the Comedy Club."

There are other threads here that are similar to yours. If you want more info or links to them, go ahead and ask.

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I've always understood this as indicating the state/situation of that person being present.

"She's Paula Pountstone" means "That person(she) is Paula Poundstone."

"It's Paula Poundstone." means "The situation(it) is that Paula Poundstone is here."

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