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I felt a bit puzzled to find the line “Your pigs is so much better than our pigs” in the following section of Jeffrey Archer’s novel Not a penny more, Not a penny less:

Harvey could never resist asking a policeman the way to Buckingham palace, just to compare his reaction with that of a New York cop. As Lenny Bruce had said on being deported from England, “Your pigs is so much better than our pigs.” Yes, Harvey liked England.

Microsoft Word spell-checker keeps warning me to correct “Your pigs is” as “Your pigs are” at this moment when I’m texting this question.

Is the spell-checker correct, or is the rule to use the singular form verb, “is” after the plural noun, “pigs"? Does it mean the verb in singular form should be used for the noun in plural form regardless of the rule of number agreement anytime the noun is used as a generic term or a collective noun?

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It's basically a grammatical mistake that's supposed to sound American. –  z7sg Ѫ Feb 7 '12 at 11:36
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It is an intentional grammatical error on the author's part, used to indicate that the person being quoted (Lenny Bruce) was speaking informally in a dialect rather than in Standard English. Never trust spell-checkers above common sense. –  Amos M. Carpenter Feb 7 '12 at 12:41
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It may also be an allusion to the short story "Pigs Is Pigs". The title of the story is also not grammatically correct, but is intended to represent the uneducated main character. –  Nate Eldredge Feb 7 '12 at 14:50
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Here are 3520 written instances of "eggs is eggs" - a well-known aphorism which imho uses the "ungrammatical" singular verb form to emphasise the pithy wisdom of country folk. Lenny Bruce does it to show "friendly/rustic informality" in a similar fashion. –  FumbleFingers Feb 7 '12 at 18:15

1 Answer 1

up vote 10 down vote accepted

It is ungrammatical in Standard English, but other dialects have the same form of the verb be in the present tense for all persons. As well as is, it can in some cases be were and in others be.

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+1 try up around Brum, where they will say "you'm be" ;-) –  Mawg Sep 27 '12 at 1:27
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and even "we'm be" –  Mawg Sep 27 '12 at 2:21

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