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“The thing is, is that…”
Why do some people say “the reason is is that,” with “is” twice in a row?

For the past few years I've been noticing a curious phenomenon. People are quite commonly saying things like "... the problem is is that we don't have access to ...". It appears that the first "is" has been grafted onto the semantic unit of "the problem" and is no longer being perceived as being present, so the speaker has to add the second "is".

I first thought that this might be related to situations where a repeated "is" is valid, such as

... the question is "Is this our only option?" ...

but it seems to occur mostly in constructs of the form

... the [x] is that ...

instead. I seem to be very sensitive to this and hear it several times a day, often on local or national news broadcasts. In fact, it's now jarring (in a good way) when I hear someone NOT repeating "is".

  1. Is there a name for this phenomenon?
  2. Is it as rampant as it appears to me?
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marked as duplicate by Andrew Leach, FumbleFingers, Lunivore, MετάEd, tchrist Nov 15 '12 at 5:08

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It's essentially spoken English. "What I think the problem is is that we don't have enough law and order for our tongues." Without the second is, the sentence is ungrammatical. It's not good formal prose, but it's perfectly common dialogue. "What I think the problem is is that that tongue of hers isn't sufficiently rule governed." Even this is grammatical spoken English. –  user21497 Nov 14 '12 at 21:48
    
You might like to read about Obama's use of it on Language Log: languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=4269 –  Barrie England Nov 14 '12 at 21:54
1  
@BillFranke Your example is grammatical, but I hear this construction many places where it is not, i.e. without the leading "What". –  Ex Umbris Nov 14 '12 at 23:18
    
If someone wants to close it as duplicate (of either prior question mentioned in the comments), go ahead. I searched for "is is" and found nothing... seems I should have searched for "double is" instead. –  Ex Umbris Nov 14 '12 at 23:24
    
The word is, is is. Other similar babble abounds when restructuring would make a much clearer sentence. A duplicate "is" is used in a sentence mostly to seemingly improve flow; only it makes comprehension harder and it stands out like a sore thumb. I think it belongs in the same category as pronouncing nuclear as nukilar, i.e. lazy brain/tongue syndrome. –  Chris Nov 15 '12 at 0:42

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