“The Story of ‘is’”
Once upon a time a long time ago, there was a tiny word called “Is." This lonely word was looking for his purpose in life. Just like all of us, “Is” found himself asking questions such as: “Why am I here? What should I do with my life? Why was I put in the dictionary?” This miniature word was intelligent and observant. “Is” was the type of word to deliberate over important matters before making decisions that could result in less than desirable consequences, a lesson we can all learn from.
As a young word in grammar school, “Is” was often left out of games the other words liked to play. For example, the game Desk in Charge was hurtful. For some obscure reason the desk did not like to play with “Is." It liked so many of the small word’s other classmates, but the desk would never include “Is”. It was puzzling to the small word. “Is” tried to figure out why the desk alienated him. It wasn’t because he started with a vowel. Desk always let “on”, “off”, and “around” play. “Is” would hear them playing and singing, “On the desk, off the desk, in the desk, around the desk, - desk, desk, desk let me be your preposition.”
Once “Is” gathered the nerve to ask desk if it could please play Desk in Charge with them. Desk merely scoffed at him, “No, I think you're a grotesque little word, and I will never agree to let you 'is the desk'. You'll never be a preposition nor will you ever even be allowed in a prepositional phrase!” This event had a profound impact on the tiny word’s life forever. It was at that moment the brave two-lettered word decided he would not conform to what every other word did; “Is” would find his own way. His destiny would be greatness, one that English classes would talk about for years to come.
“Is” thought perhaps he would like to grow up to be like his dad, “Rock”. Bring Your Child To Work Day seemed the perfect opportunity to investigate this idea. The lunch whistle had not even blown when “is” knew without a doubt he would not follow in his dad’s footsteps. “Rock” had so many jobs. He went from one department to the other all day long - noun, verb, adjective, noun, verb, adjective. “Is” kept hearing his father called over the loud speaker. “The ‘rock’ (noun) broke the window.” Before his father could even catch his breath, there would be another one. “Disco music ‘rocks’ (verb).” “Is” was appalled! Dad had to be a verb and lie at the same time! Yet again, the announcement would come, “The hill was ‘rocky’ (adjective).”
This was insane. No way did “Is” want to work that hard. Kudos for good ole dad, but “Is” didn’t want to change parts of speech or form like that so many times a day. Only so much could be expected out of a two-letter word.
“Is” went to its ravishing mother, “Appears”, for advice. Sadly, the small word’s mother was no help at all. She was going through a crisis of her own. One sentence she felt like a linking verb and the next she felt like an action verb. “Is” tried to comfort mother by suggesting that perhaps it was just a phase, but “Appears” wept harder. She explained she had been that way all her life. One minute someone needed action from her. For example, the rabbit appears out of the magician’s hat. But in the next paragraph the writer would be begging for her to be a linking verb, sometimes even for the same nouns. She provided another example as she continued to sob: The rabbit appears dead. “Is” could only stare as mother continued her despairing tale.
“The most heart-wrenching part is that whenever students see me they look confused and frightened, because they aren’t sure what I am doing. They stare at me as if I have something horrifying hanging from me or that my sole purpose is to torture them.”
Feeling more lost than ever and now also a little worried about “Appears” mental stability, “Is” went to seek advice from his Uncle “Ran”. “Ran” always cheered him. He was on the move, full of action and energy. When “Is” began to tell his saga of finding its job in life, “Ran” puffed himself up and suggested “Is” should be an action verb. People always understood “Ran” and talked about him often. Before signing on the dotted line for the action world “Is” asked to meet some of “Ran’s” co-workers. “Ran” took the excited word to the lounge, but only a few words were there. “Is” was perplexed until “Ran” explained most of the time it was just a noun or a pronoun and he that did all the work. Other words weren’t needed and didn’t volunteer to lend a hand. “Boys” (noun) was one of “Ran’s” most faithful co-workers. Boys "Ran." “Is” wasn’t too sure about this. It sounded like a lot of responsibility being one of only two words in a sentence. “Ran” chuckled and explained that sometimes his friends “behind the desk”, “around the desk”, and “under the desk” joined them. Well, that was all it took! “Is” was out of there. “Is” would not surround itself with excessive words who had cost him thousands of dollars in therapy.
As “Is” sat at the tranquil lake, the word knew the time had come to decide the path of his career; “Is” couldn’t just dangle forever. “Is” knew being a preposition was out of the question. No way would he give desk the opportunity to humiliate him again. “Is” didn’t want to work more than one job like his father, “Rock”. Life was too short for that. “Is” couldn’t possibly deal with the confusion his mother, “Appears”, faced. After all, “Is” was still recovering from his own childhood trauma. Uncle “Ran” was fun, but working with just one other word had no real fire to it. “Is” needed a job that only did one thing and would surround “Is” with at least two other words.
All of the sudden it was as if all “Is’s” troubles had lifted off him and the answer invaded his entire being! How could it have taken this long to see? “Is” would be a linking verb. Verbs ran in the family, and “Is’s” heritage was important to the small but mighty word. As a linking verb it would always have to be with at least two words because the job would entail renaming or describing a noun or pronoun. Since cave talk became obsolete centuries ago, no one could try to short change “Is”. No one would simply say “candy is” or “she is”. Eureka!
Wait! “Is” loved to be helpful, too. It wouldn’t be a full-time job and didn’t require changing. “Is” would be a linking and a helping verb! “Is” could handle helping other verbs once in awhile. Appears “is” cooking. That would be cake.
The decision had been made. “Is”would be a linking/helping verb forever and ever. No one could change his destiny, not even stubborn 7th graders that caused their teacher to suffer insomnia because she was trying to find a way to get through their sweet, precious brains that “IS” IS ONLY A LINKING/HELPING VERB.
Possibly, another teacher will find this biography and share it with you. Maybe understanding why “Is” chose the job he did will aid you in giving “Is” (and your teacher) the respect the strong little word deserves.
Footnote: I just wanted to say that I’m not entirely off my rocker. I am not so much of a grammaraholic (yes, I made that word up) that I go around writing stories about parts of speech. But as a teacher I will do just about anything to get my point across, and thus I gave birth to “The Story of IS.”