Last month ("Xtreme Isisism", 8/13/11), Mark Liberman analyzed a TED talk by Kevin Slavin, a speaker who is particularly prone to copula-doubling ("the point IS IS that…", "the reality IS IS that…", etc.). Slavin even produced an impressive case of copula-tripling: "and the thing IS IS IS that this isn't Google." The triple IS is rare enough that any instance in the wild is worth noting. On the American Dialect Society mailing list, Jonathan Lighter reported one that he heard in an interview of Ron Suskind by Howard Kurtz on the CNN show "Reliable Sources." Well, it's an IS IS IS with a vocative "Howie" inserted, but close enough.
In the exchange (which starts at about 5:30 in the video), Kurtz is grilling Suskind about one of the more controversial parts of his new book, Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President. Suskind quoted former White House communications director Anita Dunn as saying that "this place [the White House] would be in court for a hostile workplace. Because it actually fit all of the classic legal requirements for a genuinely hostile workplace to women." But as revealed by the Washington Post, Suskind omitted the key phrase, "if it weren't for the president…" when quoting Dunn.
I've isolated the relevant audio here:
SUSKIND: So, the, the point of the-
KURTZ: Whether she asked you to or not, taking those six words out really changes the, the impact of what she is saying. Why didn't you as an author give us the full quote so we can make up our minds?
SUSKIND: Well, the fact IS IS Howie IS that with a quote like that, you press the subject, and you say, is this what you really mean?
The official CNN transcript has Suskind saying, "Well, the fact is, Howie, is that with a quote like that, you press the subject." But there are clearly two ISes before the "Howie" and one after it. The transcriber similarly cleans up other bits of the interview, such as Kurtz's doubled "the" in the preceding question ("taking those six words out really changes the, the impact of what she is saying"). We really wouldn't expect the doubled "the" to show up in a news transcript, however, since most listeners would identify it as a momentary disfluency. The transcriber may have felt the same way about the two ISes before "Howie" in Suskind's response. In fact, in his ADS-L post, Jonathan Lighter wondered if Suskind was merely stammering, but said it "didn't sound like a classic stammer." I would agree. But then again, a missing IS in the CNN transcript is still pretty minor compared to the six missing words in Suskind's quote of Dunn.
(See Mark's post for previous Language Log posts and other references on the ISIS phenomenon.)