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When I read an article on Time today, I encountered a structure that I haven't seen before. Here it is:

Millions of commemorative plates bear his portrait, a Mona Lisa smile leavened by the benign air of Winnie the Pooh. Poets lavish ornate verse on him–“My eyes are giving birth to this poem/My fingers are burning on my cell phone,” wrote one amateur bard in February, describing his search for the perfect paean. Bookstores across China give prime display to his collection of speeches and essays, which has sold more than 5 million copies, according to state media. His ideology is even enshrined in an animated rap video, with one line that goes: “It’s everyone’s dream to build a moderately prosperous society. Comprehensively.” A killer rhyme it is not, but who cares when you’re almost certainly the most powerful ruler on the planet?

The last sentence, "A killer rhyme it is not, but who cares when you’re almost certainly the most powerful ruler on the planet?" looks unfamiliar to me. Is "A killer rhyme it is not" equivalent to "Although it is not a killer rhyme"? Can we end a sentence with "it is not"? Is it very prevalent in English writing?

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    It's a kind of poetic inversion. In normal speech, you would say something like, for example, "It isn't a toy", but as a poetic way of emphasizing a different part of the sentence, you can rephrase it as "A toy it is not." – stangdon Nov 15 '16 at 15:54
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Peter's answer is correct but I think it misses a nuance of the word pattern.

Reversing the sequence to "it is not a killer rhyme" makes "it" the subject and treats rhyming as a continuous quality, with "killer" implied as the top of the scale. It describes "it" as something less than "killer". It would be a charitable way to avoid saying that it was a mediocre rhyme.

"A killer rhyme it is not" makes "killer rhyme" the focus. It is more of a binary description--"is" vs. "is not". It identifies "killer" as the relevant category, the "winners' box", and that is the only category that counts here--it is either a killer rhyme or it isn't.

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The pattern

A something it is not, but

is used to show contrast and can be understood as

It may not be a something but
Although it is not a something

A killer rhyme it is not, but who cares...
it may not be a killer rhyme but who cares...
although it is not a killer rhyme who cares...

whereas ending a sentence with

but a something it is not

would be understood as

but it is not a something

...the most powerful ruler on the planet, but a killer rhyme it is not.
...the most powerful ruler on the planet, but it is not a killer rhyme

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You can sometimes end a sentence with "It is not". But, you can't end a sentence like "A killer rhyme it is not". This sentence should be changed to "A killer rhyme is not" because, subject can't be two in one sentence. A sentence like "A killer rhyme it is not", has two subject. A killer rhyme and it. However, you can end a sentence with "It is not" like this. "Sometimes people think the Earth is plain. But, it is not." 'ㅅ'

  • "A killer rhyme is not" … what? What is it not? In the example from the question, there's a rhyme ("it") that "is not" "a killer rhyme". It's not talking about killer rhymes in general, or about a particular one, but about a rhyme that does not qualify as such. – Nathan Tuggy Jul 28 '17 at 15:18

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