Tuesday, April 3, 2007

3. It Isn't Right to Use AIN'T

Hi, Y'all (there's a wonderful use of a Southern contraction)!

We're back with a new lesson...one that isn't going to be very popular in our neck of the woods...but it needs to be addressed.

The topic is "It Isn't Right to Use AIN'T." (Now, I know almost everyone DOES, but that still doesn't make it standard English.)

The word "AIN'T" is frequently used as a "negative" word. What exactly do I mean by a word that is negative?

Well, some common negative words in the English language are

no, not, never, none, nobody

These same negatives are also often used as part of a contraction (a word containing an apostrophe indicating that at least one letter has been left out of the word).

Examples: isn't (is not), don't (do not), didn't (did not), wasn't (was not), can't (cannot), won't (will not), and many others.

NOTE: Now we all know that the contraction AIN'T is NOT an acceptable use of AM NOT, IS NOT, or ARE NOT, don't we? I agree that it may be strange that we can use all sorts of contractions (such as those above) that are perfectly acceptable standard English, so why can't we use AIN'T? The answer is that our language, once again, is constantly changing and inconsistent. Somewhere along the line, all of the other contractions have made it into the "acceptable standard English" category, but, for some reason, AIN'T has not. Stay tuned. It's used so much today that who knows? Maybe we'll live long enough to see this happen (much to the chagrin of English teachers like me and those who love the language the way it is now), but we'll just have to wait and see. (By the way, for those of you who argue that AIN'T is in the dictionary so it must be okay to use, let me remind you that there are many words in the dictionary that are not acceptable as standard English--they are just non-standard forms. Actually, before the 1970's, it is true that dictionaries WERE the "bosses" of correct language. In the early 1960's, however, WEBSTER'S THIRD UNABRIDGED made some radical changes and started including every word in use at the time--standard or non-standard-- in their new editions. This, of course infuriated plenty of people although Webster's DID include usage notes to clarify the questionable items. Nevertheless, please make me happy by NOT saying

You AIN'T heard nothing yet!. (Say ...You HAVEN'T heard anything yet!)...or...

I AIN'T eating my chicken bog today. (Say...I'M NOT eating my chicken bog today.)...or...

Ava AIN'T going with me to the race. (Say...Ava ISN'T going with me to the race.)

Next time, I'll expand on this problem with info about double negatives--another common usage problem and one that is seen combined with AIN'T in many of our sentences.

Have a wonderful week and do feel free to drop me your comments! GG

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just remembering a quote from my youth, "Ain't Ain't right."
This is a word that can sneak up on you..I was taught, and it was stressed at home, NOT to use ain't.
Over the years of hearing it, and using it ocassionally for emphasis, it has finally "snuck" into my usage...must work on this! Thank you for the reminder!