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November 05, 2010

"Ain't" Ain't Proper

The word "ain't" is one of those pesky slang words that just won't go away. Whether we like it - or hate it - it just won't...


My personal belief is that many of us will keep using it because it is just plain too useful.

In fact I consider it the Swiss Army Knife of the English language.

If you think about it, it has multiple meanings and associations. It could be 'am not', 'are not', 'is not', 'have not' or 'has not'. And maybe more.

The main thing to keep in mind is that it is a nearly universal negative term.

I rarely use "ain't", but when I do, I use it either for emphasis (as in a stronger than usual negative tone) or because it is the only (or best) word that fits.

But I have to admit, as much as I promote and appreciate correct grammar, sometimes (and I want to emphasize "sometimes") correct grammar just doesn't have the "punch" I am looking for.

Consider these common lines from several Blues or Rock songs; "I ain't got nobody" or "I ain't got no satisfaction".

Written, or even worse, sung in proper grammar, these lines would sound just plain stupid. "I ain't got nobody" becomes the bland " I don't have anyone" while the classic line "I ain't got no satisfaction" becomes "I do not have any satisfaction".

Blech. (If you don't know what this word means, check it out here - http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=blech.

Blech is another one of those nearly universal words.

For more information on "ain't" and other slang, take a look at the BBC language site here - http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/youmeus/learnit/learnitv50.shtml

Let me know what it is about English that you find confounding, infuriating or endlessly intriguing.

Listen, read and speak. Make your new language your own.

My best to you as you make your way through this intriguing , constantly shifting linguistic landscape.


About the author of this entry:

Morf has a B.A.from the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington and an MAT (Master's in Teaching English) from the University of Washington (Seattle). Morf prefers international and independent films, foods he can't pronounce, music no one else has heard of and riding his bicycle in foreign cities. Morf is currently a radio host (tacoma.fm) and a newspaper columnist http://www.thenewstribune.com/opinion/columnists/morf_morford/.

Posted by mmorf at November 5, 2010 09:56 AM

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