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Is Ain’t A Word?

September 20, 2017

My youngest daughter’s first month of school has been relatively uneventful, but she’s noticed that a few teachers have bad speaking habits. One teacher casually uses the word ain’t while giving directions to the class. Another teacher keeps saying that assignments are due “on tomorrow.” She also has a librarian who pronounces the word library as “lie-berry.”

I have complete confidence that my youngest daughter goes to a very good school. And I’m not overly concerned about any of the common errors that these teachers are making with the English language.

Except ain’t. I’m pretty sure that a teacher shouldn’t say ain’t. I mean, I was taught that ain’t isn’t even a word.

But is it?

Dysfunctional Literacy

If it's in the title of a song, it has to be a word. (image via wikimedia) If it’s in the title of a song, it has to be a word. (image via wikimedia)

40 years ago, nobody thought ain’t was a real word.  After all, it wasn’t in the dictionary.  At least, ain’t wasn’t in any of the dictionaries that we students looked in.  The conventional wisdom back then was that if a word wasn’t in the dictionary, then it wasn’t really a word.  It never occurred to me then that a dictionary could change its mind.  Nowadays, if enough people start using words, then the dictionary will bend its judgement and include them, infuriating purists and grammarians everywhere.

If any non-word should become a word, it’s ain’t.  I don’t have proof to back this up, but it’s probably been one of the most commonly used non-words over several generations.

In elementary school, I had a friend who used to say, “Ain’t ain’t a…

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From → The Repeats

  1. My grandmother was an English teacher and we were never allowed to use and say “ain’t” in front of her.

  2. We rarely use it but my kid does

  3. Well if words like “phat” make into the dictionary, then ain’t is a shoo-in. Besides, it is not going away (I could have said ain’t goin’ nowhere), but I didn’t. Yes. Ain’t is a word. It works as well as youse guys.

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