One Word I Cannot Stand To Hear

I love the English language. And I’m fairly certain that I can say the same for anyone who loves to write as much as I do. There’s just something about the ability of being able to string words together to form sentences and putting sentences together to form paragraphs and then to arrange those very same paragraphs so that they form a story that has always thrilled me.

I can still remember the sense of wonder and excitement I felt when I first began to learn how to read. It seemed almost magical to me – that the books I read had the ability to transport me into other people’s lives, different lands and adventures beyond my imagination. It was as though I had unlocked a door to a whole new world and once I stepped through that door, I never wanted to leave.

Because of my love for reading, I must admit that I was a good student, especially when it came to the subject of English. I enjoyed learning about nouns, verbs, adjectives, pronouns, predicates, adverbs, etc. I think I have a fairly good command of the correct usage of the language, although I must admit that sometimes I do get hung up on our friend the “comma” and I do tend to use more commas than I should!

I also must tell you that when our children were growing up, I did correct them on their proper use of the English language. And I am proud to say that today they are very well-spoken young adults.

So, what word would I permanently ban from general usage? Well, let me say that there is one word that you would have never heard spoken in our household. As a matter of fact, I even hesitate to type it, but I will, for the sake of this writing, and that is the word “ain’t”. How I abhor that word. As a matter of fact, every time I hear someone utter that word, it makes my toes cringe. I’ve even heard people say things like “I ain’t got no time to do that.” And I think, “There’s that awful word – and a double negative with it! My poor ears!”

This word is supposedly a contraction for “am not,” “are not,” or “is not,” but its usage is generally considered non-standard by dictionaries and style guides except when used for rhetorical effect, and it is rarely found in formal written works. There’s a reason for a that. Because it is non-standard. There is absolutely no reason to use this word. We have words like “aren’t” and “isn’t” instead. We don’t need to use the word “ain’t.”

Now I realize that there have been some exceptions throughout history that have used this word quite successfully. There have been famous recordings such as “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother,” and “Ain’t That a Shame,” but these are examples of song lyrics, not everyday language. This word has also been used in both speech and writing to catch attention and to give emphasis, as in “Ain’t that a crying shame,” or “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

But the above examples are exceptions to the rule, not the norm.

Now let’s get back to that last phrase: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” In this case – why don’t we fix it? Let’s just eliminate this one word from the English language. It’s such a lovely language. Why don’t we keep it that way?

 

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12 comments

  • Are the only combination of words worth reading, those written in standard English? I wonder whether there is room for a writer who does not speak, or think, in standard English. Blogging is a personal expression. Many of us are fluent in and familiar with many different languages, dialects and cultural norms. Why put a negative mark on something that is simply different? Why does non-standard mean “wrong”?

    My mom always told me to learn whatever they taught me and become unassailable in grades and performance. Then, when they couldn’t hurt me with bad grades or a denied opportunity, I could go do whatever I wanted and ignore the inevitable “tsk-tsks”.

    On the other hand, I have my non-standard pet peeves too. My biggest one is the confusion between “me” and “I”. I guess that’s what makes us human.

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  • Hi, I cannot believe it has been so much time since we touched base! Things are looking great here. I’ll have to drop by a lot more often. Amanda

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  • My mom used to say ain’t ain’t a word, but I think it is in dictionaries nice, and language is fluid, growing, expanding, changing. Ever heard of hangry?

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  • Very interesting post, and very well written. Too many people nowadays don’t speak English properly, especially on the Internet. So it’s really refreshing to see someone who obviously cares very much about speaking correctly. I agree that the word ain’t doesn’t really need to exist, it’s just a lazy way of talking. I think it’s a cultural thing as well, as some cultures tend to use it more than others. so I think it would be hard to eradicate unfortunately.

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  • I do not mind the word itself, but just like you mentioned there is a tendency of using a double negative whenever it used. And that is something I dislike.

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  • I agree with you on “ain’t”, however, there is a phrase used in place of “ain’t I” that also drives me nuts: “aren’t I”, as in, “I’m going with you, aren’t I?”, which is literally saying: “I’m going with you, are not I?” or, ‘are I not’, neither of which anyone would ever say. While the plural “aren’t we” is correct (“We’re going with you, aren’t we?”) and the second person singular “aren’t you” is also correct (“You’re going with him, aren’t you?”), I was taught (many years ago) that the correct first person singular is “am I not”. So, the correct version of my first example is, “I’m going with you, am I not?” Maybe “ain’t” is used because there’s no contraction for “am I not.”

    The one word that always causes me to grind my grammatical teeth isn’t technically a word: ‘irregardless’. This non-word is itself a double negative, and over the course of my life I’ve heard it on playgrounds, in meetings–even on television. I once heard a TV weatherman say, “Well, irregardless of tomorrow’s weather….” Aaaggghhhh!! Of course, he should have said “regardless of tomorrow’s weather”, I’ve often wondered how many letters he got for that grammatical faux pas.

    However, if I could rid the English language of one word, it would be the f-word. And, it’s not because I’m prudish–I’ve been known to use that word on occasion myself. But over the last thirty years or so, its use has become not only rampant, but casual, especially among young people. It’s no longer a matter of encountering it in nearly every book and movie meant for adults, but now I hear it in the supermarket, on the sidelines at kids’ soccer games (I don’t know what the 7 year-olds on the field are say–and I hate to guess), the bank, public meetings, as well as in line and in the stands at every pro football, baseball, hockey, etc. games–pretty much everywhere, and with no regard for the presence of kids. With the barrage of “effing this”, “effing that”, and “that is so f’d up”, etc. the f-word has lost its shock value, and is now little more than a disgusting, foul noise. Because of the seemingly universal dependence on this word, I’d like to yank it from the language just to force the habitual users of it to find some other word.

    Okay. Sorry about the rant. I’m through, now.

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  • Ain’t has been around since the sixteenth century. I’m pretty sure it’s not going anywhere. It’s only because the upper class British snobs didn’t use it that it was considered “non standard” but it serves the purpose the same as “isn’t” et al… It’s the same as y’all, just because the higher ups don’t use it, it’s considered slang… doesn’t make it any less a word. Also, the double negative rule is a fallacy, created by the same upper class British snobs with too much time on their hands who imposed Latin rules on the English language. English is not math. Two negatives do not cancel each other out, they emphasis each other. If I ain’t got no time for that, it means I really don’t have any time at all for whatever shenanigans is being proposed. Studying the history of English is kind of a passion of mine. ^_^

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  • Well written article. I’ve never thought about how someone else hears the word “ain’t.” Being from the south, I grew up with word and probably say it with more frequency than I realize. My southern pride, even at a non-standard word, could never allow me to wish it away, but I did enjoy reading another perspective on it.

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    • Hi Sawyer. I certainly would never wish to offend anyone, so please forgive me if I did offend you. I guess since I’m not from the south, it’s just not a word that was ingrained in my vocabulary, which is probably why it rubs me the wrong way. I didn’t mean to sound harsh, and I hope that I didn’t. But I’m glad that you enjoyed reading it, and I do appreciate that you could see things from my perspective – that’s very refreshing! Thanks so much for stopping by. I hope you have an amazing day! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  • HI Madeeha! It’s nice to meet a kindred spirit! Thanks so much for your kind comments. I hope you have an awesome day! 🙂

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  • Oh yes I also love this language and thank you for telling us something about “ain’t” 🙂

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