ain't

ain't
1. Ain't is one of the most controversial words in current English, arousing passions that one would never have dreamt of from such a seemingly inoffensive word. ‘Do you hear? Don't say “ain't” or “dang” or “son of a buck”…You're not a pair of hicks!’ scolds a mother in a New Yorker short story. In 1942 Eric Partridge could hardly bear to include it (‘I blush to record it’) in Usage and Abusage, and Webster's Third New International Dictionary of 1961 included it solely on grounds of currency, earning widespread condemnation for not castigating it more strongly. Because social disapproval is so strong, no dictionary of current English will admit it to the ranks of standard English. The reasons for this lie in the word's history.
2. Ain't has been an undisputed element in Cockney speech at least since the time of Dickens

• (‘You seems to have a good sister.’ ‘She ain't half bad.’ —Our Mutual Friend, 1865).

It also features widely in the language of comic strips and modern rap music (of US origin). The OED notes that ‘the contraction is also found as a (somewhat outmoded) upper-class colloquialism. It has also been espoused in intellectual circles as an affectation, which tends to confuse the issue

• (I've not the spirit to pack up and go without him. Ain't I a craven —Virginia Woolf, 1938

• Still working the Cape Cod and Florida cycle. And it ain't too bad —Yale Alumni Magazine).

3. The formation of ain't is irregular, which in part accounts for the stigma attached to it. It is an 18c word, attested earlier in the form an't (e.g. in Fielding). Unlike other contractions, such as isn't, aren't, and haven't, ain't is not a reduced form of any logical ancestor. Note, by the way, that aren't also is exceptional in being used in tag questions for am I not as well as are they not, are you not, and so on (I'm coming too, aren't I?). The logical contraction amn't, is not in use, presumably because it would be too awkward to articulate (and might be shortened to an't or ain't?).
4. It is unlikely that ain't will be admitted to standard English in the foreseeable future, if ever. For now, it stands at the door, out on the pavement, not yet part of the language household except as an affectation or in catchphrases, at best handled with tweezers and at worst regarded as the clearest single token of illiteracy.

Modern English usage. 2014.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Ain’t — is a contraction originally used for “am not”, but also used for “is not”, “are not”, “has not”, or “have not” in the common vernacular. In some dialects it is also used as a contraction of “do not”, “does not”, and “did not”, as in I ain’t know… …   Wikipedia

  • Ain — Departamento de Francia …   Wikipedia Español

  • ʿAin — Ain in isolierter Form verbundene Formen ـع ـعـ عـ von rechts beidseitig nach links …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Ain — steht für: Ain (Fluss), ein Fluss in Frankreich Département Ain, ein französisches Département Ain (Stern), den Stern Epsilon Tauri Ain (Arabischer Buchstabe), den arabischen Buchstaben ‏ع‎ Die Abkürzung AIn steht für: A.V. Austria Innsbruck,… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • AIN — Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom. {{{image}}}   Sigles d une seule lettre   Sigles de deux lettres > Sigles de trois lettres …   Wikipédia en Français

  • ain't — [ānt] [early assimilation, with lengthened and raised vowel, of amn t, contr. of am not; later confused with a nt (are not), i nt (is not), ha nt (has not, have not)] contraction 1. Informal am not 2. a) is not or are not b) has not or have not:… …   English World dictionary

  • ain — adj. 1. belonging to or on behalf of a specified person especially one s self; preceded by a possessive. my ain is Scottish Syn: own(prenominal). [WordNet 1.5] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Ain't — A contraction for are not and am not; also used for is not. [Colloq. or illiterate speech]. See {An t}. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Ain — (spr. Äug), 1) Fluß in Frankreich, forellenreich, entspringt auf dem Jura, fällt in die Rhone; 2) Departement in Frankreich, Theil des ehemaligen Burgund, zwischen Savoyen, Schweiz, Rhone, Jura, Isère, Saone, Loire, 1063/5 QM., östlich gebirgig… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Ain [1] — Ain ( Ain, arab.), soviel wie Quelle …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

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