As the daughter and granddaughter of two grammar greats, I’ve grown up deeply convicted about the incorrectness of the informal contraction, “ain’t.” But what qualifies words? I believe Shakespeare would agree, words are merely words except when we’ve given them significance. Remember Juliet? “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” To me, “ain’t” was always as off-limits as ole Romeo, but it never seemed sweet until my kindergartener started saying it.
Then he kept saying it.
Over and over and over.
My grandmother must be exhausted from all the somersaulting in her grave over his horrendous grammar infractions and, worst of all, my failure to always correct him.
Say it ain’t so!
It’s true. I’ve dropped the ball. His little mutt of an accent, this wild cross between his father’s southern draw and my hillbilly roots, it’s created the most delightful twang. Nearly (emphasis on nearly) every word sounds sweet.
So, I wonder, is “ain’t” a word? Am I remiss to not correct this small town country boy? A quick search left the matter inconclusive. The common American English vernacular still has a strong opposition with grammaristas like my grandmother, though Webster defines it as a contraction for “am not,” and “are not.” Still others tout its ability to stress the importance of a statement, and its variability and versatility to also mean “is not,” “has not,” “have not,” “do not,” “does not,” and “did not.” So, either it’s wrong, or it really ain’t.
Back to my five-year-old. I’ve always heard, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
As long as his words are like honey, I’m going to let it slide (part of the time). I have a hunch about that little boy, and we ain’t finished yet.