Tuesday, September 27, 2005


I once utterly infuriated my fifth-grade teacher.

I've always been a great defender of the word "ain't," which after all has a long history in English, going back several hundred years. Anyhow, my teacher was insistent that "ain't" was not a "real" word. I asked, "Why not?"

She said, "Because it's not a contraction of anything. What is 'ain't' a contraction of— 'ai not'?"

I said, "Well, but 'won't' is good English, isn't it?"

She had to concede that it is.

I then had the impertinence to reply, "So then what is 'won't' a contraction of— 'wo not'?"

Back in those long-ago days, this was known as "getting sassy with the teacher." Otherwise known as "asking inconvenient questions."

And let's not get into double negatives, which have a history in English going back a good thousand years, to the days of Anglo-Saxon...



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Personally, I've always been annoyed with the presumption that certain dialects in the South need to be "corrected" or "educated".

Not just the accent, but the vocabulary. Some of my mother's mother's people from up in the mountains have entirely different vocabularies.

I remember being in english class in high-school studying poetry, and the Harvard-educated teacher having no clue about some of the vintage vocabulary. I knew the words, not from an academic study, but from having heard them spoken.

I also remember being the only one that spoke up, although after he expressed approval others in the class admitted that they also knew the words.

Its a horrible thing to squash words.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005 10:07:00 AM  

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