A thought about using ain't in conversational English
If a person says, "I ain't gonna tell nobody nothing.," to me it sounds much stronger and effective than "I'm not going to tell anybody anything."
What do you think?
Incidentally, what would you call the type of the sentence of the first expression? A "triple-negative" sentence?
In my opinion the auxiliary verb ain't, even though not grammatical or euphonious, is very versatile and convenient. If you want, you can use it as a contracted form for AM [ARE, IS] NOT, HAVE [HAS] NOT, or DO [DOES, DID] NOT without concern for the proper use of such auxiliary verbs. I think we should be able to feely use ain't in conversational English without feeling vulgar. It's just too bad that the use of ain't even in informal English is not usually considered acceptable.
Look at the following examples:
I ain't (am not) stupid.
You ain't (aren't) polite.
He ain't (isn't) what he used to be.
He ain't (hasn't) come yet.
I ain't (don't) do that.
She ain't (doesn't) kill animals.
Well, folks, tell me what you think about using ain't in informal English.
You're right: it does tend to be more emphatic, and is often consciously used that way.
I personally never use "ain't". In that situation, I would say "I'm not telling anyone anything.", which I think sounds perfectly fine.
Even though "Ain't" is a centuries old word (Even King James I of England used it) it is still a stigmatized word that indicates to people that you are ignorant or at best, uneducated. Caution should be used with this word. I almost agree with a writer I read once who said that it if you're going to use "ain't" at all, it should be used only humorously.
"I ain't (don't) do that."
"She ain't (doesn't) kill animals."
I've never heard someone use the word "ain't" like this. That is, as a substitute for the verb "do".
Ain't comes from "am not", right?
<<Ain't comes from "am not", right?>>
Yes, it is the historical contraction of "am" and "not," just like "will" and "not" or "is" and "not" have produced "won't" and "isn't," respectively. However, somehow along the line "ain't" acquired social stigmatization, even tho its roots were exactly the same as other contracted forms which carry no stigma.
Back in the mid 1950's, use of "ain't" was definitely stigmatized. I recall a very popular song that we heard constantly on the radio which prominently featured the word "ain't". This caused quite an uproar among certain folks. I think the controversy was that it might be a bad influence on the young people (like me). Some of the lyrics:
"You ain't never caught a rabbit"
"you ain't no freind of mine."
"You ain't nothin' but a hound dog."
"Yes, it is the historical contraction of 'am' and 'not,' just like 'will' and 'not' or 'is' and 'not' have produced 'won't' and 'isn't,' respectively. However, somehow along the line 'ain't' acquired social stigmatization, even tho its roots were exactly the same as other contracted forms which carry no stigma."
You make a good point indeed.
I often use "ain't" and "won't" to show how entirely subjective and arbitrary judgments on "correct" language are. For whatever reason, "won't" has made the grade but "ain't" has remained the Rodney Dangerfield of contractions.
"I ain't gonna tell nobody nothing" sounds illterate. I suppose one could say that it sounds strongly illiterate.
"I suppose one could say that it sounds strongly illiterate."
Language - the one socially acceptable prejudice left in modern PC society.
It's not prejudice, it's communication. A noisy communications line produces garbled data. A non-standard form of a language produces garbled human communication.
<<It's not prejudice, it's communication.>>
No, what you said was prejudice. There's a difference between stating sociolinguistic fact and implying that native speakers who use one form over another are automatically to be assumed as illiterate or uneducated or whatever.
<<Language - the one socially acceptable prejudice left in modern PC society.>>
Very true--I've noticed that myself. Even in the most polite of company, anyone who wouldn't think of making fun of a certain ethnic or cultural group can poke fun at an accent or dialect and no one will bat an eyelash (in fact, they'll probably agree and laugh). Of course, it may often be in jest or good-natured but that's not always the case. A surprising amount of otherwise reasonable and educated people truly believe that such different kinds of native speech forms are actually indicative of lower IQ/intelligence/education, etc.
"Ain't" is a perfectly valid historical construction in English but somewhere along the line acquired a certain stigma to it (in the 18-19th centuries I believe--it was actually much earlier than the 1950s), as happens sometimes. For whatever reasons I don't natively have "ain't" in my dialect (probably the force of social stigma eradicated it from my English-speaking forebears generations ago) except for in peripheral facetious usage.
<<It's not prejudice, it's communication. A noisy communications line produces garbled data. A non-standard form of a language produces garbled human communication.>>
As you might predict, I'm siding with Kirk here. "I ain't gonna tell nobody nothing" is in no way "garbled" - it conveys a readily understandable, unambiguous meaning to me.
<<As you might predict, I'm siding with Kirk here. "I ain't gonna tell nobody nothing" is in no way "garbled" - it conveys a readily understandable, unambiguous meaning to me.>>
Exactly. I ain't confused at all by such constructions and know no one else truly finds them garbled or ambiguous either. If that were the case, you wouldn't have understood it. If "ain't" is ambiguous, so are "won't" and "can't" or "aren't" etc.
Speaking of "aren't," many speakers (like me) naturally use it instead of "ain't" for the negation of the first-person singular copula in English, usually in the tag-question "aren't I?" Interestingly, this hypercorrection sidesteps the historically correct "ain't" in this position and replaces it with the third-person negation! And somehow this is not stigmatized at all even tho it is actually the (quite) innovative form and "ain't" is the historical one going back to Old English. Language change is fascinating--what acquires stigma and what people do to avoid stigmatized forms is often humorous (I'm not saying it's a bad thing as this stuff occasionally happens for any language--I just find it amusing).