Tuesday, November 22, 2005


The other day Ethan asked me if "ain't" is a word. Given the controversial history of the questionable contraction, I suggested that we look in the dictionary. We found that it was listed in there, but part of it's definition stated that it's informal. While it is informal, it IS listed in the dictionary WITH a definition and therefore a WORD. So, I told Ethan that it is a word because it's now in the dictionary but it's always better to use isn't or aren't because they're more proper.

Little did I know that his teacher is the one who prompted the whole question to begin with. Smartass goes to school and tells the teacher, "You're wrong! My Mommy said that ain't IS a word because it's in the dictionary. We looked it up!"

Only my boy, I tell ya.

He came home and told me what he said to her and she told him that it's only in the dictionary because people use it so much but it's not really a word. What I want to know is how many words are in the dictionary that aren't really words? If they're not words, then what are they? Why would the dictionary people put a non word in a book that defines words?

Honestly I'm not worried about ain't being a word or not. It's the answer she gave him. I guess it's better that she told him that and not me because I would've left her dumbfounded. And NO, I didn't tell him that the teacher was wrong (although I started to) but I just let it be and told him to drop it.


If I were Mike Sherman I'd be in jail for beating the shit out of Jason Horton. I guess they're both lucky I'm not. And that's all I've to say about that.


Anonymous said...

Quality dictionaries should include all words, whether they be proper or improper.

Is it a word? Yup, it's a word. Is it a word someone who speaks proper English should adopt as a "real" word? Hell no.

It's slang. Tell yer boy it's slang and it ain't to be used in conversation. ;)

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Maine said...

It used to not be a word. Now it is. How hard is this? Things change. Accept it, teacher.

"Isn't" and "Aren't" used to not be words. Now they are. That teacher is a wordist!

schmims said...

macca, don't you mean "used when exchanging words"

Ok, I admit it. I'm an ultra super dork. And yes I do have a cape for that. I took an etomology (that's the study of words) in high school. The dictionary is acutally used to describe how people talk, not to define words. Bling was added to last year's edition.

Amanda said...

Here's a non-word that's in the dictionary:

Monogamy - a committed relationship unless you're dating Amanda; in such cases, monogamy is no longer a real, meaningful word.

Hmm, that even sounded bitter to me.

pickett said...

Wait, I am still stuck on "bling" being in the dictionary!! Apparently, mine is a few years old, because ain't and bling are still missing.

Anonymous said...

Anything that is used and has an accepted meaning is a "word." Whether it's good English or is deserving of being dignified through inclusion in a dictionary is another question.

The meaning of words is often at issue, and if my opponent were using a dictionary that also defined "bling," I'd be pretty sure I could convince the court that dictionary is unreliable since it's full of slang.

Bling, indeed.

fyrchk said...

But can anyone tell me what a "Bama" is? Because that's something I was called by a very large inmate in the jail. And not in a nice way either.

Anyone? Anyone?

april said...

Macca - I've told him that he should use other words that sound better, but he's stuck on the fact that it's a word so he's going to use it. See what I've started....

Maine - Wordist!! HA HA HA HA!!

Schmims - A picture with the cape, please!!

Amanda - Bitter?? Slightly, but tell it like it is girl!!

Pickett - Ain't ain't in your dictionary?? HA HA. Yeah, it is in the newer additions. I just bought mine a few months ago.

Ancient - I love the thought process of lawyers!!

Fyrchk - So I asked Kathy if she knew what a Bama is and she did. What she said is this, "It means you're hard, thugish, mean, don't give a shit, another word for the "N" word, you just are rough. Ya know?"

No I didn't know, really because I've never heard the term used before. But I don't think you're a Bama. =)

Maine said...

I always thought bama meant loser.

Kira said...

You KNEW I'd have to comment on this one.

When I told a class once to eliminate slang from their formal papers such as ain't, one kid screamed out, "ain't ain't a word!" and they laughed as they had been told that in school. I shook my head and told them that of course ain't was a WORD, it was just a word one did not use in formal essays as it was slang.

We then had a discussion on how some slang, when used for years and years and it doesn't fade, is then put in the unabridged dictionaries as it is part of the conversational style then of that language. However, it is also listed as slang or informal, and that is how we know it's a word only to use when talking to friends or talking casually, but never to write in business letters or academic papers.

All good unabridged dictionaries contain the most common slang that seems to be in our vocabulary for good. It has to pass the test of time first, however, because some terms or words come and go. I would think the judge would be an idiot if he wouldn't take the definitions out of a dictionary that had slang in it. If the dictionary claims to be unabridged and has NO SLANG in it, it is not a true lexicon of words from our language.

Sometimes, my students twist up a word when they ask a question and another student will jeer at the first student, "Is that even a WORD?" My retort is, "Well, it is NOW!" New words are invented all the time. It doesn't mean they'll "take" or that they will ever become part of our formal language, but new words are always created. There ain't nuthin' wrong with that :) So sayeth the English Prof! Long live the evolution of our language!

Johnny said...

english is full of trash.

its like scuba. its really Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. Is it a word or an acronym?

i just heard on the radio that gangster is now a verb.

im going to gangster yo a##.