Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Ain't ain't in the dictionary; does that mean we ain't s'posed to use it?

Okay, here's one for all you writers out there who are down-home country folk. Wait a minute, you don't know who you are. Wall, it's simple. Do you say "isn't or aren't" or do you say "ain't?" What? You're tellin' me you don't know nobody who says "ain't" no more. C'mon I find that hard to believe. Next you'll be tellin' me you call your folks Mom and Dad, 'steada Ma and Pa. Sheet, why not just start callin' 'em Mother and Father like you're the gall durn Kings and Queens of England.

I mean, if I ain't s'posed to use ain't, what ain't––oops––am I s'posed to use to show my characters are, well, to be po-litically co-rect, disadvantaged?

Okay, so I never did spend no time in the country. So I don't know the butt end of a rifle from the––what in hell is the other end anyways? Don't matter, I'll just call it a huntin' rifle and leave it at that. Cuz that's all any reader's really gotta know. 'Less o' course the readers is country folk. Then they might get their noses outa joint, but that's just plain silly, cuz country folk don't read. Least ways not the kinda lit-u-rery main-stream type stuff I write.

'Sides, I'll use whatever words I need to get my point across and ain't nobody's business if I do.

Full disclosure, one of my first published pieces was written in a silly country accent. Originally written for an online lesson that required an accent––go figure––the surprise ending received accolades at my first conference, and that was all I need to think it was great. After several years of reading submissions in "generic country" I wish I'd presented it a little differently.

Seriously, though, does anyone still use "ain't" outside of fiction? I'm curious.


Angie Ledbetter said...

Girlllll, we say ain't and y'all all the time. I write in dialect a LOT on my blog because it's the real me and part of my "voice" as a down-home kinda writer. I like to think the Cajun/"cuhntree" is at least a little different from regular Redneck. :)

Nannette Croce said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nannette Croce said...

Well that's good to know. I was really curious about "ain't" in particular and whether it was used anywhere anymore. However, I want to clarify, I'm not criticizing writing in true, regional accents. My target was that bad "generic" country I read so much of. For example, the ex-urb of Philly where I live was still very rural when we moved here 30 years ago, but even older people called their parents Mom and Dad or maybe Pop, not never Ma and Pa. It's important to know the voice you are writing in, because if you don't people are going to pick up on it.

sapheyerblu said...

Ok, honey, I gotta respond to this one. First of all, I live in Western Nebraska. Trust me, there are still a lot of people who use the term "ain't". I live in a town of about 1400 people, and I've got to hide the fact that I know proper English, or I'll be run out of town.

On any given day, I'll have at least one farmer in the restaurant I work at (yes, I'm a writer disguised as a waitress)who has to tell me "Well, looks like the corn ain't gonna get plowed since last's nights rain".

Trust me, anytime you think that there are no more people left in the world that talk like "good-ole boys", think again. I'm surrounded by them. :)

Kathryn Magendie said...

I use little dialect, but when I do, it's subtle, but somehow gets the point across that it is mountain talk or whatever- or so I'm told *laugh*

I read the interview - loved it -- Like you, my mind goes faster than my hand and i have HORRID handwriting - so, thank gawd for computers...!

Nannette Croce said...

Wow, so many great comments. I'll have to do a follow-up on this one. What I think comes out of this applies to writing in general––know your subject. There are places where imagination comes in handy, but when it comes to characters and setting, there has to be a good solid basis in reality.

Jolie said...

Careful of that "country talk" stereotype--not only do people use still use such talk, they use it in metropolitan areas! In the Southeast US, where I live, even in big cities you hear the strong Southern dialect all around you. Not from everybody; there's plenty of dialect variety here. But that traditional "country" sound issues from the mouths of many Southern natives of all races and socioeconomic backgrounds.

And then there are people like me, who use proper English most of the time, but occasionally sprinkle in an "ain't" or two. The word is alive and well!


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