1. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    Grammar Ain't vs. Isn't

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Alesia, Oct 31, 2013.

    How much is it frowned on to use the word ain't in a first person narrative?


    vs.

    The top sounds more like the way my MC would speak in dialogue, so is it acceptable to chuck the rule that "ain't is not a word" in this case?
     
  2. smoha
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    smoha Member

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    I think it depends on the character of your uhh... character. Since it is first-person, it's the thoughts of the character being relayed to the reader, and people use all sorts of different language. The only issue I have is that in the first one, "mind you" sounds a bit of of place. With, "ain't" in mind, it'd sound more natural if it was, "It ain't like I'm some stuck up bitch, you know." Although, that might just be me.
     
  3. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ain't is a word. IMO, yes, but it's been in use with a clear meaning for a very long time (my first Googling says that its first known use was 1749), so IMO it's a word.

    Of course, that doesn't mean that it's OK to use in formal narrative. There are plenty of perfectly valid words and phrases that aren't OK for formal narrative. But I think that it's absolutely fine in dialogue.
     
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  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Character driven narration is presented in the voice of the character, including slang.
     
  5. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    You are most profoooooundly correct. Perhaps the most dissed actual word - in terms of both depth and length of time being dissed - in the history of the English language. What I find utterly distressing is the way most dictionaries mislabel it (and many other terms) as slang, which it most definitely is not.
     
  6. edamame
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    edamame Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think ain't is fine, but you should know it says something about the character. It's slang so people might assume the character is a teenager or uneducated.
     
  7. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    That's exactly why I asked. I grew up in English classes where the textbooks stated, and I quote "Ain't is not a word. Never use ain't as a contraction."
     
  8. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, well... All languages are quirky, but English is downright silly at times.

    "I've grown rather bored with all the theeing and thouing. Let us be done with that pronoun altogether."

    "What? That leaves us with just ye to refer to others directly."

    "No, ye bugs me too. Let's only keep the inflected form you, dump ye and pitch the whole second person singular in the bin."

    "Folks ain't going to take kindly to that."

    "Now that is just wrong, and you know it. All of my changes make sense, but ain't is just insufferable."
     
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  9. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    You ain't kidding!
     
  10. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    But Alesia, you don't write for the publishers eye, their opinion is moot to you. You write because you want to tell a story and however it comes out is great, regardless of what big business thinks.

    So if you think 'ain't' rings true, then you put it there, and screw those who might frown upon it for some irrational reason. I doubt your average reader cares. If anyone, it'd be some reasonably grammar-savvy wannabe-writer who spends more time reading how-to books than writing who'd point at it and tut.

    Like @smoha, I too actually paid more attention to "mind you," as "you know" would've probably been my first choice there. But this is your character, and if she says "mind you" and "ain't," it's perfectly fine :)
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    characters' dialog must reflect their character/background, not be grammaticall perfect, unless that's the way that character would speak...

    same goes for narrative in a first person-told story...
     
  12. AlcoholicWolf
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    AlcoholicWolf Contributing Member

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    Thus is the way to make a character believable.
     
  13. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    @smoha and @KaTrian I totally agree, the "you know" does fit better.
     
  14. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    ain't aint a word?

    If the apostrophe is in place of a missing letter such as you're for you are, what is the apostrophe in ain't for? Should it just be aint?
     
  15. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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  16. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    so the apostrophe is there 'just because'...

    Anyway, like so many said - write 'ain't' if that's the way the character speaks...
     
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  17. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    No, not just because. It's a contraction that got caught in the middle of a vowel shift in the language that subsequently changed its spelling to reflect the change in pronunciation.
     
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  18. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    That's what I always figured, contraction for "am not" or "are not" hence the apostrophe.
     
  19. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    Let's start a right royal battle regarding the word, but I ain't going first!

    Here's a quickie - what's the opposite of ain't? Ain? Please don't say am :) And someone needs to tell MS Word - I keep getting that little red squiggle :(
     
  20. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    I'm not worried about publishers, but I am concerned with having good grammar :p
     
  21. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Heh, yeah, I get that. But what do you do if your character has a bad grammar? :confused:
    Like in Sapphire's Push (most people know the movie based on it, Precious), the protagonist tells her story in 1st person, but her grammar is terrible throughout, but that's the character. Had she been a first-time author, she probably wouldn't have gotten it published, perhaps self-pubbed, judging by what the wise ones here say about the industry...
     
  22. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    At school, my kids were taught the maxim "'Ain't' ain't a word, 'ain't' ain't!" To which I responded by pointing out that "Ain't" is listed in all the English dictionaries in the house (of which there are many), although most consider it "informal". If the narrative voice is informal (whether it's first person or not), "Ain't" is fair game.
     

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