Ain't it huntin' shooting' and fishin'?
Posted by Linden on May 19, 1998 at 21:25:14:
In response to Origins of "ain't" ??, written by JennieC on May 19, 1998 at 18:00:02
] So, was "ain't" originally a colloquiallism and/or the result of a certain regional accent? How did it fall into disfavor?
It's an example of a common phenomenon in the history of standard English.
Standard British English (these days called BBC English, or "received pronunciation" to be technical) is the speech of educated people in the triangle of Oxford, Cambridge and London, which is where the ruling classes meet.
They also meet plenty of less educated people from those regions, and the less educated from these regions find it easier than those from other regions to join the ruling elite.
As a result, accent markers from these regions frequently find themselves incorporated into informal standard English, and then often, but not always, into formal English.
This has happened with "ain't": it also happened with the end of words like "huntin' shootin' and fishin'."
The biggest change of the lot came with the dropping of the post-vocalic "r" in the 18th century: in other words, the "r" after a vowel and before a consonant. Educated British English now does not distinguish between "father" and "farther". It's still pronounced when the word following starts with a vowel (motheR and father) and often creeps in when the first word does not end with r (lawR and order).
As the British ruling class set out to rule good chunks of the world in the 18th and 19th centuries, they took their accents with them, so different West Indian islands either do or don't drop the "r" according to when the British colonised them.
The phenomenon is still happening: there's a fashionable young upper class accent (as spoken by Princess Diana when she wasn't being careful) which converts the "t" into a glottal stop - "Bri'ish English" - which comes from Cockney and the Cambridge area.
] Should we Southerners be proud of our "ain't"s?
In an age of increasing standardisation, stick to it, mate, it's dinkum English.
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