I have always been fascinated by the concept of language. I was one of the few who took Latin while in high school because I felt it would benefit me later in life. It is unfortunate that the only solid memory I have of that class is the grueling task of translating page after page of manuscript. You would think I would remember at least one word (or two, given the tedious homework I had) but if I do, it is buried in my head. Surprisingly, I can remember nearly all the words I learned in my French class, which was taken years earlier. Since that point in time I have struggled to learn German, Japanese, and English. Yes, English, for I have often said that English is like a second language to me already because I think in pictures, not words. Besides, I also feel that we can never stop learning. English is a very rich and diverse language, and since I have a tendency to stagnate on certain words – I find it important to continue exploring it.
Recently PBS “Need to Know” highlighted a series of short video’s produced by The Open University. “The History of English in 10 Minutes” is worth the time (10 minutes, if you can believe it) to watch them, at least in my opinion. They are interesting and give insight into where certain words come from. Just today I was in a rather lengthy conversation with my family over why a swallow is called a swallow. This launched in the naming of many different birds and why they were named the way they were. Even my children find it interesting to explore the beginnings of words or phrases. I wish I had all the answers, but I fall short in this department. I do have a desire to learn though, so that gives me bonus points in the long run. This is one time where I hope that my thirst for knowledge is never sated, because I enjoy talking passionately about this with others and getting them interested in language as well.
As laid back as I can be at times, I am also prone to correcting my children if they use incorrect language. There is never, nor will there ever be, in my small world a place for the word “ain’t.” I don’t care if you are my child, a neighbors child, or a friend of the family – I rarely tolerate the use of “ain’t” without some comment on my behalf. I have successfully eradicated the term from my household, for the moment at least. Even the guests to our house are aware of my stance on “ain’t” and have desperately tried to curry favor (and cookies) by eliminating it from their vocabulary as well. It may be one small step for Kay-kind, but it is one huge leap for the world.
I know that the word “ain’t” was used by all classes in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. I am aware of the fact that the term can be found in letters and diaries of famous people throughout history. At some point it became a catch-all word for “am not”, “are not”, “is not,” “have not,” or “has not.” Basically it was improperly used by the public, and eventually was felt to be poor use of the English language. Even given this, the word persists in today’s language, permeating its way into pop culture and everyday conversations. It has become a pet peeve of mine, much like nails on a chalkboard. Please, those of you reading this I need to know… I’m not the only one who finds some word or phrase offensive to tender ears, am I? Is there anything that makes you internally (or even externally) cringe at the sound? I’d love it if you shared, for maybe I am guilty of an offense I am not aware of. At the very least, we can join together in a quest to annihilate superfluous words.