10.13.2011

When “Ain’t” Creeps In

“Mama, I can’t do this no more,” my child sighs, pushing homework away.

My eyebrows shoot up. “What?”

“I just can’t do this no more.”

(Somebody hit the pause button, please.)

Here in this snapshot, we see deteriorating motivation to do homework. Not surprising, really. But deteriorating grammar? Very interesting, indeed. I doubt the child picked that up from me. Maybe it was a matter of testing the waters. But more than likely, it was a matter of the subconscious realizing that it’s a tiny bit easier to say “no more” than “anymore.” Gentle correction made…and we move on.

(Now fast forward to the next scene, a few days later. Push play.)

“I ain’t finished yet,” the child says, as I begin to remove the plate from the table.

(Now, somebody hit pause again.)

If my eyebrows shot up upon hearing “no more,” then they reach an extreme altitude here when “ain’t” is uttered. I probably even go into Boiled Egg Eye Mode (BEEM), a phenomenon that moms display when they turn the whites of their eyes into egg-like seriousness. Then I am reminded of a fun little poem I learned in my school days that comes in handy in this particular scene. I lug it up from the recesses of my memory and use it for the highly-regarded, time-honored teaching tool that it is…one that explains matter-of-factly that if you say the word ain’t, your life will immediately spin out of control and devolve into all manner of chaos and disaster. Nice.

It goes like this: “Don’t say ‘ain’t.’ Your mother will faint. Your sister will cry, and your daddy will sigh, and your grandpa will fall over in a bucket of paint.” (Some versions, the PG ones, even say that somebody will die. Others mention that your dog will call the FBI, and your grandma won’t make her pie, et cetera.) Not very subtle, but it gets the point across. It’s also wildly funny if you are between the ages of 5 and 10.

Again, the correction is made…and we move on.

I come from a family with no detectable accents at all, and I remember their amusement when I entered school and picked up some Southern-isms. I remember trying some things out, like dropping my jaw a bit when I said my. It became mah. Mah hair, mah clothes, and mah Kool-aid. “Right there” became rat thay-er. “I want” became “I wawnt.” I’m sure some double negatives and the aforementioned A-word cropped up a few times and were either gently corrected or subjected to that dreadful poem.

I like being a GRIT, and I am raising my own. When around other GRITS, I sometimes find my own dropped jaw ratcheting itself into high gear, and I can hear myself doing it, without even telling myself to do it. Funny how that happens. Funny how it’s happening to my own offspring, through no real effort of their own. Dropped jaws and genteel dialects are familiar, comfortable, and sweet-sounding to me.

But ain’t? Even GRITS have to draw the line somewhere. Ain’t has got to go. Quick, please. Before I faint.

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