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Just Plain Wrong – Or Is It

"Ain't Dere No Mo"

Has anyone ever said to you, “Ain’t is not a word.” If someone said that to Li’l T, he would think (but he would not say), “Well, how come you’re saying it then?” If it is not a word, how is it that we all know exactly what it means?

What people usually mean when they say that ain’t is not a word is that ain’t is not a proper word. And what they mean by proper is usually that it is not accepted as Standard English.

So what is Standard English? That is a very tough question. Books and books have been written on it. It is fairly safe to say that Standard English is the English that is generally accepted as professional, educated English in whatever culture or region a person is speaking. This means that Standard English will be slightly different in different cultures and different places.

One “place,” however, where Standard English does not vary much is in the world of written language. We speak differently from the way we write. Since writing travels freely across cultures and regions, readers often expect that when they read, the text will be in a non-regional, non-cultural form of Standard English.

But what if the writer is writing a person’s spoken words. And what if the person speaks using words and grammar that are not accepted as proper? Then the text is going to have words like ain’t and busted and lay (instead of lie) if the writer is going to be true to the character.

In this picture, a man is dressed up for Mardi Gras. His sign says, “Ain’t dere no mo.” In Standard English this would be, “It isn’t there any more.” “Ain’t dere do mo” is a line made famous by New Orleans singer Benny Grunch. It refers to all the places and things that were lost in Hurricane Katrina. For example, after the storm someone might say, “Let’s go get a po-boy at that place up by the lake on Elysian Fields,” and his friend would answer, “Ain’t dere no mo.”