"ain't" in Merriam-Webster and mention of "Black English".

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"ain't" in Merriam-Webster and mention of "Black English".

Postby Mars80 » 2017-08-31, 15:54

There was a petition to remove the reference of "Black English" from Merriam-Webster's definition of "ain't" because it was viewed as offensive and discriminatory.

https://www.change.org/p/promoting-educ ... topic_page

Looks like the petition was successful. References to "Black English" have been removed from Merriam-Webster's entry for "ain't".

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ain't

This is what the entry for "ain't" was before the references to "Black English" were removed.

https://books.google.com/books?id=TAnhe ... 22&f=false

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Re: "ain't" in Merriam-Webster and mention of "Black English".

Postby Mars80 » 2017-08-31, 23:22

The petition

Most of us have been taught at a young age not to use “ain’t” because it is not proper English. Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a reference trusted by millions of people, defines “ain’t” as am not, are not, and is not. Sounds simple enough, but investigate further and you will see that its definition is offensive and prejudiced.

Definition of AIN'T:
do not: does not: did not —used in some varieties of Black English

The definition goes on to state, “although widely disapproved as nonstandard and more common in the habitual speech of the less educated…”
So the question becomes what is Black English, who speaks Black English and how does it correspond to the word, “ain’t”?

Definition of BLACK ENGLISH:

A nonstandard variety of English spoken by some African-Americans —called also Black English vernacular
We, the undersigned, request for Merriam-Webster to modify the definition of the word “ain’t”, removing the reference to Black English and its use by those less educated for the following reasons:

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary's description of “ain’t” states it is used in Black English, spoken by African Americans, and described as a nonstandard language used by those less educated which is offensive and discriminatory.

“Ain’t” is currently one of the top 10% of words searched in the dictionary and used by people from many different ethnicities not just African-Americans.
A word by definition should not be used in a disparaging manner to stereotype or incite prejudice towards a particular group of people.
Allowing even one single word to advocate prejudice will only perpetuate the type of discriminatory behavior that continues to affect African Americans and people who are perceived as less educated!!

We are concerned citizens. Sign this petition today and let your voice be heard!! Together we can impact change to create a positive perspective free from discrimination!!!

“Words used carelessly, as if they did not matter in any serious way, often allowed otherwise well-guarded truths to seep through.”― Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

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Re: "ain't" in Merriam-Webster and mention of "Black English".

Postby Babbsagg » 2017-09-21, 2:53

I think there's a misunderstanding. First, I also thought what nonsense is this, everyone knows "ain't" ain't exclusive to AAVE. Taking a closer look at the definition though:

1 : am not : are not : is not
2 : have not : has not
3 : do not : does not : did not - used in some varieties of Black English

Usage: Although widely disapproved as nonstandard, and more common in the habitual speech of the less educated, ain't is flourishing in American English.


makes me think the point was that option 3 is exclusive to "Black English" while 1 and 2 ain't. The way it's written makes it easy to be misunderstood, and the notion about the habitual speech of the less educated right in the following sentence is unfortunate.

So what they did was to remove option 3 along with the "Black English" comment. I think that was a mistake, A) because it removed the meaning it apparently has in AAVE and B) because the suggestion that people using it are less educated is still there. They should have removed that notion--or mark it as prejudice and not fact--and they should have replaced "Black English" with an up-to-date term.
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Re: "ain't" in Merriam-Webster and mention of "Black English".

Postby linguoboy » 2017-09-21, 2:57

Should the Merriam-Webster even be trying to cover AAVE? That really deserves an entire dictionary of its own.
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Re: "ain't" in Merriam-Webster and mention of "Black English".

Postby Babbsagg » 2017-09-21, 3:26

Well certainly not all of it. I'm not sure to which extent it covers dialectal terms in general.
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Re: "ain't" in Merriam-Webster and mention of "Black English".

Postby linguoboy » 2017-09-21, 19:42

Babbsagg wrote:Well certainly not all of it. I'm not sure to which extent it covers dialectal terms in general.

So you could also say they took it out because they realised it was a bit outside of their writ.

I would expect them to include "dialectalisms"[*] which have some currency among speakers of the standard language and those which appear commonly in literature. Beyond that it gets tricky.

[*] It is, of course, an open question whether AAVE is most usefully considered a "dialect" of SAE or not.
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Re: "ain't" in Merriam-Webster and mention of "Black English".

Postby Mars80 » 2017-09-22, 1:40

Dictionary.com has the "do not; does not; did not." sense in its entry for "ain't", but doesn't mark such as "black English".

http://www.dictionary.com/browse/ain-t?s=t

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Re: "ain't" in Merriam-Webster and mention of "Black English".

Postby Mars80 » 2017-09-25, 15:58

Here are some comments in the Seen or Heard part of Merriam-Websters "ain't" entry.

REALLY! Merrian-Webster? You define the word "Ain't" as "commonly used in some varieties of Black English" and then follow with an explanation that it is "...most common in the habitual speech of the less educated." WOW! Maybe I am reading into this a little too much - but it just sounds wrong.


My kids informed me that "ain't" is a word, so I looked it up in THE dictionary...but I had no idea I would find that it is "used in some varieties of Black English"...like white people don't use this word. I'm feeling some kind of way...and then I was enlightened further that "Black English" is an actual term for the way black people talk...WOW!


I guess I might be black from this definition. And I am less educated for using ain't. Good Lord! Now I know where my life went wrong.


This definition is making me madder by the second! First of all what is "Black English?" Secondly, where do they teach you that because I certainly have never learned it as a language or anywhere else! Is this the new PC term for Ebonics? Lastly, by definition black = bad, so why not say bad english? Is it "cleaned up" by calling it nonstandard? Or is it infact the way it seems & meant to reflect race/ethnicity thus calling blacks &/or "black english" speakers less educated? How did this discussion make it? And who wrote it?


I don't like the part in the definition which says 'more common in the habitual speech of the less educated', which is clearly just reflecting a stereotype. The word 'ain't' has been part of my lexicon, and part of many other people's vocabularies where I come from - among lower, middle and upper classes. I wouldn't write it in a formal situation... but it's clearly part of common dialect that was persecuted by prescriptivism, and definitely not an indicator of lower education levels.


#3: : do not : does not : did not —used in some varieties of Black English

That doesn't sound stereotypical at all *rolls eyes*.

Side note: Is there a yellow, brown, green, red, blue, purple, pink, or orange English? If so, please inform the masses.


Is this the Sacalia definition of Ain't? "used in some varieties of Black English " "Although widely disapproved as nonstandard and more common in the habitual speech of the less educated..." Webster revision on page 17 for racisit definitions....thank you.


Americans always trying to divide races with stupid subliminal messages like "Black English" and then linking it to being less educated. Truth of the matter is, the word was/is highly used in the southern states and spread throughout the country with the migration of blacks after the Emancipation. Who talk early black americans english ??? So how in the hell is it "BLACK" english.........SMMFH

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Re: "ain't" in Merriam-Webster and mention of "Black English".

Postby vijayjohn » 2017-10-04, 7:17

Babbsagg wrote:Taking a closer look at the definition though:

1 : am not : are not : is not
2 : have not : has not
3 : do not : does not : did not - used in some varieties of Black English

Usage: Although widely disapproved as nonstandard, and more common in the habitual speech of the less educated, ain't is flourishing in American English.


makes me think the point was that option 3 is exclusive to "Black English" while 1 and 2 ain't.

It's not exclusive to Black English at all and is probably the sense I've seen "ain't" used in most frequently.

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Re: "ain't" in Merriam-Webster and mention of "Black English".

Postby Babbsagg » 2017-10-04, 23:11

You have seen "ain't" most frequently in the sense of "do not"/"did not"? I always thought of it as mainly "is not"/"am not"/"are not"
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Re: "ain't" in Merriam-Webster and mention of "Black English".

Postby vijayjohn » 2017-10-05, 2:13

Babbsagg wrote:You have seen "ain't" most frequently in the sense of "do not"/"did not"?

I think so.

"I ain't got no money" = "I don't got no money"
"Ain't nobody got time for that" = "Don't nobody got time for that" (the variant with ain't is much more common)
I'm pretty sure the first person I ever saw say "ain't nobody got time for that" was a white person here on UniLang.
I always thought of it as mainly "is not"/"am not"/"are not"

Well, it did originate as just a contraction of "am not," but it's extended in meaning since then.

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Re: "ain't" in Merriam-Webster and mention of "Black English".

Postby Mars80 » 2017-10-05, 17:52

vijayjohn wrote:
Babbsagg wrote:You have seen "ain't" most frequently in the sense of "do not"/"did not"?

I think so.

"I ain't got no money" = "I don't got no money"
"Ain't nobody got time for that" = "Don't nobody got time for that" (the variant with ain't is much more common)
I'm pretty sure the first person I ever saw say "ain't nobody got time for that" was a white person here on UniLang.
I always thought of it as mainly "is not"/"am not"/"are not"

Well, it did originate as just a contraction of "am not," but it's extended in meaning since then.


"ain't" is typically only used in the "do not" sense with the word "got". Both the examples above have the word "got" in them. "I ain't want that" for "I don't want that" is not a typical use of "ain't".

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Re: "ain't" in Merriam-Webster and mention of "Black English".

Postby vijayjohn » 2017-10-05, 20:08

True, I can't think of anything else I'd use "ain't" in that sense for, whereas it does seem that "ain't want" and such are possible for some black people at least as Merriam-Webster says.

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Re: "ain't" in Merriam-Webster and mention of "Black English".

Postby linguoboy » 2017-10-05, 20:26

vijayjohn wrote:"I ain't got no money" = "I don't got no money"
"Ain't nobody got time for that" = "Don't nobody got time for that" (the variant with ain't is much more common)

It strikes me that the standard BE equivalents here would be "I haven't got any money" and "No one has got time for that".
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Re: "ain't" in Merriam-Webster and mention of "Black English".

Postby vijayjohn » 2017-10-05, 20:39

That's true in more standard varieties of AE as well, I think, right? So maybe Merriam-Webster wasn't referring to "do(es)n't got" in its third definition.

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Re: "ain't" in Merriam-Webster and mention of "Black English".

Postby linguoboy » 2017-10-05, 20:43

I'm not sure what you mean by "more standard varieties of AE". IME, AE varieties don't use have got as a verb of possession.
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Re: "ain't" in Merriam-Webster and mention of "Black English".

Postby vijayjohn » 2017-10-05, 20:55

Really? Idk, I thought I myself said things like "I've got" in the sense of possession. (I say "I got," too, but not exclusively if I'm remembering my own speech patterns correctly lol). I've probably written "I have got" before, too.

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Re: "ain't" in Merriam-Webster and mention of "Black English".

Postby linguoboy » 2017-10-05, 21:05

vijayjohn wrote:Really? Idk, I thought I myself said things like "I've got" in the sense of possession. (I say "I got," too, but not exclusively if I'm remembering my own speech patterns correctly lol). I've probably written "I have got" before, too.

Even in the negative? "I haven't got" sounds veddy British to me. Everyone I know here says, "I don't have".
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Re: "ain't" in Merriam-Webster and mention of "Black English".

Postby vijayjohn » 2017-10-05, 21:10

linguoboy wrote:
vijayjohn wrote:Really? Idk, I thought I myself said things like "I've got" in the sense of possession. (I say "I got," too, but not exclusively if I'm remembering my own speech patterns correctly lol). I've probably written "I have got" before, too.

Even in the negative? "I haven't got" sounds veddy British to me. Everyone I know here says, "I don't have".

Yeah, in the negative, too, perhaps most often in "I haven't got a lot of time." Maybe this is some kind of Indian English substrate effect, idk. :P Or it could just be that I've been exposed to it from non-Indians to the point where I've subconsciously absorbed it into my own speech. Of course, I also say "I have" and "I don't have," but British people do, too, don't they?

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Re: "ain't" in Merriam-Webster and mention of "Black English".

Postby Babbsagg » 2017-10-09, 8:10

Isn't "don't got" ungrammatical, at least in "standard" BrE/AmE? It certainly strikes me as such.

I'm not a native speaker and my experience especially with AmE is limited, but to my current knowledge "don't got" is nonstandard, that's why I'm asking.
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