[lit-ideas] Re: help with ain't

  • From: David Ritchie <ritchierd@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 17 Oct 2006 09:02:31 -0700

On Oct 16, 2006, at 8:38 PM, Andy Amago wrote:

Likewise, in the Anthony Trollope's book The Way We Live Now, as interpreted by the BBC production, I was surprised that the upper classes used the word ain't several times.  Is there a history of respectability of the word ain't, and if so, why did it go south?

One of my many unpublished works takes on the subject of how English changed between 1890 and 1910. The argument as I recall it, was that an enthusiasm among young bloods for all things music hall caused the upper class to speak like the lower class, and then were then sometimes copied by the middle class. It was a daring paper, the sort one writes in graduate school, pushing evidence to the limit, but no less an authority than Randolph Quirk thought it had merit. At the time there was no way to go further with the project.

I now realize that the only reason I have this fashion filed under the period 1890-1910 was that these were the given parameters for the research project. Your question now makes me wonder when the fashion started. Could it have been as early as the 1870's?

David Ritchie,
Portland, Oregon

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