Sure, “ain’t” gets the attention, but what do “am’nt,” “h’aint” and “b’aint” mean?

What’s all the fuss over ain’t about? Is there really anything wrong with the word? Or is it even a word? The colloquialism ain’t is a nonstandard contraction of the following: “am not,” “are not,” “is not,” “have not,” and “has not.” It is also used in some dialects as a contraction for “do not,” “does not,” and “did not.” For example, “We ain’t got any milk left.”

It derives from the late 18th century word amn’t, which is a contraction of “am not.” Amn’t and the related word an’t are rarely used anymore. There are several antiquated non-standard contractions. Hain’t means “has not” or “have not.” And baint and bain’t mean “be not.”

The validity of ain’t has been widely debated. On one hand, many people consider it to be an acceptable contraction in everyday speech. But on the other hand, it seems that just as many people consider its usage improper and simply “bad English.” There is no use denying how commonly ain’t appears in some of the most beloved expressions, such as:

• If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

• He ain’t what he used to be.

• You ain’t heard (or seen) nothing yet.

• Say it ain’t so, Joe!

• Ain’t it the truth!

Do you use ain’t in every day communication? Let us know!