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BACK-TALK

June 28, 2007

From Beyond the “Your Mother Will Faint, Your Father Will Fall in a Bucket of Paint” Argument

“You should never say ‘ain’t’!”

“Why not?”

“It’s not a real word.”

“Sure it is. It’s widely used and understood. It’s even in the dictionary.”

“It’s not proper English.”

“Is the purpose of language to aid in communication, or must it also be another control mechanism in our prison culture?”

“It’s not proper English; and people think you’re dumb when you say it.”

“Do you really think use of ‘proper’ English is an accurate criterion for judging a person’s intelligence? It may be a clue or an indicator; but one has to take it in context. Just because someone says ‘ain’t,’ or inventifies their own words doesn’t mean they’re dumb. They may be doing so for effect, or humor, or to relate to their intended audience. Or perhaps that’s just the way they learned how to talk and don’t feel the need for abject rule-following in communicating effectively.”

QUESTION: Are all of the rules of language sacrosanct, or have we arbitrarily overimportantificated some of them?

BONUS QUESTION: Is George Bush stupid, or a brilliant linguist using language to his advantage to win over those attracted to his ‘regular guy’ image?

BONUS BONUS QUESTION: Is Mark Twain’s reception by his contemporary critics for his use of language pertinent to this discussion?

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