firiel11 (firiel11) wrote in linguaphiles,

Is "ain't" used in Alaska?

I've recently gone back to revising and writing something I started a while ago, which is inspired by The Downeaster Alexa, the Billy Joel song about a fisherman in Long Island, although my story is set in southwest Alaska. (Aleutian Islands, approximately Dutch Harbor) My protagonist, Alexa, is a Native, and my question is, is ain't used all over America, or only in the South? Would it be plausible for a Native girl living in the Southwest of Alaska to say ain't? As in "There ain't no way to find him. Not this late."  

Thanks for any help.
Tags: american english, phrases
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  • 28 comments

nagasvoice

September 24 2012, 05:41:53 UTC 2 years ago Edited:  September 24 2012, 05:42:56 UTC

Non-native folks in Alaska come from all over, and some of them do indeed use "ain't" routinely.
However, I couldn't speak to whether someone of one particular native group or another might--and they aren't all the same, nor do they speak the same language. Some groups speak mostly English anyway.

Granted the usual warnings about not believing everything you see on TV, and how they often get things wrong, still, you might get a feel for the general tone from some of the reality shows that talk about work in AK.

http://dsc.discovery.com/tv/deadliest-catch/

http://www.history.com/shows/ice-road-truckers

There's some others as well, such as Mounted Alaska about taxidermy, but I'm not finding a link for it.

firiel11

September 24 2012, 05:56:55 UTC 2 years ago

Yep, I know not all native groups in Alaska speak the same language.
Funny you mention Deadliest Catch, because Alexa's father is a crabber.

ubykhlives

September 24 2012, 05:56:48 UTC 2 years ago

I don't see why not - ain't isn't even a specifically American usage, never mind Southern. It's a solid part of the colloquial registers of English more generally, and it goes back at least as far as the 1780s in English English as well. I'd say go for it.

firiel11

September 24 2012, 06:03:00 UTC 2 years ago

thanks, ubykhlives.

paulistano

September 24 2012, 06:21:51 UTC 2 years ago

Ain't is pretty common all over, even among educated adults. I use it when I really want to emphasize something, like during my morning commute for instance: "Trying to get into my lane without a blinker? That ain't gonna happen"

firiel11

September 24 2012, 06:30:25 UTC 2 years ago

You're American? What state are you from?

provencepuss

September 24 2012, 06:35:47 UTC 2 years ago

I'd say that too - and I'm a native UK speaker living in France. 'ain't' has a strangely emphatic quality

ukashi_goshi

September 24 2012, 12:39:37 UTC 2 years ago

Yes - I think especially when the speaker usually speaks very correct, sophisticated English. Breaking character to use "ain't" is definitely emphatic.

paulistano

September 24 2012, 06:52:23 UTC 2 years ago

Yeah, grew up in Northern Californian, spent some time in Utah as an adult and am now living in the DC Metro region.

imps85

September 24 2012, 06:48:05 UTC 2 years ago

I didnt know ain't was American English. Isnt it used pretty much all around the world?

dorsetgirl

September 24 2012, 07:50:31 UTC 2 years ago

It's not specifically American, and it's certainly very common in the UK. I was brought up that it was ignorant and lower class, but as others have said, it's very handy for emphasis.

firiel11

September 24 2012, 09:31:17 UTC 2 years ago

@dorsetgirl: Yes, but in America it seems to be associated with the Southern states.

dorsetgirl

September 24 2012, 10:03:20 UTC 2 years ago Edited:  September 24 2012, 10:03:55 UTC

Ah, I didn't know that.

(By the way, in case you didn't know - there's no need for the "@dorsetgirl" at the beginning; on LJ comments it's always clear who you're replying to because the reply is indented underneath what you're replying to. [Unless you do like I often do and reply in entirely the wrong place of course...] )

firiel11

September 24 2012, 10:52:42 UTC 2 years ago

Thanks

provencepuss

2 years ago

verrucaria

September 24 2012, 16:47:33 UTC 2 years ago

I guess in the movies and other media, it may be associated with the South, but in real life, it's used in the North as well (at least in southern New England).

lizvogel

September 25 2012, 16:42:37 UTC 2 years ago

in America it seems to be associated with the Southern states.

No it ain't ;-) -- it's common usage where I grew up, in Michigan.

It is commonly associated with lower-class, less-educated people (and with middle-class kids rebelling against their English teachers), but that could mean inner-city Detroit just as easily as rural Alabama.

imps85

September 24 2012, 12:25:11 UTC 2 years ago

From what I have learnt it falls into the same categories as 'gonna' instead of going to or wanna ,

paulistano

September 24 2012, 13:55:16 UTC 2 years ago

I'm actually going to disagree with you there. Wanna and gonna are so common that nearly EVERYONE says them in day to day speech, whether they realize it or not. While "ain't" is generally only used by people of a certain socio-economic background in the U.S. (unless used for emphasis, as I mentioned above).

provencepuss

September 24 2012, 14:24:09 UTC 2 years ago

wanna and gonna are natural elisions - unless you en-un-ci-ate very carefully you use them more often than your realise.They are also characteristic of many North East Seabord accents in 'normal' rapid speech.

houseboatonstyx

September 24 2012, 22:54:32 UTC 2 years ago

"Wanna and gonna are so common that nearly EVERYONE says them in day to day speech, whether they realize it or not. While "ain't" is generally only used by people of a certain socio-economic background in the U.S. (unless used for emphasis, as I mentioned above)."

That's the case in my Southern US speech. Wanna and gonna are elisions, while ain't is a whole nother (and incorrect) word.

dorsetgirl

September 24 2012, 13:58:49 UTC 2 years ago

Not to me! "Gonna" and "wanna" to me are irritatingly American, while "ain't /an't / en't" is old-fashioned rural, hence derided as ignorant by townies.

imps85

2 years ago

muckefuck

2 years ago

nightfall404

September 24 2012, 13:16:08 UTC 2 years ago

It's one of those curious items along with "gotten" which was in common usage in British English at the time that the U.S. branch of the language came into existence. It subsequently passed from usage in the parent language and lived on in the offshoot. What makes it more interesting is that it's re-entered usage in British English due to exposure to American culture.

dorsetgirl

September 24 2012, 13:56:00 UTC 2 years ago

it's re-entered usage in British English due to exposure to American culture

I'm interested to know your source for this (and the timing)? I was brought up semi-rural working class in the early 1960s and my class-mates often used "ain't" (I wasn't allowed to!). Most of us didn't have television until a year or two later and we didn't watch American films. My mum was of the opinion that "ain't" was "ignorant". If she'd thought it was American, she'd have said so. (It's often pronounced "an't" or "en't" in various rural accents.)

I'm not saying that my class-mates' parents weren't aping US culture, just that the idea doesn't fit with anything else I remember about them.

provencepuss

September 24 2012, 14:32:46 UTC 2 years ago

"it's re-entered usage in British English due to exposure to American culture
"

that's a misbegotten idea if ever I heard one!
both 'ain't' and 'gotten' have always been with us east of the 'Pond'

and to back up dorsetgirl - see my comment above about North Norfolk - an't, ain't, aren't used in the singular - are all local usages that never went away.
North Norfolk usage goes even further 'that (do) be our way of talking so it a(i)n't wrong'

American popular culture was more responsible in my childhood (and dorsetgirl's for that matter) for what came to be referred to as a 'transatlantic accent' as acquired by the pop stars of the day who so wanted to be like Elvis (the Beatles' Liverpool accents were a pleasant relief from the likes of Cliff Richard trying not to forget to shorten his 'a's!)

verrucaria

September 24 2012, 16:52:05 UTC 2 years ago

it's re-entered usage in British English due to exposure to American culture
This may be true for gotten (though I don't think it's very common in Britain at this point), but I'm pretty sure that ain't never died out over there.