I Can’t Stand Contractions · 18 September 2021

I don’t know if you have figured this out yet, but I don’t like contractions. At least not when I write.

I know that I use contractions when I speak. Won’t, don’t, can’t. Well maybe not “can’t.” After all, I’m a coach and I tell my athletes that “can’t” is akin to a swear word so they get pushups. At any rate, I know that I use contractions when I speak. But writing is a whole different subject. Literally. (Looky there. Two word plays in one. Or was that two word plays in two sentences. And is a single word sentence really a sentence? Oh, the horror.)

I’m not sure why, but I don’t like to use contractions when I write. Unless, of course, I’m writing dialogue. (By the way, I like spelling dialog with a ue at the end like it used to always be spelled. DIALOGUE. I think it looks better with those silent letters for some reason.) I don’t even know how not using contractions started for me. I just can’t seem to use them when I write. (Which is also to say that I might’ve missed one or two in this post.)

There is one exception though. Ain’t. “Ain’t” is a great word. Probably because we used to say a little ditty when we were kids.

Ain’t ain’t a word,
‘Cause it ain’t in the dictionary,
So I ain’t gonna say it,
And I ain’t gonna use it anymore.

As a matter of fact, we used to see which dictionaries had the word ain’t in it. The big old ones did. Those dictionaries said it was improper to use ain’t. But they never did say what ain’t was contracting. Think about it. The apostrophe in a contraction usually takes the place of an O. Or at least of some letter. Or even groups of letters. So what did that apostrophe take the place of in the word ain’t?

We thought maybe ain’t was a contraction of am not. But that would be amn’t. Surely amn’t wasn’t a word. Then we thought maybe ain’t was a contraction of are not, but aren’t was already a contraction. Then we figured it out. Ain’t was a contraction of ain’t not. It was just that the apostrophe took the place of the ‘tno in the case of ain’t not. So ain’t not became just ain’t. Simple and brilliant. At least for elementary school kids back in the seventies. (Especially, since we knew that double negatives infuriated our teachers.)

If we’d been trying to figure it out now, we would’ve just looked on the internet. And we would’ve found that ain’t is a contraction of to be not. Boy would we have been excited. We were right after all when we thought about amn’t. More than that, we would’ve talked about those be verbs like our sixth grade teacher taught us.

Is, are, was, were, am, be.

That was shorthand notation. We just had to say “Is, are, was, were, am, be,” and we knew what all the be verbs were/are/might be. ‘Twas crazy. (How’d’ya like that contraction?)

When it comes right down to it though, I like our kid definition best. Ain’t is a contraction for ain’t not.

Well, I suppose I oughtn’t’ve used all those contractions in this short blog post, but I suppose I couldn’t’ve done it without ‘em. Okay. I could’ve. Then again, if shoulda, woulda, and coulda were in the dictionary, I coulda’ve and oughta’ve used ‘em.

I’m not sure where I was going with all of this, but let’s suffice it to say that you can really just replace pretty much any letter or group of letters in a group of words with at least one apostrophe to get a c’ntr’ction. (Notice how I replaced the o and a with apostrophes? Pretty nifty, huh?) Even if’n you shouldn’t oughta do it.

Well, when all is said and done, maybe I do like contractions after all.

Nope. Even after rereading this post, I still don’t. Then again, it is my own writing.

© 2021 Michael T. Miyoshi

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