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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: October ::
"Ain't" in Shakespeare?
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1922  Thursday, 21 October 2004

[1]     From:   Martin Mueller <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 20 Oct 2004 07:08:04 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1913 "Ain't" in Shakespeare?

[2]     From:   Bruce Richman <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 20 Oct 2004 11:06:06 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1913 "Ain't" in Shakespeare?

[3]     From:   Norman Hinton <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 20 Oct 2004 15:43:40 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1913 "Ain't" in Shakespeare?


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Mueller <
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Date:           Wednesday, 20 Oct 2004 07:08:04 -0500
Subject: 15.1913 "Ain't" in Shakespeare?
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1913 "Ain't" in Shakespeare?

 >Friends, someone wrote into the website to ask if I knew any uses of
 >"ain't" in Shakespeare.  Offhand, I couldn't think of any, and an online
 >search of the plays came up bupkis.  Too, my (1960s edition) of the OED
 >lists the first use of "ain't" in the 18th century.  Anyone out there
 >have reason for me to report otherwise to my questioner? (The person,
 >BTW, appears to be a documentary film producer.)

I did a quick "search in files" search on the html files of the Internet
Shakespeare (faithful transcriptions of the folio and quarto texts). It
appears that neither the spelling {ain't} nor the spelling { aint} is
found.  Nor do I think, but I am not sure, that there is a close
equivalent to this contraction in the plays or poems.

To go a little further, neither of these spellings (or any plausible
variant of it) occurs in the ten-million word collection of 16th and
17th century fiction published by Chadwyck-Healey.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bruce Richman <
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Date:           Wednesday, 20 Oct 2004 11:06:06 -0500
Subject: 15.1913 "Ain't" in Shakespeare?
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1913 "Ain't" in Shakespeare?

There's no appearance of "ain't" in my Harvard Concordance (Spevak).

Bruce Richman
Columbia, Missouri

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Norman Hinton <
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 >
Date:           Wednesday, 20 Oct 2004 15:43:40 -0500
Subject: 15.1913 "Ain't" in Shakespeare?
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1913 "Ain't" in Shakespeare?

"Ain't" cannot be dated before 1778.  An older forerunner "an't" seems
to be in Love's Labour's Lost, but that is actually a spelling variant
of "on't" (and so entered in the OED).  "an't" meaning "ain't" dates
from 1706.

These are of course only printed versions, and there could have been
earlier versions never written down, but the sound pattern of 'ain't' is
wrong for Shakespeare's time (take my word for it -- the explanation is
extremely lengthy, requires a good knowledge of phonetics, and is very
hard to illustrate without a phonetic and a phonemic alphabet).

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