Before we explore the mystery behind this word, let’s talk about some other words from the same category. I’m sure you know them better than you know ain’t! Aren’t and isn’t – you know they mean are not and is not.
You also know how to use them. For example, He’s coming to the party, isn’t he? You are having dinner with Karen, aren’t you? But what if we replace pronouns in these sentences with ‘I’? Let’s try, I am coming to the party, ———– I? I am having dinner with Karen, ———– I? What do you put in the blanks here? Your instinct will rephrase the sentences to say ‘am I not’? So, I’m coming to the party, am I not?
That means each verb ‘to be’ has a negative contraction, such as you are – you aren’t, he/she is – he/she isn’t. But what about I am? Well! If we go by the same logic,
are + not = aren’t
is + not = isn’t
am + not = amn’t
I seemed to have raised a few eyebrows here. Even if you don’t approve of (or have never heard) amn’t, the word exists and is very common is some parts of the world, especially Ireland and Scotland. However, why this word is not so common elsewhere is because it evolved quickly to change from amn’t to ain’t. In English, two nasal consonants such as ‘m’ and ‘n’ don’t marry up. Thus, the word evolved. But I’m surprised, the new word is not used too. Why? Because we think it’s incorrect?
You know the word exists and there is no rule that tells you not to use the word. But there is indeed one rule that tells you ain’t should be used with I only. Thus, you ain’t and she ain’t are incorrect. As much as she isn’t is to she is not, I ain’t is to I am not.
Let’s start using this word and give it back its rightful position in English language.