“No I amn’t!”

And yes, that last post would have been an opportunity to use one of Lil’ G’s favorite words—that isn’t a word. She’s quite good with language and is still working through the intricacies and rules of English use. Recently, she’s begun using the word “amn’t” (especially in defenses of her behavior or other denials) that functions in the same way as isn’t and aren’t. We’re attempting to persuade her that such a word really doesn’t exist. Linguistically, though, I am’nt sure why it doesn’t… My guess would be that the vowels I and a elide more naturally into “I’m” (hence the more standard “I’m not”) rather than the m and n.

4 thoughts on ““No I amn’t!”

  1. *Christopher

    I like it though…it sounds somehow archaic. On the other hand, it come’s close to ain’t, a regular usage of my childhood that my mother was forever trying to get me to stop using.

  2. The young fogey

    I remember reading in a dictionary that ain’t, an old word but non-standard to this day, actually comes from a merging of amn’t, an older non-standard word now extinct except apparently in Derek’s house :), and aren’t.

  3. bls

    If this were a question about French, the answer would be simple: words change form in order to achieve the most pleasing sound.

    It might even be true for English in this case. Imagine that!

  4. Derek the Ænglican

    Here ya go–from the OED:

    An’t contraction of are n’t, are not; colloquially for am not; and in illiterate or dialect speech for is not, has not (han’t). A later and still more illiterate form is AINT, q.v.
    1706 E. WARD Hud. Rediv. (1711) I. I. 24 But if your Eyes a’n’t quick of Motion, They’ll play the Rogue, that gave the Caution. 1734 FIELDING Old Man 1007/1 Ha, ha, ha! an’t we? no! How ignorant it is! 1737 {emem} Hist. Reg. I. i, No more I an’t, sir. 1812 H. & J. SMITH Rej. Addr. (1873) 69 No, that a’nt it, says he. 1828 LYTTON Pelham lxii. (1853) 172 A’n’t we behind hand? 1864 TENNYSON North. Farmer xiii, A mowt ‘a taäken Joänes, as ‘ant a ‘aäpoth o’ sense.

    And yes, bls, it is about the sound and I’d argue that there is a Germanic acoustic aesthetic that explains why ours drift differently from the French.

    King Alfred–you got a comment here?

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