Ain’t ain’t a word

What I WANT to read: The Village Effect by Susan Pinker (she’s Steven’s sister). I have been saying for a long time now that the loss of face to face contact and the constant onslaught of strange faces has an effect on us because we were hardwired for living in small bands and communities. I’m making up a Basics entry on how we have lost perspective because the new industrial and post-industrial order has been in existence just long enough for most people in the U.S. to have never known a village culture or farm culture.

Also, I just bought a book and started it on Webster’s 3rd. This dictionary splashed everything when it came out. I was a young college student working in a bookstore when it was published to cries of “shame”. My employers were so conservative they were members of the John Birch Society and so we had many major conservatives in the Phoenix area, Goldwater country, come in and voice their outrage over the dictionary’s inclusion of “ain’t”.

I’ll report on the latter book, The Story of Ain’t by David Skinner, as I read it. Anyone who likes the history of the 1950s will enjoy it, so I’ll give you all a taste.

Addendum – same day.

So far, so good. He charts within the first two to three chapters the change in education beginning with Darwin and the Junggrammatiker and how the return of GIs after WW II encouraged the development of literacy in a higher sense and therefore a need for a dictionary that would reflect the language of a newly empowered middle class. In linguistic terms, this treatment would be called the external history of the language, i.e. its social and academic environment.

OMG, here it is already! on page 27: “Neilsonhad even more to say about the classical party, as it had been rent by disagreements. There had been of late a ’revolt against the classics,’ which he attributed to ’a wide-spread indignation at being cheated.’ Hundreds of thousands of studentshad taken up Greek or Ltin or both ’with the implicit understanding that they would finally have access to the two great civilzations through reading th records in their original tongues.’ But in the end ’they could not read Latin or Greek.’

Now this is the in-coming president of Smith College and former professor of English at Cambridge University. This is not the sort of person who would lightly offend his colleagues in the classics. This matches perfectly with what Lawrence Levine describes as the manner of instruction in Latin at Harvard in the late 1800s in his The Opening of the American Mind.

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