"me neither" (1882)--("Nor me neither" is a blend)

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Tue Jan 11 04:58:25 UTC 2005

On Mon, 10 Jan 2005 19:51:48 -0500, sagehen <sagehen at WESTELCOM.COM> wrote:

>-Ben Zimmer writes:
>>1843 _Godey's Lady's Book_ 27 (Aug.) 53/2 "She shant teach me. She shant!"
>>"Nor me neither, I'd spit at her!"
>>This is in dialogue between children (who also use "ain't"), so it appears
>>that it was already understood as a non-standard usage.
>Had the disparagement of "ain't"  begun that early?  I thought it was more
>a twentieth century enterprise.

Depends on what you mean by "disparagement".  Nineteenth-century
lexicographers, if they mentioned "ain't" (or the earlier spelling "an't")
at all, noted that it was non-standard.  Webster's 1828 dictionary has:

   ĀNT, in our vulgar dialect, as in the phrases, I _ānt,_ you
   he _ānt_, we _ānt_, & c., is undoubtedly a contraction of the
   Danish _er_, _ere_, the substantive verb, in the present tense of
   the Indicative Mode, and _not_, I _er-not_, we _ere-not_, he
   _er-not_, or of the Swedish _ar_, the same verb, Infinitive _vara_,
   to be. These phrases are doubtless legitimate remains of the Gothic

In case that doesn't display properly for everyone, Webster gives the
spelling as <a> with a macron, apparently indicating a pronunciation of
/eInt/.  See:

And this disparaging definition can still be found in the OED:

   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.

The definition for "ain't" was updated for OED2, but this one looks like
it has remained unaltered from the original A-Ant fascicle of 1884.

--Ben Zimmer

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