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H.L. Mencken (1880–1956). The American Language. 1921.

Page 290

man,” “ain’t it the truth?”, “you been there, ain’t you?”, “you ain’t drank much,” “them ain’t what I want” and “I ain’t heerd of it” are common.
  This extensive use of ain’t, of course, is merely a single symptom of a general disregard of number, obvious throughout the verbs, and also among the pronouns, as we shall see. Charters gives many examples, among them, “how is Uncle Wallace and Aunt Clara?”, “you was,” “there is six” and the incomparable “it ain’t right to say, ‘He ain’t here today.’#” In Lardner there are many more, for instance, “them Giants is not such rotten hitters, isthey?”, “the people has all wanted to shake hands with Matthewson and I” and “some of the men has brung their wife along.” Sez (=says), used as the preterite of to say shows the same confusion. One observes it again in such forms as “then I goes up to him.” Here the decay of number helps in what threatens to become a decay of tense. A gambler of the humbler sort seldom says “I won $2,” or even “I wan $2,” but almost always “I win $2.” And in the same way he says “I see him come in,” not “I saw him come in” or “seen him.” Lardner, as we have seen, believes that win is displacing both won,winned and wan. Charters’ materials offer other specimens, among them “we help distributed the fruit,” “she recognize, hug, and kiss him” and “her father ask her if she intended doing what he ask.” Perhaps the occasional use of eat as the preterite of to eat, as in “I eat breakfast as soon as I got up,” is an example of the same flattening out of distinctions. Lardner has many specimens, among them “if Weaver and them had not of begin kicking” and “they would of knock down the fence.” I notice that used, in used to be, is almost always reduced to simple use, as in “it use to be the rule,” with the s very much like that of hiss. One seldom, if ever, hears a clear d at the end. Here, of course, the elision of the d is due primarily to assimilation with the t of to—a second example of one form of decay aiding another form. But the tenses apparently tend to crumble without help. I frequently hear whole narratives in a sort of debased historical present: “I says to him…. Then he ups and says…. I land him one on the ear…. He goes down and out,…” and so on. 70 Still under the spell of our disintegrating inflections, we