Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Scottish Usage - Amn't

It comes as a complete surprise to me to learn that in standard English there is no such word - or contraction - as amn't. The proper contraction, so I learn, is aren't.

So -

I'm here, amn't I? - Not Standard English

I'm here, aren't I? - Standard English

Well, this is a surprise. In Scotland, amn't is used in normal speech, without any connotations of it being slang, or improper English. I've used the word all my life and didn't even realise it wasn't normal. Although I have been in England for 30 years or so. Obviously I never noticed I was the only one using it.

Possibly this is something everyone else learned at school, while I missed out. Hmm. It may have been the day I bunked off to get Led Zeppelin tickets. Or maybe some day I just failed to turn up. I didn't have a great record in my final years at school.


  1. AAArggh. Blogger just ate my comment.
    I'll try again.

    I don't think it is 'wrong' or impropoer. I think it is a valid and proper variation.

    Years ago, I went to a talk by a linguistic historian - fascinating bloke - he said that Standard engloish is anything but, and that what we think of as being 'correct' is really just one of any umber of equally correct variations. Also that mostly, if you look at regional dialects / usuage you mostly find that they are internally very consistent (which is a sign that they are a 'proper' language / variation) and have their own grammar and structure.

    One of the exampleshe gave was talking about hoe in Somerset and the Westcountry you find people saying "Where's that to?" rather than "Where is it?" and will aslo find people using "she" not "it" (so you get "She'm over therer" not "it's over there")

    So, continue with your current usage with pride. You are helping to retain the rich variety of our language and should probably be given some sort of Heritage funding for it.

    PS. Did you ever get taught th rules of Hockey? I was off school with a broken leg when they told eveyone else, and I never did find out what they were. Since they expected me to play any way, then told me off for not following the rules, I learned self-induced wheezing and asthma attacks instead, which solved the problem...)

  2. Amn't = ain't = aren't. It's all good. I had never heard "amn't" before. Variety in language keeps it interesting. If it's not changing it's... well, Latin.

    Do you feel like you're stuck in the Twilight Zone with this realization about the word amn't? I would. Sometimes when a bit of information like that is revealed to me I'm stunned that I've been walking around my entire life without this knowledge in my brain. It makes me feel like there's been a shift in the universe.

  3. like the mogwai song "moses? i amn't"

  4. Coming from an Irish Traveller family I know exactly what you mean. I grew up in England using all sorts of words which were perfectly normal to me, a mixture of Pavee (the sort of official Traveller language) Traveller slang and Irish words. When I went to do my degree I finally realised everyone else didn't really use these words and I became extremely conscious of them. My stutter also became a lot worse, probably because I was editing my language. I found ways to manage my stutter, but have now abandoned them, along with editing my vocabulary. In my fantastic novel you'll see the use of the word "yous" several times - 'you're', 'your' or the plural of 'you' would be what them English people would say.It does make you feel very foreign sometimes.

  5. Amn't I actually makes more sense than Aren't I, if you take out the contractions:

    I'm here, am not I (or am I not, I suppose)
    I'm here, are not I (or are I not).

    'I are' is indisputably wrong in standard English; yay for regional variety...

  6. As Marjorie says, there's no such thing as proper English. Not only is 'standard' English spoken by a tiny minority of English speakers, but the number of those speakers is reduced further we're told it should be spoken in that BBC-aristocracy voice.

    Of the changes I've seen in my lifetime, I treasure most the growing acceptance of informality and plurality. There needn't be one right way of doing everything.

    A language belongs to all its speakers, and a language evolves. Thus, the correct language is however the consensus uses it.

    But amn't isn't a recently evolved thing. It's a long accepted part of what scholars term Standard Scottish English. It is by any reasonable standard as correct as aren't.

    I do love it that you've lived in England so long yet have only recently spotted this. Scottish identity seems so deeply rooted in its people.

  7. Once, in the company of a frein I ken, I was very surprised to discover that "taffled" was not standard English. Apparently it is a word only me, and people of my geographical origin, use. But things get taffled all the time, and I'm never happy about it.

  8. There is a Runaways film out, by the way, Martin.

  9. It's true Sammi, there are a lot of things that are taffled.

    I must see the Runaways film. I could even go wearing my Runaways t-shirt.

  10. Franki - it wasn't quite as big a shock as waking up in the twilight zone, but it was odd to realise I'd been uninformed about this piece of language all my life.

  11. Kevin9:50 pm

    I spent a couple of years in Scotland, at Edzell, but I must say I never heard amn't. I could have heard it actually, but didn't pick it out of the rest of the sentences I couldn't understand!! Especially true when listening to older Scots when they speak, it could be very difficult to understand a word they said!!!

  12. Aye ra English e'en hink "kent" is sum-whaur jist ootside London tae, instead o' bein' a wurd fur tae "have known" sommat, eh ken.