Me and my girlfriend have a bet going on. She recently used the word “littler” in a sentence. I quickily corrected her, telling her that there is no such word, and to replace it with smaller. She was convineced that it was a word, so we put a wager on it. She looked it up in a dictionary, and sure enough, “littler” was in it. Not being ready to give in, I looked at her dictionary, and found the word “ain’t”. I don’t know too many things, but one thing I do know is that “ain’t” ain’t a word.
So my two questions are is “littler” a real, correct word, and why is "ain’t in te dictionary?

“Littler” is real, but “smaller” is better. From here :

Assuming that you’re not kidding … of course, “ain’t” is a word. It’s used in normal language and by a lot of professional writers. I just checked two on-line dictionaries and the word’s there. I looked in three book dictionaries and the word’s there. So you ain’t right.

“Ain’t” is in the dictionary because it’s hanging on like grim death, beloved in everday speech despite what the linguists and wordsmiths would like to have done with this nuisance of a contraction-not contraction. From here :

So then what decides what a word is? Can’t I make up the word l"khgkrjc", n. The small area of skin between the testes and anus?

Appropriately enough for this thread, that’s already got a name: the t’ain’t spot. Because t’ain’t your balls and t’ain’t your asshole.

Most linguists with whom I am acquainted are not prescriptivists. They’re descriptivists. So long as the word (in this case, ain’t) is in use, then we linguists will dutifully report it as in use.

That’s good to hear, Monty. You’re right – there seems to be less shuddering in academic circles these days when that word is used. A good thing, really.

I always thought “ain’t” was a word, but was considered to be slang. Someone used it at work the other day and I physically recoiled.

I use “littlest”. My father-in-law called me on it, but he was wrong.

Sure you can. People make up new words all the time. If other people start using the word, and usage becomes widespread, then it will be listed in the next edition of the dictionary. But some advice, if you want to make a new word, better make it pronouncable. It would also help, though not essential, if the new word has some logic behind it, maybe derived from a Latin or Greek root.

And please…don’t make it rhyme with “shizzle.”

I wouldn’t call it slang. “Ain’t” has been in general use for a very long time, and it is pretty much used and understood throughout the English-speaking world. “Ain’t” is the kind of word that is used commonly in speech even by the educated, but which is frowned on in formal or written communication. (But then, it is generally considered better to avoid all contractions as much as possible in formal communication.)


If you’re such a stickler for proper English, maybe you should change this to “My girlfriend and I.”

Regarding “ain’t”: You know what it means, right? You’d never confuse “ain’t” with “orange” or “walk,” right? People who use it and people who hear it know what it means. That’s what makes it a word.

Not so obvious to the FIL.

Well, there’s already the word perineum for that area.

Well, then is “shit” a real word?

Yes, of course. Why wouldn’t it be?

What do you mean, exactly, by “real word”?

Words have varying degrees of currency and acceptance. In this case, “shit” is a word that has existed in English for a very long time (and has been used in literature since at least the time of Chaucer), and is universally understood by all English speakers. It is merely considered vulgar, so that euphemisms are substituted for it in “polite” conversation. On what grounds would it not be considered a “real” English word?

The “ain’t ain’t in the dictionary” chant was from the days when dictionary were prescriptive and were trying to tell the languge what to do. Like King Canute’s coutiers, dictionary eventually learned that there are some things you can’t order around. Language, like the tides, doesn’t listen to what authority figures tell it to do.

“Shit” was left out of dictionaries (along with other "dirty"words) out of prudishness. Their existence was certainly known to lexicographers, but they feared (possibly with good reason) that putting such words in print would lead to the dictionary being condemned and banned.

Back years ago, I remember the flap when someone discovered a particular dictionary included “fuck.” People wanted it banned, because kids might read the dictionary and see the word. (Ignoring that most kids even then knew the word, and that the few who’d actually read through the dictionary were hardly likely to be bothered by it).