Every teacher I had in elementary school wouldn’t let us say the word ain’t. In their classrooms, it was a curse word. “Ain’t ain’t a word because it ain’t in the dictionary,” they would tell us.
The joke was lost on us.
“But you just said…”
The point however was not lost on us. The dictionary was the standard.
Times have changed. Now the dictionary is online. And the online version includes the word ain’t, along with quite a few other words that would make the heads of my old teachers spin.
Dictionary.com has added over 300 new words to their database. I know what I’m about to say will make me sound old. That’s fine. But these new words make me miss the old dictionary.
One of the new words is womxn. Dictionary.com defines it as, “a woman (used, especially in intersectional feminism, as an alternative spelling to avoid the suggestion of sexism perceived in the sequences m-a-n and m-e-n , and to be inclusive of trans and nonbinary women).
I can’t help but imagine what Mrs. Brewer would have done to my paper back in the third grade had I put the letter x in women. I’m pretty sure she would have put a red x on top of it and made me sit out the first 15 minutes of recess. Had I defended myself by saying something like, “But I just included it to avoid the appearance of sexism,” she would have broken her own rule and said something along the lines of, “You ain’t got no sense.”
And she would have been right.
Just imagine, in a few short years, your son will drive by a mxn at work sign on his way to the courthouse to pay a fine to the governmxnt for harming the environmxnt simply because he paid a complimxnt to the waitress who brought him his mxnu. And no one will think anything of it.
Toxic masculinity is another one of the new additions. It’s defined as, “a cultural concept of manliness that glorifies stoicism, strength, virility, and dominance, and that is socially maladaptive or harmful to mental health.” Who knew? In the 1980s, Mrs. Guidry taught us how to be brave school safety patrols. By today’s standards, she was just promoting toxic masculinity. One morning when I was crying because I didn’t want to be at school, Mrs. Guidry told me, in no uncertain terms, to toughen up. That was quite the pivotal moment in my life. But the people who came up with the phrase toxic masculinity would have preferred Mrs. Guidry to encourage me to cry more because that’s what real manhood is about these days – crying. Man, I’m glad that the dictionary on the shelf in my sixth grade class didn’t have toxic masculinity in it.
The only thing toxic in my old elementary school classes was the stuff they put on the floor whenever some kid threw up. At some schools, that kitty litter-like substance is referred to as chum eaters. At my school, it was known as vomit control. Now there’s a term for Dictionary.com.
1 the smelly sawdust/kitty litter hybrid that the janitor put on the floor to cover up some kid’s vomit that left onlookers wondering if the supposed remedy was worse than the actual problem.
1 what readers have to do when they find out that the 300 new words being added to the dictionary are all loaded with a political agenda and said reader really wishes he could go back to a time when men were men and womxn were women.
In any event, I’m grateful to Mrs. Auten, Mrs. Brewer, Mrs. Yarborough, and Mrs. Guidry. They taught me a lot. They helped me to be the man that I am today. And they wouldn’t let me say the word ain’t simply because it wasn’t in the dictionary.
But then, one day, someone decided to let ain’t in that cherished book that helped to shape my childhood.
And it’s all been toxic ever since.