Welcome to this week’s installment of “How to speak like an ESVA local.” This article discusses an interesting grammatical phrase that can be heard in local conversations on Virginia’s Eastern Shore: the ain’t + adjective + none construction. After reading this article, you'll be able to use this authentic formulaic expression to sound like an ESVA native in casual conversation.
Let’s start with an example of the ain’t + ADJ + none construction. Then, I’ll deconstruct and explain each element in the phrase. Our hypothetical situation is as follows:
You’ve just crossed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel in your loaded-down mini-van and now you’re on Shore Time. You’re looking forward to enjoying a relaxing summer vacation with your family away from the busy city. It’s been a beautiful day so far, but you notice dark clouds moving over the bay as you unpack the van at the newly renovated rental home you booked in Cape Charles. The kids want mom’s homemade spaghetti and meatballs for dinner, so you decide to make a quick trip out to Food Lion to get a few groceries while everyone gets settled into the house. Those dark clouds you saw earlier are now overhead, and on the drive to the store, a few fat raindrops begin to land on your windshield. As you pull into a vacant parking spot, the bottom falls out and now you’re caught in the middle of a torrential downpour. You don’t have an umbrella or a raincoat, so you decide to wait for a lull in the storm. You check the weather radar on your iPhone, and it doesn’t look like the rain will let-up for a while, so you’ll have to make a run into Food Lion and hope you don’t trip over your flip flops as you sprint through the pouring rain. You reluctantly leave the shelter of your mini-van and run into Food Lion as quickly as possible, but you’re drenched after the first few steps. You’re greeted at the automatic sliding glass doors by a sun-tanned gentleman wearing a mesh cap, t-shirt, jeans and a pair of white rubber boots. Holding a few bags of groceries, he asks, “It ain’t rainin’ none, is it?”
As your soaked clothes show, it’s clearly raining. So why is this guy saying “it ain’t rainin’ none?” He’s not crazy or backwards, the phrase is actually an Eastern Shore way of saying it is raining hard. As English speakers, we are familiar with using the pronoun it as the subject when describing weather conditions (i.e. it is sunny, it is windy, etc.) And while some might argue that it’s not a word, ain’t in the construction it ain’t rainin’ none functions as a negated copula; ain’t is simply a nonstandard variant of is not. A copula is a verb that links a subject to a complement, which may be an adjective, noun, or pronoun. In our example, the present participle of the verb rain (rainin’) functions as an adjectival complement. Finally, the adverb none that follows rainin’ inverts the negative meaning conveyed by it ain’t rainin’ (i.e. it is not raining) into the emphatic positive meaning of it is raining hard. Basically, the two negatives in the construction (i.e. ain’t & none) cancel each other out and emphasize the adjective between them.
Here are a few more examples:
It ain’t windy none: It is very windy.
That dog ain’t spoiled none: That dog is very spoiled.
That sunset ain’t pretty none: That sunset is very pretty.
And there y’all have it. I magine you’ll be able to come up with your own ain’t ____ none statements now. Thanks for reading!