Well, I have gone and done it. I have gone and written and published a book that is full of good people who are smart and educated and drive cars and can go on dates and read books and everything, but their grammar-is bad. Not all of them, and not all the time. Some of them do it all of the time, and most of them do it some of the time, but what is really going on? Were they not paying attention in English class when their teachers rapped their knuckles with rulers and drove home the point, "Mother, may I?"
In the last couple of years that I have been writing, I have been thinking about this issue, I'm sure, a lot more than most people do. Since I decided to write the way people actually speak, I had to start listening. Really listening. I really listen to myself more, and since I was writing about Western New Yorkers (state, not city), I was mostly listening to them while I was living back there a couple of years ago. I live in Utah now, and when we first came here, people would say that they could tell I wasn't from here or that I was from back east. Sometimes speech alone can make us feel like we have landed on another planet. I remember years ago, being in the car in Tennessee when my father was trying to find the house of someone named 'Brown.' He actually stopped and asked someone. "You lookin' fer Bray-own?" the man said, to my father's blank stare. Finally Dad said, "Did you say 'Brown' or 'Bray-own?'" "Bray-own," the man answered. "Bray-own? I'm looking for Brown," my father said. "Yeah, Bray-own," said the man. This conversation might have gone on indefintely if I hadn't gotten out of the car and whispered to my Dad, "He's saying Brown." To this day, I don't remember if we ever found Mr. Brown, but I will never forget that conversation. My father came out of that interaction thinking that the man must be an idiot, and the man probably thought the same thing about him. It was truly a language barrier.
But people from the south are not the only people with accents. Everyone has an accent. If you speak, you have an accent. And so I move on to the question of grammar. Southerners use the term "y'all" to refer to several people. Where I come from, we don't use y'all-we say "yis," "youse," and "youse guys." It means the same thing. If you don't want to go someplace, you might say, "I am not going." If your friends insist and you still don't want to go, you can make a more powerful statement by saying, "I ain't going!" It might be improper grammar, but it's also more forceful. The guy who says 'ain't' knows he ain't supposed to say ain't, but its use doesn't make him stupid. It's part of the way we speak there, if we choose to. If you go walking through my small town of Medina, New York and just listen, you'll hear it. You'll hear ain't, and glorious double negatives like "ain't got no," "don't have no," and the wonderful "don't want no." Do you shower or do you take a shower? Do you use a drawer, or do you, like my Grandma, keep your clothes in a draw? If you accidentally hit your thumb with a hammer, would you let out a string of swear words that would be familiar to most, or would you say, "MINSKYA!" which is heavily in favor in my region of New York (and do you know what it means?).