A question from Roberto Leiro in Spain:
I would like to know why sometimes is used 'she don't care' and not 'she doesn't care', as in The Beatles song "Ticket to Ride". Many thanks.
And a similar question from Kian Edalat who's an Iranian living in Malaysia:
Hello - A question! What is the difference between: 'I don't want nobody but you' and 'I want nobody but you'?
Standard English / Non-standard English
Susan Fearn answers:
Right, well, there are two questions today, but they're both on the same theme. Roberto Leiro in Spain comments: "I'd like to know why sometimes we use she don't care and not she doesn't care, and he gives an example from The Beatles song "Ticket to Ride": '...and she don't care.' And an Iranian listener currently living in Malaysia asks: "What is the difference between: I don't want nobody but you and I want nobody but you?"
Perhaps the starting point for looking at these questions is way back before many of you were born; back then in 1972, the American linguist William Labov did what became a very famous study into so-called 'standard' and 'non-standard' forms of English.
Standard English is what is seen as, well, I suppose you could say the 'educated norm'. It's the language of formal written English - you know, of newspapers, letters, reports and so on. It's also, to some extent, spoken, by what I guess could be described as an 'educated elite'.
Anyway, non-standard English is pretty much everything else - the accents, the dialects, the vocabulary that vary according to where you live, or what social group you're in. And Labov argued that non-standard forms were just as expressive and wonderful as standard - they had their own rules and were in no way inferior.
Back to those questions:
She don't care and I don't want nobody but you are both what you could call 'non-standard' forms. They're not the sort of things you'd read written in a newspaper or written in an essay. They're conversational forms used by some groups of people in the United States.
It was the pop group The Beatles who sang "Ticket to Ride" in the early 1960's and that's the song Roberto mentions, but they weren't American. They were from Liverpool, in North West England, near where I come from. But when they were writing that song, in the early 1960's, life in England probably wasn't much fun and life in the United States - the kind of things you saw in the movies, in the Hollywood movies - always seemed a bit more glamorous.
This was the country of Elvis Presley, for example, who was big at that time, and Elvis and friends often used 'non-standard' forms in their songs:
'She don't'... 'I ain't'... 'I wanna'.
And the Beatles, along with quite a few other British musicians at that time and since then as well, must have thought that this was pretty cool - so in some of their early songs at least, they copied this American style even though they were actually British, this form of non-standard American English.
Now, 'I don't want nobody', which is the other form that's mentioned in the question... In so-called 'standard English' this would be:
'I want nobody' OR 'I don't want anybody'.
'I don't want nobody' is what we call a 'double negative'. It's a non-standard form that's found in several types of both British and American English. And the linguist we mentioned, Labov, did a detailed study of its use in parts of New York, for example. And, it's something you may hear in American songs or American movies.
Susan Fearn has taught English in Europe, Japan and China and has made programmes for BBC Learning English in the past. She is currently teaching English for Journalism and Public Relations at the University of Westminster in London.
Audio - Download the answer (mp3 - 1.1 mb)
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