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The grammaticality of “that don't impress me much”

In Gadsby, which is almost grammatically not wrong at all, occurs just a solitary construction that I thought was awkward. It is said that "... folks today who claim that 'a child don't know anything.'" "No child knows anything" could own its position, as it is grammatically right, and contains not that symbol that Gadsby's author is trying to avoid.

Could I obtain a justification for this display of grammatical inaccuracy? Is it a willful play on grammar?

For additional information, Gadsby is a lipogram, by Mr. Wright. You can flip through it at this link.

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Congrats on making your full post without that missing symbol. I'll avoid it in this location also, and I'm voting you up for such mindful wording. –  J.R. Jul 29 '12 at 9:33
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+ 1 from me too for the same reason. You may also be familiar with Georges Perec's 'La Disparition', which observes the same constraint. It was translated into English as 'A Void' by Gilbert Adair. –  Barrie England Jul 29 '12 at 11:05
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In Gadsby, "a child don't know anything" is in quotation marks, and so is a quotation, possibly from a person who speaks in a non-standard idiom. –  Peter Shor Jul 29 '12 at 13:25
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Related: the grammaticality of “that don't impress me much” and the many questions linked from there (“My love don't cost a thing”, ”She’s got a ticket to ride, but she don’t care”, “She don't care about me”...). In fact, the accepted answer to the last one is almost identical to the accepted answer here. –  RegDwigнt Jul 29 '12 at 15:04
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Your posting is wondrous, and this forum would languish if any inquiry such as this might undergo closing. I will not cast a ballot for shutting it, and pray all of you not do so also. –  Mark Beadles Jul 29 '12 at 17:27
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marked as duplicate by Matt Эллен, FumbleFingers, jwpat7, kiamlaluno, Mitch Aug 2 '12 at 16:57

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1 Answer

up vote 4 down vote accepted

As Peter Trudgill has said,

Standard English fails to distinguish between the forms of the auxiliary forms of the verb do and its main verb forms . . . many other dialects distinguish between auxiliary I do, he do and main verb I does, he does or similar . . .

In this example, don’t functions as an auxiliary verb, and can be seen as representing non-standard speech, as well as avoiding the letter e. The writer could have made it even more typically non-standard with a child don't know nothing.

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I assume it's in a context where the writer is avoiding the letter "e", otherwise he's probably have said "children today don't know anything" (or "nothing" if he actually wanted the "non-standard speech" implications). –  FumbleFingers Jul 29 '12 at 15:51
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I'd +1 your post but for your blatant utilization of a certain symbol. –  Mark Beadles Jul 29 '12 at 17:30
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@MarkBeadles: Like. I have actually attempted the genre briefly myself with 'It is a position all hold that girls want to marry guys with lots of dosh.' If you can't identify the orginal, see here: sites.google.com/site/baralbion/oulipo –  Barrie England Jul 29 '12 at 17:56
    
Thank you for the standard non-standard. –  Mitch Jul 30 '12 at 12:46
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