Thursday, January 05, 2006

Passed tenses

Some short follow-up notes to a previous entry about simplified verbal structures in English. First, I was reading an article in the New Yorker ("Liquid Assets: The Social Life of Beverages," Aug 1, 2005) where the article's author quoted Pepys. The author was interested in Pepys's views on beverages (interesting enough), but I was struck also by the use of verbs. Here's one:
... with Sir W. Batten and [Sir] J. Minnes to St. James's, and stopt at Temple Bar for Sir J. Minnes to go into the Devil's Taverne to shit, he having drunk whey, and his belly wrought. [May 15, 1667]
And here's another:
To the office, where Sir W Batten, Collonel Slingsby, and I sat a while; ... And afterwards did send for a Cupp of Tee (a China drink) of which I never had drank before) and went away. [September 25, 1660]
Two constructs requiring a past participle, and he uses two different forms. So clearly confusion about the "correct" participle for various verbs (I presume mostly irregular verbs -- i.e. "strong" verbs) goes back a long way.

Second, over on polyglot conspiracy today, he or she asks as an aside:
... past tense of shrink is shrank, right? Because I saw a NYT article two weeks ago where the headline used “shrank” (as in “Movie audiences shrank this year”), but the lead sentence said “shrunk” (as in “Audiences shrunk this year”). I’m not crazy to think that shrunk sounds bad, right? Despite Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
Note: this from a linguistics student. I tell you, verb forms are confusing to everyone, which means they're not set by any means.

Finally, Mr. Pepys reminds me of a somewhat delicate, but nonetheless legitimate question, namely what are the simple past and participle of to shit? The question is whether you know this without looking it up somewhere. FWIW, in German, our cousin language, it's a strong verb, hence ablauts in the past: schei├čen, schi├čen, geschissen.

Now, to quote Mr. Pepys, "And so to bed."


Anonymous said...

Both "shat" -- anyway that's what I think. Didn't look it up.

Bones said...

LOL -- took three seconds to think about it, and decided that the simple past and past participle were both "shit."