or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Friday, October 07, 2005


On re-reading yesterday's posting (which I always do to catch any unseemly typos) I thought about a couple of things I'd ignored, so let's have a look at those.

I quoted an AP wire story to talk about irregular past participles and somehow missed another one that appears in the same paragraph--the word "swelled". The usual--certainly the older--past participle of "swell" is "swollen". But the forces of history are gradually decreasing the number of irregular past participles in English; the most commonly used irregular verbs remain unchanged while the less-used ones are reimagined as regular verbs by people who haven't seen them before, and so gradually become regular. It's happening with "show" (the earlier form is "shown"), "dwell" ("dwelt"), "creep" ("crept"), "shine" ("shone"), "knit" ("knit"), "heave" ("hove"), "saw" ("sawn"), and any number of others, all of which are becoming standardized into verb-plus-"-ed".

I'm stealing this from Answers.com; I was talking glancingly about the word "write", and upon looking it up discovered that English is the only western Indo-European language that still uses a word derived from the IE root "wried-" to refer to writing; all the rest of them use a derivative of the Latin word "scribere". French, "écrire". German, "schreiben". And so forth. But we're the only ones that use "write" or any reasonable facsimile thereof. Who knew? (We still got a pretty good package of words from "scribere", though: "scribe", "inscribe", "prescribe", "scribble", "scripture", "script", and a host of others.) We're also just about the only IE language which doesn't use Latin "legere" as the source of its word meaning "to read"; our version comes from an old Germanic word, "redan", "to advise", the source of "rede", a nearly-obsolete English word meaning "counsel", as well as "riddle". (Once again, though, we got a batch of words from "legere", including "legible", "legend", and "lecture".)


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