or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Don't Knock It

I don't have time to tell you about ablaut, because I have to get ready for work and I want to share this with you, so let's just say that it's the process of vowel change within words over time, such as the German verb "singen", which has as its principal parts "singen/sang/gesungen", and which obviously gave English the parallel sequence "sing/sang/sung".

English has lots of these ("ride/rode/ridden", "throw/threw/thrown", "drink/drank/drunk"), and sometimes the preterite (the simple past tense, the middle part of the verb set) just kind of vanishes from the language, no matter how much people like me might complain about it, so "shrink/shrank/shrunk" devolves into "shrink/shrunk/shrunk" and you get movie titles such as "Honey, I Shrunk The Kids" when it obviously should be "shrank".

One preterite that did truly and permanently disappear from North American English, but not British English, is the preterite for "spin"; we once had "spin/span/spun", but now the simple past tense in North America is always "spun": "She spun her wheels", or "He spun gold from straw". Not so in the UK, and as proof, here's a bit from an opera blog called Intermezzo:

Her performance was gripping, but it simply wasn't moving. Even when she span out Vissi d'arte quite exquisitely in her tiny porcelain voice, it left me cold.

The "her" in question is Angela Gheorghiu, who is at least as famous for cancelling performances as for her voice. Something else notable about her: This is how she looked in a production of Tosca in 2006

and this is how she looked in the same role a week ago

which led the writer to make the most wonderful pun,

Gheorghiu has her knockers, but while her voice and her (un)professionalism are open to criticism, her presence is undeniably electrifying,

which I had to read a couple of times to make sure it was intentional. It was. Love it!


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