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12 Comments

  • Very interesting! Another irregular: the other day I came across ‘squoze’ as the past tense of ‘squeeze’ in a novel by Laurie Graham, who is British but often – as in this case – adopts an American persona brilliantly (in my opinion, though an American would be better placed to judge).The Urban Dictionary defines it, if ‘define’ is the right word, as “the wrong way to say squeeze for like past tense”. It also mentions ‘squozen’., with the exa “The diver might respond by saying that he was squozen by the pressure”.

    About ‘wend’, it is interesting isn’t it how these old forms are retained in fixed expressions. There is a great paper by Chris Gledhill where he calls these ‘lexical fossils’ – he discusses such phrases as ‘beck and call’, ‘by dint of’, ‘moot point’, ‘take umbrage’, and ‘with bated breath’. These don’t involve verbs of course but it’s the same sort of phenomenon as ‘wend your way’. I can send you this paper on a Word file if you are interested.

  • Gill: I love squoze and squozen! Presumably formed by analogy with freeze–froze–frozen. Is it always jocular, I wonder, or are there dialects where it’s a legitimate variant?
    ‘Lexical fossils’ interest me too. They have a way of hiding in the background of our usage, as inconspicuous archaisms retained in fixed expressions, until one day we notice just how strange they are. If the Gledhill paper you mean is ‘A Reference-based Theory of Phraseological Units’, then I just found a PDF of it and will read it later – thanks very much for the tip.

  • A A Milne was fond of the form ‘sqoze’ [sic]; he uses it several times in his stories about Winnie the Pooh: “He squeezed and he sqoze, and then with one last squze he was out.”| “So to the letter-box he rose,/While Pooh and Owl said “Oh” & “Hum!”/And where the letters always come/(Called LETTERS ONLY) Piglet sqoze/His head and then his toes.”

    Milne (or Pooh) even nouns the verb: “And a sort of sqoze/ Which grows and grows/ Is not too nice for his poor old nose”…

  • The phrase “wend your way” conjured up an image of a zig-zagging dirt track through a forest. I blame this on interference from “wind” as in “winding path” and possibly from “weave” as in “weave in and out”.

    I once (years and years ago) read an article that quoted material from when the electric chair was invented. At least one writer is on record as joking that, in parallel to the distinction between hanged and hung, people executed by electrical means should be said to be elected.

  • Hi Stan:
    You brung up[ an interesting topic. Whether dialectical or by conscious back-formation, there remains a trend in English for creation of irregular verb forms. In a counter-trend, it’s interesting how very young children will try to regularize verbs, as in a child telling him mom (mum) that he “putted” away his toys.

  • Liz: That’s wonderful – thanks for sharing it. Now suppose I chose to start saying sqoze

    Adrian: My image of wending probably isn’t as winding as yours, but I do have the sense that it’s a less-than-direct or not-quite-efficient way of moving. I like that elect joke; it’s cute. Electro-cute, even.

    Marc: Yes, it’s a very interesting process, how we learn the rules and the exceptions. It’s less cut-and-dried than is sometimes supposed. Regarding the trends you mention, Steven Pinker put it like this, in his book Words and Rules:

    A common misconception is that because Old English had more irregular verbs than Modern English, languages always evolve from irregular to regular. Languages don’t consistently evolve in either direction, because different psycholinguistic processes constantly create and destroy and two kinds of words or convert one in to the other.

  • Coincidentally, I read the following line last night: “Having chidden his wife, the peasant started to take round the vodka himself.” (In Tolstoy’s Master and Man: and other Parables and Tales.)

  • I happened across another inventive (and invented) past tense in Terry Pratchett’s Making Money: “Moist knew he was squirming, but squam anyway.”

    Later on in the same book there is a nice punctuation joke:

    ‘As’ chairman of the, Merchants’s Guild gentlemen may, I point out that these thing’s represent a valuable labour force in this’ city – said Mr Robert Parker.*

    *As a member of the Ancient and Venerable Order of Greengrocers’, Mr Parker was honour bound never to put his punctuation in the right place.

  • Thanks for the fun example, Liz. I like the sound of squam; it has anatomical connotations for me through the “squamous epithelium” I remember studying in college biology.
    Pratchett is to be commended for his restraint — the temptation to mispunctuate Robert Parker’s speech more wildly must have been considerable.

  • First,let me tell you that I love your blog, and have recommended it to several friends. Secondly, I enjoy saying and writing whilst, amongst and squoze. I like to say gay-raj rather than garage.

    There was a friend in Kentucky who always called a safety pin a latch pin. And on a little island off the Carolina coast, I heard the phrase :”Well, she ain’t ugly none.” That was from the History of English on PBS, possibly 30 years ago. Oh, and my family always said that they would “Leave the latch string out.”

    Hope this was not too off topic.

  • Fuzzarelly: Thank you; I appreciate your visits and recommendations very much. While and among would be my default, but I also use whilst and amongst occasionally, despite their critics. I enjoyed your examples of regional speech: ”Well, she ain’t ugly none” is especially remarkable.