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10 Verbs with Two Past-Tense Forms That Creeped (or Crept) into English

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Vocabulary.com, posted by Arika Okrent

Sometimes you know a word has two forms, but you 're not sure which one is appropriate to use in the situation at hand. This happens a lot with verbs, where past-tense forms can compete for acceptance and supremacy with language users. From our friends at Vocabulary.com, here are 10 verbs whose past tense can be confusing, along with some tidbits about their history and related linguistic phenomena.

1. CREEP

move slowly; in the case of people or animals with the body near the ground
Creeped or crept? Crept is the past tense, but creeped is popping up because of its presence in the phrasal verb creep out the past tense of which is indeed creeped out. Exceptions like this can often be accepted in certain contexts — the past tense of fly is flew, but a baseball player who hit a fly ball that was caught a few innings ago flied out. With time, these specific instances can slowly reach the mainstream.

2. DWELL

inhabit or live in; be an inhabitant of
Dwelt or dwelled? Unlike several entries on the list, in the case of dwelt the unusual form predates the one ending in -ed. Dwelled is popular in the United States, while dwelt is dominant in Britain.

3. HOIST

raise or haul up with or as if with mechanical help
Hoist or hoisted? Hoist as a past tense form is what linguists would call a zero-derived form: nothing changes on the surface, but on some level it has to be marked as "past." There was a verb hoise used primarily in nautical context, and it is thought that its past tense, hoist, was mistaken for a root.

4. PLEAD

appeal or request earnestly
Pleaded or pled? The grammar guides geared towards lawyers were once insistent that pleaded was the correct form, but the persistence of pled has caused the usually adamant attorneys to accept both. There may be more going on here, because "he pled guilty" sounds much better than "he pleaded guilty," but "she pled with the judge" sounds awful to many ears, while pleaded sounds fine there.

5. KNIT

make by needlework with interlacing yarn
Knit or knitted? Like plead, these two forms are both accepted nowadays and are in a virtual statistical dead heat in terms of usage. Knitted is more popular in its adjectival use. In other words, people more often say "a knitted hat" than a "knit hat".

6. SHRINK

wither, as with a loss of moisture
Shrunk or shrank ? A grammar maven's least favorite movie? Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. The movie title gets the past tenses confused: shrunk is past participle and shrank is simple past. Technically, it should be Honey, I Shrank the Kids.

7. GRIND

reduce to small pieces or particles by pounding or abrading
Ground or grinded ? Like creeped above, grinded is gaining acceptance over the traditional past tense ground because of the other uses of grinded. Grinded has become a hard nosed sports term: it is often said of football players, particularly running backs, that "they grinded it out today."

8. DREAM

experience while sleeping
Dreamed or dreamt? Dreamt is more popular in Britain, but both of these forms can function as the past tense. Some sources claim that dreamt is correct for "had a dream while asleep" while dreamed concerns only "hopes and aspirations while awake", but there is no solid evidence for this.

9. BURN

destroy by fire
Burnt or burned? Each variant is acceptable in the simple past-tense form. The preference for one over the other seems influenced by cultural concerns, as the British prefer burnt. Idiomatic uses also come into play. Someone who has ruined all his relationships on purpose is said to have burned his bridges. Burnt might sound strange there.

10. DIVE

a headlong plunge into water
Dived or dove ? This is probably the most often cited instance of two past-tense forms. In this case, it is interesting to note that dove arose as a form much later than dived, another case of the regular, -ed form coming before the "unusual" form.

To see more verbs with two past-tens forms and to add them your vocabulary-learning program, the full list is at Vocabulary.com.

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10 Common Words We Don't Pronounce Like We Used To
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Vocabulary.com, posted by Arika Okrent

As languages change, so do pronunciations. This list from our friends at Vocabulary.com contains 10 words that have gone through relatively recent shifts in pronunciation or whose spelling is a mystery unless one knows a bit about the history of how they were pronounced.

1. RATION

a fixed portion that is allotted (especially in times of scarcity)

This was at one time pronounced to rhyme with nation, but sometime after World War I, the current pronunciation, which rhymes with fashion, began to predominate.

2. TROUGH

a long narrow shallow receptacle

As you can probably guess by the spelling, trough once was pronounced with a hard "gh" sound, as in Scottish loch. In its modern pronunciation, the "gh" has been softened to an "f" sound, so it rhymes with other words this has happened to, like cough.

3. ATONE

turn away from sin or do penitence

This one is notable because the second syllable of this word, the one that sounds like own, is how the numeral "one" used to be pronounced until the 14th century, when the one we know today, rhyming with done, began to take hold. It wouldn't completely displace the other pronunciation for a few hundred years, until around the 18th century.

4. ANTIQUE

made in or typical of earlier times and valued for its age

Originally this word rhymed with frantic because it was considered parallel to antic, a word of similar origin meaning "old and grotesque." The current pronunciation, rhyming with mystique, is modeled on the French pronunciation and dates from the 18th century.

5. QUANDARY

state of uncertainty or perplexity especially as requiring a choice between equally unfavorable options

Originally the second syllable was stressed, roughly to rhyme with yon fairy. In modern pronunciation, it rhymes with laundry.

6. ALGEBRA

the mathematics of generalized arithmetical operations

The word originally had stress on the second syllable, rhyming with gal Debra before the stress shifted to the first syllable.

7. SCHEDULE

an ordered list of times at which things are planned to occur

Although originally pronounced like said you'll, in modern times there are two pronunciations. One, associated with Britain, is "SHED-yul" while the other, American, pronunciation is "SKED-yul." It is interesting to note that while Americans tend to associate anything British with being proper, it is the American pronunciation of this word that more closely imitates the original Greek root.

8. HUMOR

the quality of being funny

The word dates from the mid-14th century, but a pronunciation including the "h" is very recent, around the early 20th century.

9. BLUSH

become rosy or reddish

The vowel in blush was originally a short "oo" sound, roughly rhyming with koosh, before taking on its modern pronunciation, rhyming with plush.

10. BUSINESS

the principal activity in your life that you do to earn money

Until the 17th century, this word was pronounced with three syllables, so it rhymed with dizzyness, as opposed to the modern two-syllable pronunciation.

To learn about more words whose pronunciations have changed over time and to add them to your vocabulary-learning program, see the full list at Vocabulary.com.

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10 Words With Roots in Lesser-Known Languages
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Vocabulary.com, posted by Arika Okrent

English has borrowed words from all over the world to make up its lexicon. Our friends at Vocabulary.com compiled this list of ten relatively common words with historical roots in languages that are less well known for supplying English words than Latin, Greek, and the traditional Germanic and Romance languages.

1. BUCCANEER

someone who robs at sea or plunders the land from the sea without having a commission from any sovereign nation

The direct ancestor of buccaneer is French for "user of a boucan"—boucan being a type of grill. But the grill itself and the word boucan both have their source in the indigenous peoples of Brazil, where the word in Tupi is rendered mukem.

2. LAGNIAPPE

a small gift (especially one given by a merchant to a customer who makes a purchase)

From New Orleans Creole, the origins of lagniappe are slightly murky. One popular theory has it deriving from Spanish la ñapa (one of the few words in Spanish to begin with ñ) which means "the gift." La ñapa comes from yapa, a word from Quechua, a native language family of the Andes mountains.

3. MAVEN

someone who is dazzlingly skilled in any field

This word comes from Yiddish meyvn, which means "one who understands." It was a favorite of the late William Safire, a self-styled language maven.

4. BUNGALOW

a small house with a single story

The word entered English from Gujarati, spoken in India. The Gujarati word bangalo in turn comes from a Hindi word meaning "Bengalese, in the style of Bengal."

5. MAIZE

tall annual cereal grass bearing kernels on large ears: widely cultivated in America in many varieties

The indigenous word for "corn" entered English from Cuban Spanish maiz. Spanish got it from Arawakan, the language of the indigenous people of the Caribbean, where the form is mahiz.

6. HUBBUB

loud confused noise from many sources

The word was originally whobub, either from Gaelic ub! which was an expression of contempt, or an Old Irish battle cry, abu.

7. SLOGAN

a favorite saying of a sect or political group

This is another word from Gaelic and is also related to battle cries. Slogan comes from sluagh-ghairm, literally "army-cry."

8. COMMANDEER

take arbitrarily or by force

The South African language of Afrikaans, an offshoot of Dutch, gave rise to this word. It comes from kommandeeren, Afrikaans for "to command."

9. ZENITH

the point above the observer that is directly opposite the nadir on the imaginary sphere against which celestial bodies appear to be projected

This word is originally from Arabic samt ar-ras, which means "the way over the head." The "m" in samt was misread as an "ni," so it became sanit when it was borrowed into Latin, eventually resulting in zenith.

10. SCHLEP

pull along heavily, like a heavy load against a resistance

This word is from Yiddish, where a schlepper is not just a dragger but a scrounger or loser, less worthy of pity than a nebbish. The nebbish has misfortune thrust upon him, whereas the schlepper has a hand in his bad luck. The verb schlep is first attested in English in James Joyce's Ulysses in 1922.

To see more words from lesser known-languages and to add them to your vocabulary-learning program, see the full list at Vocabulary.com.

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