Trivia Teaser

What is another word for the Castle in a chess game?

Rook
King
Bishop
Pawn

Simple Past Days

23
Oct
2009
 

By Miranda

After making a mint from Pirates Of The Caribbean, Johnny Depp and Gore Verbinsky put some of their profits into creating an album of traditional sea shanties.

It's not for the faint-hearted. The subject matter of some - all right, many – of the songs is definitely adult. Well, they were sailors. And the performances vary in style from traditional to iconoclastic. But the bit that jars every time I listen to it isn't the adult themes, coarse language or musical style. It's the past.

Specifically, it's the song about sinking a ship, in the past. The ship was sunk. No doubt it remains a sunken wreck. But as the singer refers to it, frequently, he "sunk the ship".

I hope you will have gathered that I try to be fairly tolerant with regard to changes in language. I admit that the usage of today is different to that taught me in my first years of school. I've been told of the differences between a prescriptive and a descriptive approach to grammar. I welcome the addition of new meanings to existing words. I can text. But, he SANK the ship. He drilled holes in its bottom and it SANK to the ocean bed with - according to the song - all its crew after which, for all I know, he SANK into the exhausted sleep of one whose task was done and done well.

Having said this, I'd probably be better off if we did adopt the past participle as the simple past form – as in 'she swum for hours' (presumably after the ship was sunk) and gradually stopped using the simple past form of these irregular verbs anyway.

Because it's very difficult to write a good short clue for the simple past of an irregular verb that excludes a differently-spelt past participle.

OK, you try...

 

8 Responses to

Simple Past Days

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October 25, 2009 at 4:40 PM

To be truthful, I have heard this comment, and it usually meant "he failed in what he tried to do". And yes, each time the term is "sunk the ship" not the correct grammar.

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Mo said:
October 26, 2009 at 1:17 AM

Is this two nations divided by a common language? In English English my understanding is that the active form is "he sunk it", the passive "it sank". I'm not sure if my technical terms are correct, but that is certainly what sounds right to me.

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swiss2 said:
October 26, 2009 at 8:35 AM

English is my fourth language and the easiest of them all. It irks me when people get certain things wrong, as described above. I have never heard of Mo's idea about the active and passive past tense. In my mind, "he ran (not run) a mile yesterday". I wonder if some of these errors have come from pirates having strong accents and it might have sounded like "sunk", like the English lady I work with where I am never sure if she is talking about a bus or the boss. Other common mistakes are people saying bought instead of brought or the other way around. I even get e-mails from people with degrees or doctorates writing: I would of thought instead of I would have thought. My husband used to make that mistake as well, so I wonder if that is a generation thing in New Zealand. That has come from "would've". I have just checked www.dictionary.com and typed in sink and it definitely comes up with sank for a different number of scenarios. Thanks Miranda, thinking about this has warmed my brain up sufficiently to get on with some puzzles!

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Mo said:
October 26, 2009 at 9:19 AM

English is not a regular language. You may see three blind mice (not mouses) in one of the farmers' houses (not hice). Even 'would of' is common usage in some areas. When does 'usage' make it correct?

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swiss2 said:
October 26, 2009 at 11:08 AM

At least English only has one version of "the", German has "die, der, das, dem and des" depending on if a word is male, female or neuter and the rules for what is any of those three are all over the place. I guess each language has its own difficulties, but we should try to get it right as much as we can.

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kragzy said:
October 27, 2009 at 2:35 PM

Language may be fluid, but it remains true that anyone who uses poor grammar, especially in the written word, does themselves a disservice. At a beach in Port Macquarie, NSW, a plaque is fixed to commemorate the tragic loss of a child in a drowning accident. At the bottom of the plaque are the words, "Your always in our heart." The black tragedy of the incident is made worse by the comedic tragedy of the plaque.

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mery said:
October 27, 2009 at 3:28 PM

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mery said:
October 27, 2009 at 3:31 PM

On the topic of he sunk a ship etc. He may have caused the ship to sink, but the ship sank. It has sunk; it is a sunken ship