Irregulars gone regular

English loses more and more irregular verbs every generation. I’m forever doing a double take when I hear one. Grinded on just startled me in a linguistics nerd kinda way. Not ground on? For a second I felt a pang of regret for an ancient irregular verb. Yet another Old English declension being regularized. But hell, just about every verb in English that adds an ed to the present tense to make the past tense—and that’s most of the verbs in English—violates Old English declension rules. And if King Harold hadn’t gotten his army destroyed and himself killed by a Norman arrow through the eye at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 then we’d still be speaking a language much closer to the language of his day, much closer to German, in fact. Declensions up the wazoo. But he lost and his valiant army was slaughtered and William the Conqueror earned his name. England was to be ruled in French by a harsh and arrogant Norman hand for centuries, and the bastardation of English began, leaving us with this extraordinary thing we write and speak and abuse so wonderfully terribly today. Like adding an ed to a present tense verb to make it a past tense verb whenever we fucking well please. We’ve been doing so for centuries in a never ending process. Thus the ground of my youth is the grinded on MSNBC today. Which is a good thing, really, it simplifies the language and drives grammar nazis up the wall. Still, though, I allow myself a pang of nostalgia for the old verb form, though even 66 year old me will probably be saying grinded soon enough, and a century from now people will wonder what ground beef means. Ground, like what we walk on? And linguist nerds like me will explain how ground was an archaic form of the past tense for grinded, and it’s not grinded beef because ground beef is a compound noun (two words, but grammatically it’s one noun) and compound nouns in a English tend to retain the archaic form, and often do so for centuries, because nouns in English change little over time. The meaning will change, but the word itself will change little. And they’ll feel so smart, those futuristic language nerds, and grandchildren of grandchildren now will roll their eyes, which humans have probably been doing for a couple hundred thousand years, meaning the same thing now that it did then, back before language was even a thing.

The Battle of Hastings, there goes Old English.