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grant hutchison
2015-May-11, 11:48 AM
I recently had a bit of a dispute with a copy editor over the usage of "burned" versus "burnt". (He won, as they do.)
There's a fading distinction in meaning between these two words, applied intuitively by British English speakers from my sort of background, but nowadays pretty much being lost, I think.
For me, "burned" implies destruction by fire, whereas "burnt" implies fire damage. One is burned to death, one's house is burned to the ground, but one's finger (barring some strange circumstance) is merely burnt by the candle flame. Against that background, to be "burnt to death" (the subject of my dispute) is jarringly bizarre: perhaps an analogy would be "bruised to death", if applied to someone crushed by heavy machinery.
I'm pretty sure that this reaction is confined to British English speakers of a Certain Age and upbringing, but I'd be interested if anyone else feels the same way or has had occasion to make the same distinction.

There are analogous distinctions with other verbs, too.
"Learned" implies deliberately committing something to memory, whereas "learnt" simply implies finding something out: "I learned my lesson", but "I learnt of his death today".
"Spelled" also seems to have connotations of seriousness or permanence that "spelt" lacks: "He spelled out my options for me" but "You spelt that wrongly".

IIRC, some or all of these "-t" versions are absent from American English. Can any Americans clarify?

Grant Hutchison

Eclogite
2015-May-11, 12:34 PM
I must be of "a Certain Age and upbringing", for I agree with you.

I realise it is off-topic, but I am still to disconcerted by the Captain's runway announcement, common on many American carriers, that "We shall be taking off momentarily." I should really like to remain airborne for rather longer than that. Say sufficient time to reach our destination.

Buttercup
2015-May-11, 12:42 PM
Spilled versus spilt.

It's not common, anymore, to my reading anyway, to see "spilt." Thankfully.

grant hutchison
2015-May-11, 01:14 PM
Spilled versus spilt.

It's not common, anymore, to my reading anyway, to see "spilt." Thankfully."Spilt" is common in British English. I'm not aware of any contrast in meaning between "spilled" and "spilt", however, of the sort I described in the OP.

Grant Hutchison

Grey
2015-May-11, 02:01 PM
IIRC, some or all of these "-t" versions are absent from American English. Can any Americans clarify?I'd agree that they are largely absent from usage here in the US. Certainly someone listening or reading would understand it, but it would be seen as perhaps a bit archaic or poetic. Here (http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/words/learnt-vs-learned)'s a discussion of learned vs. learnt, that confirms that the usage is primarily British. This article (http://grammarist.com/spelling/learned-learnt/) quantifies that, saying that while "learnt" is used about once for every three uses of "learned" in British writing, "learnt" only shows up once for every 500 uses of "learned" in the US and Canada.

Perhaps interestingly, in the first article there, the examples of usage they give ("We learned the news at about three o'clock." and "They learnt the train times by heart.") are the opposite of your sense, with "learnt" being used for a case of deliberately committing something to memory and "learned" being used for finding something out.

SeanF
2015-May-11, 02:05 PM
To me, anyway, "burned" can be used as either a verb or an adjective, but "burnt" is almost always used as an adjective. I don't think there's any other distinction in implied severity.

Jens
2015-May-11, 03:11 PM
I must be of "a Certain Age and upbringing", for I agree with you.

I realise it is off-topic, but I am still to disconcerted by the Captain's runway announcement, common on many American carriers, that "We shall be taking off momentarily." I should really like to remain airborne for rather longer than that. Say sufficient time to reach our destination.

I have heard that before. For us in the new world, momentarily means soon rather than for a short time.

DaveC426913
2015-May-11, 03:21 PM
Ah, the destruction of words! Doubleplusgood, America! Doubleplusgood! :D


http://www.shmoop.com/1984/language-communication-quotes.html (http://www.shmoop.com/1984/language-communication-quotes.html)

John Mendenhall
2015-May-11, 04:39 PM
So? 'Tis English. ''English stalks other languages, mugs them in dark alleys, and steals their best parts." -Unknown.

Comprende?

SeanF
2015-May-11, 04:57 PM
I realise it is off-topic, but I am still to disconcerted by the Captain's runway announcement, common on many American carriers, that "We shall be taking off momentarily." I should really like to remain airborne for rather longer than that. Say sufficient time to reach our destination.
Except, of course, that one is not "taking off" for the entire time one "remain[s] airborne." "Taking off" constitutes a very brief time span - in fact, I think one could argue that "taking off," as the act of leaving the ground, is actually an instantaneous event with no duration at all. :)

grant hutchison
2015-May-11, 05:08 PM
''English stalks other languages, mugs them in dark alleys, and steals their best parts." -Unknown."The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary." -James Nicoll.
It's a Usenet post from the 1990s, frequently misattributed.

Doesn't apply here, of course, since the affected words aren't borrowings in the usual sense -they go all the way back to the origin of English as a Germanic language.

Grant Hutchison

Torsten
2015-May-11, 05:39 PM
I hear people use both terms, but never felt that a difference in severity was implied. Rather, as SeanF says, realizing that "burned" is used as both verb and adjective, I decided to stop using the word "burnt". It's my plusgood contribution to the simplification of the language.

grant hutchison
2015-May-11, 05:45 PM
Perhaps interestingly, in the first article there, the examples of usage they give ("We learned the news at about three o'clock." and "They learnt the train times by heart.") are the opposite of your sense, with "learnt" being used for a case of deliberately committing something to memory and "learned" being used for finding something out.It perhaps relates to the way the distinction has been lost, generating synonyms from what were shades of meaning. Under these circumstances, publishers adopt a house style that uses one word or the other. (It was just such a house style I fell foul of in my discussion with the copy editor.) I'd bet that all the quotes on your link page have been through a house style filter, given their origins.

My worst ever experience with the brainless application of house style goes back to a piece I wrote about word origins. In it, I described how kermes insects were crushed to produce a red dye, from which we derived the words crimson and carmine. Fortunately I received a set of proofs, in which carmine had been replaced, according to house style, with scarlet (deemed to be a more common word with the same meaning). The fact that I was writing about specific words had managed to slip past the attention of the copy editor. :doh:

Grant Hutchison

swampyankee
2015-May-11, 05:56 PM
My toast was burnt; my finger was burned.

Usage changes with time and with region. As an experiment for our British English speakers: go to a shoe store in some random town in rural America and try to buy a pair of trainers. I, as a speaker of Southern New England English will reciprocate by going to rural Corwall and find a shop that sells take-out and ask for a grinder.

grant hutchison
2015-May-11, 05:57 PM
In The New Fowler's Modern English Usage, Burchfield gives a handy list of the "main" -t/-ed verbs, while noting that American English shows a preference for -ed.
burned/burnt
dreamed/dreamt
dwelled/dwelt
kneeled/knelt
leaned/leant
leaped/leapt
learned/learnt
smelled/smelt
spelled/spelt
spilled/spilt
spoiled/spoilt

To these he adds some more complicated versions:
bereaved/bereft
beseeched/besought
cleaved/cleft (in the sense of "cutting", rather than "adhering")

Grant Hutchison

grant hutchison
2015-May-11, 06:01 PM
My toast was burnt; my finger was burnedWhy the difference, given that both involve superficial heating? Is it the charcoal in the former, or the pain in the latter, or something else?
(Although that could be interpreted as confrontational or sarcastic, it's not. I'm really interested in how people choose between these words, when they do make a choice.)

Grant Hutchison

swampyankee
2015-May-11, 06:36 PM
Why the difference, given that both involve superficial heating? Is it the charcoal in the former, or the pain in the latter, or something else?
(Although that could be interpreted as confrontational or sarcastic, it's not. I'm really interested in how people choose between these words, when they do make a choice.)

Grant Hutchison

Since I don't make a conscious choice, I can't tell you why it's a burned finger and burnt toast. Heck, I'm still reeling over being told that "snuck" isn't proper usage. I don't remember ever using "sneaked!" I'm a native English speaker, reasonably well-educated, and over sixty.

Jim
2015-May-11, 06:39 PM
In The New Fowler's Modern English Usage, Burchfield gives a handy list of the "main" -t/-ed verbs, while noting that American English shows a preference for -ed.
burned/burnt
dreamed/dreamt
dwelled/dwelt
kneeled/knelt
leaned/leant
leaped/leapt
learned/learnt
smelled/smelt
spelled/spelt
spilled/spilt
spoiled/spoilt

To these he adds some more complicated versions:
bereaved/bereft
beseeched/besought
cleaved/cleft (in the sense of "cutting", rather than "adhering")

Grant Hutchison

Interesting. I think I'm split in my usage of those words, with no noticeable reasons other than that's what I'm used to using and they sound better than the other version.

There does seem to be a relationship to verb/adjective (I spilled the milk, but you don't cry over spilt milk.) but it's not universal (I'd never say "spoilt milk" for example.).

grant hutchison
2015-May-11, 06:53 PM
Since I don't make a conscious choice, I can't tell you why it's a burned finger and burnt toast.Well, I never made a conscious choice either: it's just the way I learned to speak. But what I assimilated was that these words have different meanings, which gives them different contexts of use.
Another way to come at this is to ask if anything seems incongruous to you about "burnt finger" and "burned toast". Is there a jarring meaning problem, like "burnt to death" creates for me, or are they just deviations from what you consider normal phrasing?

Grant Hutchison

Solfe
2015-May-11, 06:54 PM
The only objection I have to using "t" over "ed" is if the author started with "ed" and suddenly switches to only "t" ending words. Usually that indicates they were writing casually and suddenly realized they need to end the piece "now". Instead of editing, the author invokes an "emergency appeal to authority", with more formal writing as backup.

This is completely different than someone who switches forms to have a desired reading flow. That can be very pleasant and shows the author is thinking about the audience.

grant hutchison
2015-May-11, 07:02 PM
The only objection I have to using "t" over "ed" is if the author started with "ed" and suddenly switches to only "t" ending words. Usually that indicates they were writing casually and suddenly realized they need to end the piece "now". Instead of editing, the author invokes an "emergency appeal to authority", with more formal writing as backup.

This is completely different than someone who switches forms to have a desired reading flow. That can be very pleasant and shows the author is thinking about the audience.I don't understand. Are you saying that you view the -t ending as more formal and the -ed ending more casual?

Your second point about switching forms also puzzles me. Publishers generally try for consistency, rather than permitting writers to switch back and forth (which they consider to show a lack of attention). Why do you think switching back and forth reflects consideration for the audience?

Grant Hutchison

Solfe
2015-May-11, 07:47 PM
I don't understand. Are you saying that you view the -t ending as more formal and the -ed ending more casual?

Your second point about switching forms also puzzles me. Publishers generally try for consistency, rather than permitting writers to switch back and forth (which they consider to show a lack of attention). Why do you think switching back and forth reflects consideration for the audience?

Grant Hutchison

To me, in a very general sense, the endings are equivalent with a few exceptions. "Burnt Umber Crayon" is ok but "Burned Umber Crayon" is a mistake.

In a book, I will accept that the narrator uses one form endings while select characters use a completely different form. That makes sense and is consistent in an odd way. In an essay, one or the other should be selected. However, if the author is being lyrical, poetic or using prose, suddenly flip-flopping forms should be permissible for sound and flow.

My big bug is when an author is writing to persuade and the reader can draw a line on the paper where all of the verb forms switch from "ed" to "t". It is obvious the author is attempting to sound authoritative with words uncommon to their own speech or writing. I have never seen this go the other way, from "t" to "ed". Not only does the author switch to "t" ending forms, they start plugging in words to make sure they can use that form as much as possible. If the writing is tight and logically from beginning to end, the switch won't occur. I often notice this when the author is writing to peers or a completely unknown audience like a blog.

Jens
2015-May-11, 11:14 PM
Why the difference, given that both involve superficial heating? Is it the charcoal in the former, or the pain in the latter, or something else?

It may be a different issue. I'm from New England as well, and I would tend to say that I burned the toast but that the toast is burnt. So it seems like a verbal versus adjectival use. And I would also tend to say the toast is burnt because it's become a characteristic of the toast.

John Mendenhall
2015-May-12, 02:17 AM
"The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary." -James Nicoll.
It's a Usenet post from the 1990s, frequently misattributed.

Doesn't apply here, of course, since the affected words aren't borrowings in the usual sense -they go all the way back to the origin of English as a Germanic language.

Grant Hutchison

True. And thank you for properly crediting the quote. It's such a fun thought.

John Mendenhall
2015-May-12, 02:57 AM
My toast was burnt; my finger was burned.

Usage changes with time and with region. As an experiment for our British English speakers: go to a shoe store in some random town in rural America and try to buy a pair of trainers. I, as a speaker of Southern New England English will reciprocate by going to rural Corwall and find a shop that sells take-out and ask for a grinder.

It's been noted that the variations reach to the family level. Ours recognized 'hookled' as the condition of being fastened, and 'rowrbazzle' as a warning of impending temper fits. 'Orginal' vice 'original' made a good try, but never quite caught on.

CJSF
2015-May-12, 02:17 PM
This isn't a major gripe or anything, but shouldn't this thread be over at OTB?

CJSF

grant hutchison
2015-May-12, 02:39 PM
This isn't a major gripe or anything, but shouldn't this thread be over at OTB?Fine by me, if you want to report it and the mods want to move it.
I put it where it is because the precipitant was a dispute about "house style" being enforced by a copy editor on behalf of a publisher: which seems squarely "Small Media".

Grant Hutchison

CJSF
2015-May-12, 02:53 PM
Oh, I see the angle. I didn't immediately connect it that way and saw it more as a "vocabulary/grammar" type post. Whatever you want (it's your thread) is fine by me.

CJSF

Delvo
2015-May-14, 12:54 AM
The only places I've ever encountered the "-t" endings have been books written by Brits and online forums with members who aren't from my country. In my experience in my country, it's never not been "-ed".

Trebuchet
2015-May-15, 02:35 PM
I ran across an article in Wikipedia saying that about 1/3 of Yellowstone was "burnt" in 1988. I'd never have used it that way in a million years.

Delvo
2015-May-15, 03:15 PM
You never have any sign of what part of the world a Wikipedia author is from until they leave a clue in the form of a linguistic peculiarity.

swampyankee
2015-May-15, 06:41 PM
This thread made me pay a bit more attention than usual.

In this area, the normal phrase is "burnt to a crisp," although one hears "burned to a crisp," occasionally. I suspect that this is because phrases like "burnt to a crisp" are, at least partly, something approaching idiomatic phrases.

As an aside, as the line between "dialect" and "language" is more than a tad fuzzy (I've read Venetian differs more from Sicilian than Danish from Norwegian; the former are a dialect pair, while the latter are considered different languages), the line between dialect and regionalism is also a bit murky.

Note to Commonwealth English speakers: I'm not talking about something getting turned into a very thin, roughly circular piece of deep-fried potato.

Trebuchet
2015-May-15, 11:44 PM
I'm on the opposite end of the country and "burnt to a crisp" sounds fine to me. "One third of Yellowstone was burnt" does not.

I do happen to be eating Pringles Potato Crisps at the moment. Presumably they're called that because "chips" are supposed to be slices of natural potato.

swampyankee
2015-May-16, 12:11 PM
I think there are are words like this. One I can think of off-hand is leapt vs leaped.

Another is hanged vs hung: when somebody is killed by dangling them by a rope around their neck, they're hanged, but when you put a picture on the wall it's hung.

Jens
2015-May-16, 12:48 PM
In this area, the normal phrase is "burnt to a crisp," although one hears "burned to a crisp," occasionally. I suspect that this is because phrases like "burnt to a crisp" are, at least partly, something approaching idiomatic phrases.


I think it's not because it's idiomatic, but because it's ambiguous whether the "burned" is being used as the past tense of the verb or whether it's being used as an adjective.

Jens
2015-May-16, 12:50 PM
As an aside, as the line between "dialect" and "language" is more than a tad fuzzy (I've read Venetian differs more from Sicilian than Danish from Norwegian; the former are a dialect pair, while the latter are considered different languages), the line between dialect and regionalism is also a bit murky.


Another good example: Serbian and Croatian are virtually identical, while Mandarin and Cantonese, supposedly dialects, are not mutually comprehensible at all.

swampyankee
2015-May-16, 01:05 PM
Another good example: Serbian and Croatian are virtually identical, while Mandarin and Cantonese, supposedly dialects, are not mutually comprehensible at all.

In one of tne of the linguistics iTunes U courses I listened to when I had this weird "free time" thing, the professor (I think she was from Arizona State) said that "a language is a dialect with an army."

grant hutchison
2015-May-16, 01:14 PM
I think it's not because it's idiomatic, but because it's ambiguous whether the "burned" is being used as the past tense of the verb or whether it's being used as an adjective.There's also the matter of people writing what they hear: the "t" of "to" influences the preceding consonant (it's difficult to make the "d"/"t" transition, whereas "burnt to" trips off the tongue even if the speaker is trying to say "burned to"). Perhaps a fairer test of the grammar would be to consider the phrase "he burned/burnt it to a crisp": the verb is unambiguously present, and the terminal consonant safely placed before a vowel.

(I've previously been handed my head in my hands on another thread for having the temerity to suggest that how one hears a new phrase influences how one perceives the grammar. I've no idea why that upset people so much, so maybe I'll just apologize in advance for saying it again.)

Grant Hutchison

grant hutchison
2015-May-16, 01:18 PM
In one of tne of the linguistics iTunes U courses I listened to when I had this weird "free time" thing, the professor (I think she was from Arizona State) said that "a language is a dialect with an army.""A language is a dialect with an army and a navy". Max Weinreich used it first in writing, but he carefully attributed it to a member of the audience at one of his lectures, who was commenting on the political status of Yiddish.

Grant Hutchison

Jens
2015-May-16, 02:08 PM
(I've previously been handed my head in my hands on another thread for having the temerity to suggest that how one hears a new phrase influences how one perceives the grammar. I've no idea why that upset people so much, so maybe I'll just apologize in advance for saying it again.)


I'm surprised to hear that, because it seems perfectly reasonable to me. The reason that "a napron" became "an apron" can only be attributed to the hearing influencing the grammar, IMHO.

Chuck
2015-May-16, 02:31 PM
I think Rodney Dangerfield said something like, "My wife treats me like a god. Every night she puts a burnt offering before me." But everyone else seems to be using "burned".

swampyankee
2015-May-16, 03:50 PM
"A language is a dialect with an army and a navy". Max Weinreich used it first in writing, but he carefully attributed it to a member of the audience at one of his lectures, who was commenting on the political status of Yiddish.

Grant Hutchison

She didn't claim to originate the phrase -- I should have been clear on that -- and I don't remember to whom she attributed it or if she said more than something like "it's an old saying that..."

I think more than "an army and navy," the language vs dialect distinction is more political and historical than anything else.

grant hutchison
2015-May-16, 05:59 PM
She didn't claim to originate the phrase -- I should have been clear on that -- and I don't remember to whom she attributed it or if she said more than something like "it's an old saying that..."Sorry, no criticism or you or your lecturer was implied. :) I just thought the original context was illuminating, particularly now since it confirms what you say below. "Army and navy" was a metaphor for "a state with some influence in the world".

I think more than "an army and navy," the language vs dialect distinction is more political and historical than anything else.
Grant Hutchison

Hlafordlaes
2015-May-17, 09:03 AM
Since past participles can be used as adjectives, we can get some that lock in as such while the past participle moves on in life. But while on the subject, my pet peeve right now is the increasing use of "went" in place of "gone," such as in "I've went there." I am hearing this occasionally on US TV episodes. Since this is just language doing its thing, I shouldn't be upset. However, while I've never been overly concerned with the end of my life being described as me being a "goner," I hope never to be referred to as a "wenter." I'd invent an afterlife just to come back and slap whoever uttered such an ugliness.

swampyankee
2015-May-17, 01:19 PM
I'm not too fond of the term "goner."

Railing against changes in language that we view as stupid or worse is kind of like Cnut* against the tide. I despise the phrase "my bad"; it strikes me as nothing but a fulsome2 (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/fulsome) way to avoid saying "sorry," but my chance of slowing its malignant spread is minute.



* I know the story a bit better than that: Cnut was trying to show his courtiers that he was not omnipotent; he wasn't copying Caligula by attempting to subdue the sea.

Jens
2015-May-17, 09:51 PM
]

* I know the story a bit better than that: Cnut was trying to show his courtiers that he was not omnipotent; he wasn't copying Caligula by attempting to subdue the sea.

Yes, and the story was made into a great song as well: Can-utility and the Coastliners.

Torsten
2015-May-18, 02:09 AM
[snip] But while on the subject, my pet peeve right now is the increasing use of "went" in place of "gone," such as in "I've went there." I am hearing this occasionally on US TV episodes.

I've been hearing it for years where I live. I even hear teachers say it, and to me that is depressing. The trend includes other verbs too. For example,
"I would have drove her to work, but ..."
"I could have ran it that way it all day."

Of course, since it was spoken, it is possible the speakers would write it:
"I would of drove her to work, but ..."
"I could of ran it that way it all day."

As you said, this is language doing its thing, and I easily accept some of these changes (e.g., my own choice to simply not use the word "burnt"), but this trend makes me shudder.

Jean Tate
2015-May-19, 06:32 PM
Not burnt/burned, but a more general -t/-ed: a general trend in how languages - all/any language(s) - change is by compression and gradual elimination of 'not useful' variants (my words; linguists have their own, technical, descriptions for this). A great example is "it's" vs "its"; no matter how English teachers may rail, nor how many style guides declare, the (typographic) distinction is well on its way out.

So, will the day come - rather sooner than older CQuestians might expect? - when almost all -t/-ed distinctions essentially disappear?

Even 'past' vs 'passed'?

Example: "The red SUV went past/passed me doing 100 mph!" "I was past/passed by a red SUV doing 100 mph!"

Then, perhaps, we will refer to the distinction as being "in the passed tense" :D

Oh, earlier today I burned some toast, and - being fussy - I threw it out (the burnt toast, that is).

Jens
2015-May-19, 11:38 PM
I'm skeptical about the it's/its distinction being lost. There are lots of homonyms that are commonly confused, like led/lead or there/their/they're or whose/who's, and although mistakes are very common, I don't think this will necessarily lead to a spelling change.