"… could have bore"

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Brian Bender, "Former officials question Clinton's email defense", Politico 8/20/105:

While sympathetic to the messy nature of the classification system, fellow diplomats and specialists say Clinton could have bore responsibility to flag sensitive material.

Mr. Bender is not the first to construe "bore" as a past participle — the OED gives us

1769   L. Sterne Serm. Yorickv. (1773) 63   It had been..better for the nation to have bore the expence.
1728   E. Chambers Cycl. at Malta,   Knights of [Malta]: An Order of Military Religious, who have bore various Names; as..Knights of Rhodes, Order of Malta, Religion of Malta, &c.

But it's definitely not the current or recent standard — the OED's quotations have 5 instances of "have born" and  72 instances of "have borne".

Obligatory screenshot:


[h/t Daniel Deutsch]



  1. Eric P Smith said,

    August 21, 2015 @ 9:37 am

    Mark cautiously says that could have bore is "definitely not the current or recent standard". Can we be bolder and simply say it is wrong?

  2. ThomasH said,

    August 21, 2015 @ 10:07 am

    Yes, that would be refreshing.

  3. Jason Shaw said,

    August 21, 2015 @ 10:12 am

    Eric, whatever makes you feel better about yourself.

    (Meanwhile, I'm desperately trying to discern a difference between "not standard" and "wrong" in the context of language, other than that the latter is more judgmental.)

  4. JB Smith said,

    August 21, 2015 @ 10:22 am

    @Eric, I'd be reluctant to call it wrong, since several English dialects, my own included (South Midlands) have completely leveled the past participle of irregular (strong) verbs to be identical with the preterit, which results in sentences like "I have saw..; She's already ate..; and "We've went" etc. It's not hard to find examples with "bear," either. A google search for "have bore witness" turns up a lot of recent examples.

  5. J. W. Brewer said,

    August 21, 2015 @ 10:32 am

    Perhaps politico could be encouraged to adopt the prose style of L. Sterne, archaisms and all, in a more comprehensive way? I, at least, would be more likely to read it if they did that.

  6. Guy said,

    August 21, 2015 @ 10:35 am

    @Eric P Smith

    Why would it be preferable to substitute a vague and ill-defined term for a more precise description? And why would it be bolder? Does calling it "wrong" indicate that it is more at variance with ordinary English usage than saying it is not standard, to your mind? Or does calling it "wrong" indicate some other fact that isn't conveyed by "it's definitely not the current or recent standard"?

  7. ThomasH said,

    August 21, 2015 @ 10:45 am

    OK we can be less vague and say that it was "wrong" because is it not the current standard. I think it is important to have a way of conveying the judgement that random deviations from standards are not a good thing. The world would be better place if such deviations did not occur.

  8. Pat Barrett said,

    August 21, 2015 @ 10:56 am

    ThomasH & Eric Smith: I hope you respond to Guy's query, "Or does calling it "wrong" indicate some other fact that isn't conveyed by "it's definitely not the current or recent standard"?"
    Mario Pei wrote: “There was far more to the controversy than met the eye, for the battle was not merely over language. It was over a whole philosophy of life.” I'm curious as to what attitudes create the notion that there is a "wrong" way and a "right" way that is not covered by "current or recent standard"?

  9. Bloix said,

    August 21, 2015 @ 11:07 am

    A google ngram shows some slight usage of have bore up to about 1820, and then virtually nothing. I think the decline in incidence in printed text after 1820 is explainable by improved proofreading and that all the uses, at any date, are probably typos or maybe in quoted speech.

    (And no, we cannot say it is "wrong" because right and wrong are not categories that apply to usage, except perhaps for something that no one would ever say. "They will borne" is, perhaps, "wrong." But for something that is apparently used by some people, standard/non-standard is as judgmental as Mark is likely to get.)

  10. Guy said,

    August 21, 2015 @ 11:13 am


    That was what I suspected, some wanted to hear it called "wrong" because they wanted to hear a moral judgment in addition to (or perhaps in some cases in lieu of) a description of the facts. My "emotional" reaction is that I would likely be slightly embarrassed to make an error like this (and it would be an error – i.e. not intentional on my part, if I produced such a construction. Whether Bender chose "bore" intentionally, and whether he chose it while aware of the general usage facts, I cannot say), but not greatly so because slips happen.

    I'm also not personally offended or bothered that Bender used "bore". And I wouldn't say it is a "bad" thing, in the sense of having apparent negative consequences to anyone but Bender who might feel embarrassed by it, leveling of past participles to the preterite forms is likely particularly harmless with relatively non-central verbs like "bear" – no regular verbs have a contrast between the relevant forms. And Bender doesn't need moral judgment, he's a big boy and can decide for himself how he wants to feel about it when aware of the facts.

    This desire appears to be part of what has previously been described on Language Log as "the social psychology of linguistic naming and shaming", which is an interesting phenomenon. Why is it that when a language expert points out a nonstandard usage, some people are miffed if it isn't accompanied by what feels like a sufficiently strong moral condemnation, in addition to a statement of the facts? It's especially surprising to me here, because the post does, to some extent, "name" the person and potentially subject them to "shame". It seems that some commenters are concerned that the author didn't post this with that intent in mind, or hasn't provided a strong enough quasi-moral judgment.

  11. david donnell said,

    August 21, 2015 @ 11:36 am

    I could have swore Language Log was no place for the kind of hard-nosed prescriptivist and/or anti-descriptivist comments I’m reading above.

  12. J. W. Brewer said,

    August 21, 2015 @ 11:44 am

    Via google books you can find several 21st century uses of "could have bore," and draw your own conclusions as to whether they are, in any given instance, simple errors, attempts to depict a non-prestige dialect, deliberate archaisms, or something else. Here's an interesting one: the original or at least standard text of a certain well-known book by Hawthorne has Chillingworth say to Hester at one point "his spirit lacked the strength that could have borne up, as thine has, beneath a burden like thy scarlet letter." A recent "adaptation" (i.e. abridgement/paraphrase into prose presumably thought easier to read by 21st century schoolchildren) renders that "He lacks the strength that could have bore it, as you have the burden of your red letter." Deliberate archaism or sheer mistake?

  13. J. W. Brewer said,

    August 21, 2015 @ 11:49 am

    david donnell: Surely you meant to write "could of swore?" Gotta keep up them non-standard standards.

  14. Bloix said,

    August 21, 2015 @ 11:59 am

    Ah, the tolerance police have arrived, tooting their whistles. Gee, I could have sworn that the comments on LL are open to people of all views, no matter how strongly the hosts of this site may disagree.

    In my humble opinion, writing "could have bore" is not "wrong," but it's like walking around with your fly unzipped at a business meeting.

    Of course, styles change. You can go to many business meetings today without a tie, and you will not be ignored. But, as rule of thumb, you have to zip your fly.

    And there are styles of dress that are intended to be offensive or ridiculous to some people – it shows you reject them and that you're part of an in-group of other people. But I doubt that Bender is trying to appear ridiculous to Politico's audience.

  15. John Roth said,

    August 21, 2015 @ 12:48 pm

    @JB Smith. Interesting – I didn't know that. Did you mean only strong verbs or all irregular verbs? Your examples have two strong verbs (that is, those which conjugate by changing an internal vowel) plus be, which is an exception in lots of ways.

  16. J. W. Brewer said,

    August 21, 2015 @ 1:14 pm

    Does anyone know whether these newfangled website thingies (or at least politico in particular) follow the traditional dead-tree-media division of labor where headlines and also I believe executive-summary subheds like the one with the problematic word here are typically written by someone on staff (name usually not given) other than the writer whose byline appears on the substantive story? Or have budget cuts and/or a change in journalistic culture meant that the named author is now expected to generate his own for such sites? If it's still the former, then Bender is probably not the one who should be either named-and-shamed or named-and-not-shamed.

  17. JB Smith said,

    August 21, 2015 @ 1:14 pm

    @John Roth

    Good point about the distinction. Yes, all irregular verbs, I suppose. I'm sure someone has written at length about it somewhere. But it's not that surprising at all, given the history of English verbs. My partner (not from my home region) has jokingly said that we need a "past-participle relief program" to bring past participles to those in need.

    Honestly, though, I'm a professor and even after years of standard education and formal speaking, I still struggle to use the standard forms with 100% accuracy.

  18. J. W. Brewer said,

    August 21, 2015 @ 1:44 pm

    The interesting point here is that the error is also an archaism (and not an error at all in the now-archaic variety), but it is plausible that the error is produced not by someone having seen the archaism and not realizing it had become outmoded but "independently," because it still "feels" plausible within the internal logic of the language, i.e. the various patterns by which strong verbs form participles: even if it's not the right pattern that currently matches up to the particular verb, it's a plausible alternative as shown by the history. By contrast, it is possible to commit a fashion faux pas via archaism (e.g. turning up at an important business meeting today in important-business-meeting male garb of a century ago, like a morning coat with striped trousers and a wing-collared shirt, will make people think you are seriously weird and/or are perhaps just popping in while on your way to a fancy wedding, not that you are taking the meeting extra-seriously), but it seems comparatively less likely that one might inadvertently stumble into a wardrobe combination that is currently incorrect but would have been uncontroversially correct at some earlier period in time because it has a certain internal logic that just happens to be at variance with current norms. Although I guess you might, insofar as certain dress-code taboos of the never ever wear an X-colored A with a Y-colored B may have risen as prescriptive rules comparatively recently and thus a careless violation might also be an inadvertent archaism.

  19. Guy said,

    August 21, 2015 @ 1:51 pm

    @John Roth

    "Went", of course, is the preterite of "go", not "be". But it is suppletive, like "be", which makes it "especially" irregular. I'd be surprised to learn that there were dialects in which "could have was" or "could have were" is possible. Does anyone know if there are any? Your comment reminds me of the fact that "ser" and "ir" have the same suppletive forms in the preterite tense, and that I've never taken the time to look into that etymology, which I will do now. Thanks for the impetus!

  20. Rubrick said,

    August 21, 2015 @ 2:45 pm

    I'm utterly born with all this prescriptivist vs. descriptivist chest-beating.

  21. Michael Watts said,

    August 21, 2015 @ 2:47 pm

    JB Smith:

    So would "graven in stone" appear as "graved in stone" in those dialects? I think this example is of particular interest because that verb's only form is the irregular participial form.

  22. Michael Watts said,

    August 21, 2015 @ 3:03 pm


    'ser' and 'ir' have the same forms in the preterite, but those forms are only suppletive for 'ir'. fuisse is the Latin perfect form of esse. (I guess you could argue that the perfect sequence in Latin is itself suppletive, but at the level of Spanish things are just as you'd expect).

    (further notes: according to wiktionary, neither 'ser' nor 'estar' in their infinitive forms descend from Latin 'esse', but "most of [ser's] forms — except the past participle, gerund, imperative, indicative future and conditional and present subjunctive — come from Latin esse". So some mysteries remain about 'ser'. But I never considered its preterite forms to be particularly mysterious; the fact that the past tense forms of a variety of 'to be' in Spanish descend directly from the past tense forms of 'to be' in Old Spanish never really seemed to need further explanation. If you find out why ir adopted them, though, do share.)

  23. un malpaso said,

    August 21, 2015 @ 3:57 pm

    How about "It has been determined that it resides within a shade of 78.215 percent gray in the value range lying between black and white, with black representing "judgmentally wrong, in any and all situations" and white representing "non-judgmentally groovy so whatever, dude, words don't rule us!"

  24. Matt Juge said,

    August 21, 2015 @ 5:26 pm

    FWIW, I wrote a paper on verbal suppletion that addresses the relationship between Spanish ser and ir (available here: https://www.academia.edu/505926/On_the_rise_of_suppletion_in_verbal_paradigms). The short version is that GO copied forms of BE because wherever you go, there you are (or more accurately, wherever you've been, there you've gone).

  25. chris said,

    August 21, 2015 @ 5:31 pm

    Borne? Isn't that a movie character?

    (I kid, I kid. But is it possible something like that went through the writer's mind?)

  26. Dick Enzyan said,

    August 21, 2015 @ 5:55 pm

    Wrong does not have to mean "morally wrong". "2 + 2 = 5" is wrong, though not usually morally wrong; it is arithmetically wrong.

    For the language learner who has one particular standard as his or her target, wrong is an appropriate description of a deviation from the chosen standard. If, for example, GB is the standard aimed at, then "could have bore" is wrong. If a South Midlands variety of English is the target, then "could have bore" is right.
    Likewise in the case of native- or expert-speaker usages of language: wrong can simply indicate non-standard. However, it may also be an oblique insult.
    I recommend we grow up, use right/standard and wrong/non-standard as we feel best, and stop insulting each other.

  27. a George said,

    August 21, 2015 @ 6:15 pm

    "it's definitely not the current or recent standard" is merely the politically correct way of saying "wrong". The reason we need to adhere to standards is that otherwise we have to rely on redundancy for our comprehension. Relying on redundancy increases the number of words you need to to comprehend, and that goes against the principle of least effort — for the reader! It is quite clear that the sender has already used it.

  28. Eric P Smith said,

    August 21, 2015 @ 7:22 pm

    I see I have touched a nerve. I shall try to be as rational as I can.

    There is such a thing as a mistake in language. Geoff Pullum explores this well in his Language Log post of 26 January 2005, “Everything is correct” versus “Nothing is relevant”. Geoff, a descriptive linguist, not merely acknowledges but argues strongly that “people do make mistakes in their own language, and some mistakes even get past newspaper copy editors”.

    The current post is about the grammaticality of “Clinton could have bore responsibility”. Geoff's post was triggered by the question of the grammaticality of “Celebrating their religious observances in home and church are inadequate.” Geoff states that the main verb there, are, is “a mistake” and it is “wrongly inflected”, and he then defends his statements strongly. So I think I am in good company in being prepared to use the word “wrong" of the inflection of a verb. It is “wrong” if, as Geoff puts it, it does not comply with the conditions on the writer's expressions that make them the expressions of his language. Jason Shaw, and Guy, that is the difference between “wrong” and “non-standard”.

    JB Smith points out that several English dialects exhibit variation from Standard English as regards the preterite and past participle forms of strong verbs. Yes indeed. I live in Edinburgh, Scotland, and I hear I seen and I've went every day in life. There is a continuum here between broad Scots and Scottish Standard English, and I wouldn't call I seen or I've went “wrong” in the context of Scottish speech towards the broad Scots end of the continuum. Likewise if Bryan Bender's variety of English has I have bore where mine has I have borne then he did not make a mistake. But does his variety of English have I have bore? I have no evidence on the matter, but I strongly doubt it. I think it is much more likely that he was using a verb that he seldom uses, that he was insufficiently familiar with its past participle, and that he made a mistake.

    His mistake doesn't offend me. I make a judgement on the grammaticality of what he said: I make no judgement on the man. By “wrong” I don't mean “morally wrong”. I tend towards the view expressed by ThomasH that “random deviations from standards are not a good thing”, but even that personal view is a value judgement, not a moral judgement.

  29. Guy said,

    August 21, 2015 @ 8:14 pm

    @Matt Juge

    Thank you for bringing that to my attention!

    @Eric P Smith

    What you say is reasonable, and not anything I disagreed with above. It appears your answer to my question above is that "wrong" communicates the idea that the author intended to conform to the standard? I don't quite understand why you then characterize Mark as being "cautious". I would guess Mark did not speak to the internal mental state of the author because 1) it seems reasonable to assume that the writer intended to write standardly and 2) such an inference would be no more obvious to him than to anyone else. In essence, there's no reason to speak to it. As to why Mark did not use the word "wrong", which is a separate question than why he didn't say words to the effect that he qualified as wrong in that one sense of wrong you proffer. I would imagine it is precisely because it is a nontechnical term that is used in many different ways, and so it isn't a very useful means of communicating information or linguistic judgments.

    I do confess to being confused by the pragmatics of your initial comment, though. It seemed to me that you considered wrong to be "bold" because it made a further claim about the linguistic facts that isn't already implied by deeming it to be nonstandard together with the context that allows us to infer that either the author committed a slip or has actually not learned the usual past participle of "bear" (two very distinct situations that I think are not helpfully lumped together under one label). If that's not the case, why do you perceive Mark as cautious?

  30. Guy said,

    August 21, 2015 @ 9:33 pm

    I can't tell if my immediately prior comment was swallowed by the system or inadvertently not submitted. Usually the post count increments on the main page while the post is pending. So I will restate myself briefly. My apologies if this turns out to be a double post.

    @Matt Juge

    thank you very much for providing that paper. I appreciate it.

    @Eric P Smith

    In light of your clarification of what you meant by "wrong" in this instance, I'm confused by the pragmatics of your first comment. You mean to ask whether we might conclude the author of the construction under discussion intended to write standardly? It must be nearly certain from the context that they did, as is partially reflected by the fact that this post is tagged under "humor". I don't understand what is "cautious" about not unnecessarily pointing that out, especially by not using a vague descriptor like "wrong" which does not effectively communicate that specific meaning in light of the many ways in which it is used.

  31. Pat Barrett said,

    August 21, 2015 @ 11:30 pm

    Again, I am amazed at [yes, 'at'] how these discussions go, on every list and blog I've participated in.
    Let's look at the first two entries, the ones I and Guy responded to:
    From Eric:
    Mark cautiously says that could have bore is "definitely not the current or recent standard". Can we be bolder and simply say it is wrong?
    From Thomas
    Yes, that would be refreshing.
    So rather than discussing the issue, we are discussing the way people say things. Let's agree that Thomas is signaling the joining of the sentiments of his post to Eric's. Is it fair to say Thomas agrees with Eric? Thomas?….. OK?
    Now, let's look at what Eric said only/just in that first post: he asks us to be bolder. By 'bolder' we have to assume (fair?) that Eric is calling for less pusillanimity, that somehow we, against our sure knowledge, are playing some sort of p.c. game, refusing to "condemn" something that is clearly wrong. What I and perhaps others were responding to in this is Eric's presumed rejection of recognizing variation in the language where a verb whose past participle I often have to look up i.e. born vs borne must be in just one form deemed correct. Many of us on this blog have apparently studied the varieties of English; standard dictionaries recognize variant forms of the wake~waken~awaken series. While acknowledging the need for a standard, we do not invest the standard with either moral or even linguistic superiority, and accept some variation. The public's willingness to pull a dictionary or thesaurus off the shelf is perhaps what Eric and Thomas are asking for: greater diligence in making public writing subordinate to such considerations.

  32. Martin Ball said,

    August 22, 2015 @ 12:58 am

    No-one seems to have considered that 'bore' might simply have been a typo for 'born'?

  33. John Walden said,

    August 22, 2015 @ 3:36 am

    Surely everybody has a sliding scale, a range of responses much as un malpaso describes.

    One is the mild "Well, now that you point it out" where things like "I may have died" (when you didn't) or "different to" get past the filter with perhaps only the slightest raising of the one eyebrow.

    Another is when my reaction is "Well, I wouldn't say that but other people may, even in significant numbers. They probably come from another region, country or socialect but I don't judge".

    Another reaction is "That's wrong". "Should of died" is wrong and I'm afraid that I may judge harshly the perpetrator of it. So "wrong" is not the best word for it, but explain that to my hackles and to my assumptions.

    Way over on the left of my imaginary scale are those zombie rules. What some may call careful writing I would call prissiness. I'm pushing 60 and I'm still discovering these curious invented shibboleths that I've been cheerfully unaware of till now.

    I doubt very much if any two people will have the same results.

  34. David Morris said,

    August 22, 2015 @ 3:37 am

    Considering the layout of the keyboard, if it was a simple typo, then it is more likely to be borne > bore rather than born > bore.

  35. Robot Therapist said,

    August 22, 2015 @ 6:07 am

    At least it didn't say she bared responsibility.

    I continue to see things as being "proved" when I would expect them to be "proven".

  36. empty said,

    August 22, 2015 @ 12:08 pm

    @Robot Therapist

    The good old participle of "prove" is "proved". The variant "proven" is well established, especially in adjectival use, but it has not driven out the other. (I grew up with "proven", and for years I was startled by "proved", but I have seen the light. See also "dived" vs "dove".)

  37. hector said,

    August 22, 2015 @ 2:28 pm

    "The world would be [a] better place if such deviations did not occur."

    This was an argument used by medieval Christians against Jews. If only those hard-necked Jews would get with the program, and become Christians like everyone else, the world would be a happier, more unified, more regular place. The Jews themselves would be happier, since they wouldn't be outcasts any more.

    I've seen essentially the same argument used in a book on shyness by a fairly well-known psychologist (replacing "Jews" with "shy people").

    And for far too long schools forced left-handed children to learn to write with their right hands because "The world would be [a] better place if such deviations did not occur."

    My own philosophy has long been "the world needs people who don't fit in." Variation spices up life, and reminds the reflective that the current of time has little regard for "current" standards.

  38. Pat Barrett said,

    August 22, 2015 @ 3:04 pm

    I recall 'proven' being labeled a Scotticism, which was a pejorative label. I could probably find where I came across that if anyone cares that much.

  39. Pat Barrett said,

    August 22, 2015 @ 4:17 pm

    And as a lefty, I was told I had "novelty value". That's how I sold myself to the ladies.

  40. maidhc said,

    August 22, 2015 @ 5:14 pm

    My mother says "I have et my breakfast" (I'm not sure how to spell it). She had a very posh British education.

  41. Eric P Smith said,

    August 22, 2015 @ 7:45 pm


    Thank you for your considered reply. In view of the delay in replying to you (I’ve been away for the day) I’ll keep this as brief as I can.

    Mark said that could have bore is “definitely not the current or recent standard”. I felt he might have made the bolder statement, the stronger statement, the statement carrying more information, that could have bore is simply ungrammatical in modern English. I used the word “wrong”, in the context of grammar, meaning ungrammatical, and it never occurred to me that anyone might interpret it otherwise. I didn't think of the word “wrong” as being vague: indeed I chose it because I thought it was simple and direct. I hold to what I said, with the word “wrong” being clarified by my second comment. My mind was a million miles from any thought of moral judgement, or offence-taking, or linguistic superiority, or naming and shaming, or being miffed. My mind just doesn’t work that way.

    You say you are confused by the pragmatics of my original comment. You say (I think) that as well as deeming “could have bore” to be non-standard, Mark provided a context that allows us to infer either that the author committed a slip or has actually not learned the usual past participle. I confess I did not make any such inference from Mark’s words. That is precisely why I should have preferred him to say it.

  42. Pat Barrett said,

    August 22, 2015 @ 8:19 pm

    By lefty I meant left-handed, but it works for politics, too. Anyway, if you listen to Karen Armstrong reading her own works in books on CD, she regularly says 'et' for the simple past. That is standard register 3 British as far as I have always read. Eric used 'ungrammatical'. My understanding of 'grammatical' is that 'could bore(n) have' is ungrammatical, i.e. no native speaker of English would give it a thumbs up. 'could have bore' is possibly a variant. I have learned not to assume my literate native speaker judgment is a sure guide, e.g. the "the car needs washed' of the southeast Ohio and PA area or numerous amazing variation on "give it to me~give me it~give it me~etc." found in Crystal's Encyclopedia of English. seem outside the boundaries of English to me but they are not. So 'have bore' may or may not be a variant, depending on what the research comes up with, but it certainly is not standard. My students (in AZ, USA) were always amazed that anyone would say 'he dived'. I am always amazed that anyone would say 'he sneaked'.

  43. Guy said,

    August 22, 2015 @ 9:38 pm

    @Eric P Smith

    I think I understand better now. You took Mark's calling the construction "nonstandard" as leaving open the possibility that there is some some reasonably widespread nonstandard variety of English in which it is acceptable. I felt that was implied by "definitely" together with the extreme dearth of counterexamples. I think you may see "ungrammatical" as contrasting with "nonstandard" in a way that is different from how I usually take them. If I understand correctly you take "nonstandard"="not acceptable in the standard/prestige dialect" and "ungrammatical"="not acceptable in any variety. I, on the other hand, take "nonstandard" similarly, but take "ungrammatical" as "not acceptable in the relevant (contextually-specified) varieties for essentially grammatical reasons". So in this case, if we take the use of "bore" for "borne" as leveling of the past participle to be syncretic with the preterite, rather than mistakenly using the preterite where a past past participle is called for (which I think is by far the more likely explanation, although the distinction is perhaps slightly philosophical), then I wouldn't consider "ungrammatical" to be exactly the right word. For example, taking dived/doved, even if we assume that that "dove" is definitively nonstandard, I wouldn't naturally call its use ungrammatical in the standard dialect because the problem is a nonstandard verb form, not nonstandard grammar per se ("dove" is still a past participle, albeit a stipulated-to-be-nonstandard one). Likewise I wouldn't have an issue with saying "the band are playing tomorrow" is "ungrammatical in most (all?) varieties of American English" despite the fact that it is perfectly acceptable in British English, because there the flaw is grammatical in nature, as opposed to violating the standards of the variety in other ways. In this sense "nonstandard" is broader than "ungrammatical" for me, because it can include plainly non-grammatical flaws such as issues with pronunciation or spelling.

  44. Levantine said,

    August 23, 2015 @ 3:41 am

    Just a side note: "et" is an alternative and perfectly standard way of pronouncing the word "ate" (though it apparently has its origins in a variant past-tense form spelt "eat" — cf. present and past "read"). Posh Brits favoured this pronunciation until fairly recently.

  45. Rodger C said,

    August 23, 2015 @ 8:45 am

    Coleridge's albatross "ate the food it ne'er had eat." My high-school edition explained "eat" as pronounced "et," which seemed to me gratuitous, since as an adolescent West Virginian I was perfectly familiar with "eat" (pronounced "eet") as a past participle. And "would have bore," for that matter.

  46. KevinM said,

    August 24, 2015 @ 11:44 am

    I propose "could have" as an adjective for something that once was a "would be." So the candidates excluded from the presidential debate were then "would-be bores," and are now "could-have bores."

  47. Robert said,

    August 25, 2015 @ 3:30 pm

    >> Posh Brits favoured this pronunciation until fairly recently.

    Not only posh ones. For instance, Marriott Edgar's "The Lion and Albert" has "Yon lion's et Albert".

  48. Levantine said,

    August 25, 2015 @ 5:53 pm

    Robert, the "et" pronunciation is still very much alive in many varieties of British English; I didn't mean to imply that its use was limited to old-fashioned RP.

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