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H.L. Mencken (1880–1956). The American Language. 1921.

Page 282

tends to become weak, as in “he spreaded a piece of bread.” And to peep remains so, despite the example of to leap. The confusion between the inflections of to lie and those of to lay extends to the higher reaches of spoken American, and so does that between lend and loan. The proper inflections of to lend are often given to to lean, and so leaned becomes lent, as in “I lent on the counter.” In the same way to set has almost completely superseded to sit, and the preterite of the former, set, is used in place of sat. But the perfect participle (which is also the disused preterite) of to sit has survived, as in “I have sat there.” To speed and to shoe have become regular, not only because of the general tendency toward the weak conjugation, but also for logical reasons. The prevalence of speed contests of various sorts, always to the intense interest of the proletariat, has brought such words as speeder, speeding, speed-mania, speed-maniac and speed-limit into daily use, and speeded harmonizes with them better than the stronger sped. As for shoed, it merely reveals the virtual disappearance of the verb in its passive form. An American would never say that his wife was well shod; he would say that she wore good shoes. To shoe suggests to him only the shoeing of animals, and so, by way of shoeing and horse-shoer, he comes to shoed. His misuse of to learn for to teach is common to most of the English dialects. More peculiar to his speech is the use of to leave for to let. Charters records it in “Washington left them have it,” and there are many examples of it in Lardner. Spit, in American, has become invariable; the old preterite, spat, has completely disappeared. But slit, which is now invariable in English (though it was strong in Old English and had both strong and weak preterites in Middle English), has become regular in American, as in “she slitted her skirt.”
  In studying the American verb, of course, it is necessary to remember always that it is in a state of transition, and that in many cases the manner of using it is not yet fixed. “The history of language,” says Lounsbury, “when looked at from the purely grammatical point of view, is little else than the history of corruptions.” What we have before us is a series of corruptions in active process, and while some of them have gone very far, others are just beginning. Thus it is not uncommon to find corrupt forms side by side