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

Page 283

with orthodox forms, or even two corrupt forms battling with each other. Lardner, in the case of to throw, hears “if he had throwed”; my own observation is that threw is more often used in that situation. Again, he uses “the rottenest I ever seen gave”; my own belief is that give is far more commonly used. The conjugation of to give, however, is yet very uncertain, and so Lardner may report accurately. I have heard “I given” and “I would of gave,” but “I give” seems to be prevailing, and “I would of give” with it, thus reducing to give to one invariable form, like those of to cut, to hit, to put, to cost, to hurt and to spit. My table of verbs shows various other uncertainties and confusions. The preterite of to hear is heerd; the perfect may be either heerd or heern. That of to do may be either done or did, with the former apparently prevailing; that of to draw is drew if the verb indicates to attract or to abstract and drawed if it indicates to draw with a pencil. Similarly, the preterite of to blow may be either blowed or blew, and that of to drink oscillates between drank and drunk, and that of to fall is still usually fell, though fallen has appeared, and that of to shake may be either shaken or shuck. The conjugation of to win is yet far from fixed. The correct English preterite, won, is still in use, but against it are arrayed wan and winned, and Lardner, as I have noted, believes that the plain form of the present is ousting all of them. Wan seems to show some kinship, by ignorant analogy, with ran and began. It is often used as the perfect participle, as in “I have wan $4.” This uncertainty shows itself in many of the communications that I have received since my first edition was published. Practically every one of my conjugations has been questioned by at least one correspondent; nevertheless, the weight of observation has supported all save a few of them, and I have made no more than half a dozen changes.
  The misuse of the perfect participle for the preterite, now almost the invariable rule in vulgar American, is common to many other dialects of English, and seems to be a symptom of a general decay of the perfect tenses. That decay has been going on for a long time, and in American, the most vigorous and advanced of all the dialects of the language, it is particularly well marked. Even in the most pretentious written American it shows itself. The English, in