Tuesday 24 October 2017

Spelling Perfectly - To a T

A recent discussion among colleagues has set me thinking. Someone had used the phrase "Well done, you have earnt a star!" when marking their students' work. I queried this, and was informed that earnt was an acceptable past participle, just like learnt. I'm not convinced about putting it in my pupils' books, and neither is the OED [it is technically correct, but not in current, common, usage] but that's irrelevant. What it did get me wondering is how many of our regularly used verbs still use the -t ending instead of -ed.
It is fascinating, and the list is surprisingly long. Consider the eep endings
sleep goes to slept
keep goes to kept
weep goes to wept
eave endings
leave/left, bereave/bereft, cleave/cleft 
and then there's the verb-to-noun heave/heft, weave/weft
and give/gift, thieve/theft

Nobody says they will rive things anymore, but riven [usually asunder] and rift are well known. 
lend/lent, bend/bent, send/sent, lose/lost
kneel/knelt, feel/felt...and burn/burnt
I'll ignore the crazy irregular stuff [catch/caught, bring/brought, buy/bought, think/thought]

I discovered that the word comb comes from the European kemb, brought over by the Flemish weavers, centuries ago. Kemb is still a dialect word in parts of Yorkshire. So combed becomes kempt. I have always been particularly fond of this word. 
It occurs in a poem by Ogden Nash. I learnt it by heart when I was a student. I didn't realise at the time that my true love would be half Belgian!

My dream
This is my dream,
It is my own dream,
I dreamt it.
I dreamt that my hair was kempt.
Then I dreamt that my true love unkempt it.

And if you want to know about "To a T" check here


  1. Fantastic. I love words! I did not know the Ogden Nash poem, what a treat too. The word I hate is to ‘gift’ something. You either give or you gave but please, something is not gifted.

  2. The word 'wrought' has always interested me..as in He wrought the ironwork'. What is the verb?

  3. E;Wrought is an old former of worked. Similarly, wright [shipwright, playwright, wheelwright etc] is one who works at a craft.
    C: Couldn't agree more about gifted. My current gripe is about pupils' work being uplevelled. That is not a word I wish to use!

  4. English is a fascinating language, especially to one who learnt/learned it as a second language. :)


Always glad to hear from you - thanks for stopping by!
I am blocking anonymous comments now, due to excessive spam!