The English Pedant – How Kayleigh Everyone is changing the language

In the last 10 years or so a new verb has entered the English language: to text. When we send someone a text message, we text them.

So far, so unremarkable. But what is the simple past tense of text? This verb has only recently been coined. We weren’t taught it at school. But Kayleigh Everyone needs a past tense immediately, to convey the information that she sent a text yesterday, and “I sent you a text yesterday” is too long-winded in this linguistically minimalist day and age.

Okay, Kayleigh, who's in charge around here_

So, ensconced in her bedroom at her parents’ house, she just uses ‘text’. It sounds like a past tense, a vague, unnoticed thought deep in her brain tells her. If she concentrated on it, she might realize that it should be spelled ‘texed’.

But that would be the past tense of the non-existent verb to tex. Never mind. She’s too lazy to say ‘texted’, so ‘text’ it is. And a million people like her, let down by a system that has failed to teach them this essential piece of 21st century language, go along with it.

Technically, anyway, what Kayleigh and the millions are doing is sending an SMS, but you can’t turn that into a verb, can you? Too clumsy, too ugly, too techie. “I SMSed you yesterday. Didn’t you get it?”

Something had to give, though, when other methods of sending short messages appeared. WhatsApp, for instance. Two syllables – life is too short. It was abbreviated to App. “I’ll app you later.”

Then Facebook gets in on the act and hijacks the word Messenger. We can’t say “I’ll messenger you” – again, it goes against everything the non-reading new wave stands for. So Kayleigh and her pals make a magnanimous gesture – in this case they will go the whole hog: two never-ending, tedious syllables. “I’ll message you.”

Okay, Kayleigh, who's in charge around here_

Another home-made past tense has corrupted a verb that already had one: to plead. Did he plead guilty? No, he pled innocent.

Pled? Ladies and gentlemen, if you’re basing it on the verb to bleed turning into a past tense bled, you’re ignoring that one is double e while the other is ea. And if it’s because the past tense of to read is pronounced red although spelled read, then pled is spelled wrong.

We say ‘beaded’ as the past tense of bead when we mean forming beads. What’s wrong with pleaded?

I’m just saying, that’s all.

Worse, though, is when the verb to lead is used in the past tense, which is ‘led’. Sure, there is a metal called lead and pronounced led, but we were brought up with these things. Is it so easy for forget?

 

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