Sunday, June 26, 2011

Is "shrank" a word?

While driving today, I passed by a sign advertising a sale at a furniture store stating "Honey they shrunk the prices." This phrase is a play on the movie title "Honey, I've Shrunk the Kids," and if I remember correctly, I've seen this used in advertising from time to time. At the point of remembering the movie title, it made me wonder if the statement the furniture store was using was grammatically correct. At the time, I couldn't remember what the past participle versus the past tense of "shrink" is. I was certain that "shrunk" is the past participle, but the past tense conjugation is what I couldn't remember. Shrink is actually not a word I use a lot, and then I couldn't stop thinking about whether or not the past tense was "shrank" or "shrunk." It would be nice to think that it follows the rules of a verb like "drink," but I know English well enough that I can't make such an assumption--or at least my characteristic of over-analysing everything causes me to think that maybe "shrink" is one of those verbs that's an exception to the rule when it comes to conjugation.

As I ended up being out most of the day and not in a position to check online on my smart phone for the answer, I waited until I got home to look it up. Even with other languages I speak, I often use an online verb conjugator, and I happened to find this really good one: I discovered that indeed, the past tense of "shrink" is "shrank," meaning that the advertisement I saw today is grammatically incorrect. Score 1 for the Grammar Geek. I wonder if the company would care if I were to point this out to them! Tee hee :o)

Friday, June 17, 2011


I haven't had the chance to try doing a video about superlatives yet, and although I doubt many of you have been sitting on pins and needles to hear it, I thought I would change up the format a little bit in the sense that instead of a regular lesson-style entry, I would share my thoughts on the topic instead. To introduce the topic, I require a bit of background.

You have probably noticed some of my posts being more about context-specific English usage, and this stems a lot from my background in linguistic anthropology and sociolinguistics. These types of posts as well as a recent discussion on a friend's Facebook page about the types of deep-seated personal feelings exist in relation to a topic (grammar) that most people claim they don't like made me realise that I do think about language and grammar and syntax a lot. For example, we used to have a German restaurant in town called Gasthaus zur Mühle, and while passing by it one day, I tried to figure out what Mühle was. Noticing there was a windmill on the restaurant, I guessed that's what Mühle meant, but to support my theory, I reasoned this was the most likely meaning because in French, the world for windmill is "moulin" and for something that is milled, it's "molido" in Spanish. Being that both of those languages are Indo-European, it stood to reason that windmill was the most likely definition. These were the days before smart phones, so when I got to work, I checked an online German-English dictionary, and sure enough, I was right. But really, who has these conversations in their head?

Or today, I saw a sign for tofu chicken burgers, and I wondered how that might be different from chicken tofu burgers. Does the order of words change the connotation of what the item is? Is tofu chicken just another way of saying fake chicken? If it was chicken tofu, would it be more like chicken-flavoured tofu, or are they just all saying the same thing?

My bigger question is, do other people think about these things?

As for superlatives, I've been getting really annoyed when people say things like, "It's more funny like that," or "He's more small than she is." This happens a lot, I've observed, rather than saying "It's funnier like that" or "He's smaller than she is." I even catch myself making this mistake from time to time, and that really bothers me! But it also leads me to the question of whether it's right to be so outraged about this change. I think I've mentioned before that language is dynamic; that's one of the main lessons we learn from language studies. Dynamic because it's constantly changing and evolving. That means that perhaps this is a new trend in the English language, and maybe there is nothing I can do to stop it--and nothing I should be doing! There are definitely logical reasons for using "more" instead of the -er ending to signify a superlative relationship between items because it would simplify the whole process. All adjectives would be the same, and one wouldn't have to worry anymore about which ones you need to add -er to and which ones you don't!

Feel free to share you thoughts about this, whether it's your reaction to superlatives or just your thoughts about how much you think (or don't think!) about language.