Spit, spat, spitten

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Wed Jan 31 06:16:58 UTC 2001

At 12:21 PM -0500 1/31/01, Douglas G. Wilson wrote:
>>... I can count on one hand the times I've heard people
>>use "spat" as the past tense/participle of "spit".  While dictionaries I've
>>consulted still list "spat" as the past tense, very few people (including
>>educated speakers) use it; they use "spit" as past and present.   Does usage
>>dictate that "spat" be dropped?
>"Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage" (1989):
>"The common verb _spit_ has as its past tense and past participle either
>_spat_ or _spit_.

But this suggests Beverly is the last hold-out in her use of 'spat'
as the past/preterite, which is surely false.  I hear both 'spat' and
'spit' and if anything would vote for the former as more frequent.
I'd also have guessed that 'spat' is if anything MORE likely to occur
as the simple past than as the participle, contra the MWDEU.

>"Nonstandard variants are _spitted_ and _spitten_:
>"... like someone had spitten tobacco into it --Dave Godfrey, in _Canadian
>Short Stories, Second Series_, ed. Robert Weaver, 1968"

This part I like.


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