jibe/jive, needs washed

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Fri Jan 24 14:14:36 UTC 2003

>Also, does anyone know if the following is a usage specific to the Midwest,
>because this is the only place I've heard it used (or noticed, anyway): the
>dropping of "to be" after needs -- "my hair needs washed," "the clock needs
>restored," etc. I wouldn't have a problem if the gerund was used instead --
>"needs washing" or "needs restoring" -- but I like it best with the "to be
>washed" phrasing.

"Needs to be X-ed" and "needs X-ing" are 'standard'; "needs X-ed" is
nonstandard (IMHO), but conventional in some areas.

We've discussed this here in the past. I can contribute personal
impressions. When I lived in Columbus OH in 1971, I heard people from
Cleveland, Detroit, etc. say that those Columbus folks used several
solecisms ... including "needs washed" etc. which in my experience was at
that time entirely absurd usage in Detroit or Chicago or Cleveland. Now of
course I've not met a statistically significant percentage of the
population of any of these places, but I've read a lot of stuff over the
years, and I don't think this usage has had wide acceptance in print. While
in Columbus I did hear this usage, but not all that often. When I moved to
Pittsburgh in 1989, I was struck by its prevalence on the first day: it's
not just something a few yokels might say: it's conventional, you hear it
every day, it's printed in the newspaper, it's used in office memoranda and
semi-official documents, it's on TV, etc. If there is a study which
concludes that this usage is just as conventional in (say) Indianapolis or
St. Louis as it is in Pittsburgh, I am skeptical (although of course I
don't recommend that my perhaps idiosyncratic impressions be given great

-- Doug Wilson

More information about the Ads-l mailing list