"Fleed" vs. "fleed"

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Thu Nov 18 20:48:10 UTC 2010

Back in the day, ca.1963, a Los Angeles R&B group, The Olympics,
originators of the song, "Good Lovin'," later introduced to the white
world via the million-selling, career-making cover by The (Young)
Rascals, recorded another song - also quite popular, but only in the
black world - named "Big-Boy Pete." This song contained the verse,

He grabbed his Stetson [st^ts at n] hat
And then he _fleed_ the scene

The use of _fleed_ in place of _fled_, a "textbook-," so to speak,
example of what might be called "hyper-BE," used for comic effect,
contributed greatly to the song's popularity. (_Stutson_ for
"Stetson," like _flush, sludgehammer, study_ for "flesh, sledgehammer,
steady," is "standard" BE.) Hearing that verse really used to crack up
my least-favorite ex-girlfriend, almost as much as

It's a man [meIn] downstairs
Could be yo' man [meIn]
I don' know

(Uh, it was the rural-Southern pronunciation of _man_ as "mane main
mein" - now pretty much standard in urban-Northern BE, too - that was

Now, a half-century later, I hear "House" say, apparently in all seriousness,

The statute of limitations was suspended
because you _fleed_ the state

as though it was the most natural thing in the world, drawing no
reaction whatever from his colleague-buddy, "Wilson."

Tip of the slung? Language change?

Given that "House" and "Wilson" are seasoned actors, it's likely that
they both could and would avoid drawing attention to a trivial error.
But there are other possibilities, including that neither the actors
nor the director nor the writer(s) saw anything wrong with the use of
_fleed_ for _fled_.


All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"––a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
–Mark Twain

Once we recognize that we do not err out of laziness, stupidity,
or evil intent, we can uncumber ourselves of the impossible burden of
trying to be permanently right. We can take seriously the proposition
that we could be in error, without necessarily deeming ourselves
idiotic or unworthy.
–Kathryn Schulz

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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