[Ads-l] "were pick'n up"

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sun Mar 1 20:54:46 UTC 2015

> On Mar 1, 2015, at 2:48 PM, Joel S. Berson <Berson at ATT.NET> wrote:
> "Twenty-three shell casings were picken up on the street outside the house."  Or perhaps "pick'n".
> Report of multiple shots from the street into a house, killing a woman sleeping in her bed.  WBZ-AM (Boston) radio news.
> I have to hope this was merely a momentary Zungefehler, not immediately corrected.

Why hope for that?  I have to hope it was intentional, a relic of the old passive participle, as has been argued for in the case of "spitten image" (not to be confused with "smitten image" as my autocorrect is urging on me).

"Picken up" shows up in searches from the 19th c. on the string "were picken up" in e.g. 

The bench was strewn with portions of the wreck. Kegs of ale were picken up, and this beverage revi[v]ed many who were too weak to stand.
Sacramento Daily Union, Volume 23, Number 3545, 8 August 1862

But there's also this one, rather more recent, from a One Direction blog, which doesn't involve a scan (although I suppose it may involve a typo):

On the ride there, when you were picken up by your sister, you were sitting with Niall, squeezing his hand due to nerves. His parents were behind you and in the back were all the bags of luggage.

I haven't looked through the others in detail; there are only 32 hits for "were picked up" in all.  Slim pickens, I'll concede, especially since some involve mis-scans while others represent what "should" be the active progressive, "were pickin' up".  But I'd like to think of "picken up" as a formerly established and now dialectal relic variant like "store-boughten", "spitten", "(be)shitten", etc.  Still, I have to grant that its syntax makes "picken" less likely here, given that the participle in the Boston radio example is a verb, contrary to the general pattern. This is from in an earlier (2010) posting of mine on a "boughten" thread:

> Even if "chaque mot a son histoire", there are probably
> some parallels among these -en archaisms.  A number of -(e)n
> participles are partially or fully retained in adjectival
> use--boughten loaves, spitten images, [new-]mown lawns, graven
> images, [clean-]shaven faces, [mis]shapen bodies, [un]proven
> allegations--after they've completely or, as with "proven" largely,
> fallen out of use as verbal past/passive participles.


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

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