[Ads-l] Breakfast

Barretts Mail mail.barretts at GMAIL.COM
Sun Feb 26 16:03:19 EST 2017

When a verb is coined from a noun, the general rule is that the verb is regular (regardless of whether there is an incorporated verb that is irregular or if the form itself is identical to an irregular verb).

If you haven’t read “The Language Instinct” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Language_Instinct <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Language_Instinct>) by Steven Pinker, it’s a good read and he discusses this rule. He notes that in baseball, when a batter hits a fly, the past tense of “to fly” is “flied.”

That said, Mark Liberman has a good past (http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=4211 <http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=4211>) that demonstrates that the rule is not ironclad.

Another interesting example is “mouse,” where the plural of the electronic device is either “mice” or “mouses.” (This is a different example where native speakers feel uncomfortable using fossilized irregular forms for a new object.)

On this list, other examples have been discussed, such as “jailbreak” (an iPhone) having both “jailbreaked” (the assumed form according to Pinker) and “jailbroke.” (My Mac’s spell-checker recognizes only the latter.)

Benjamin Barrett
Formerly of Seattle, WA

> On 26 Feb 2017, at 12:08, Shawnee Moon <moon.shawnee at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
> Hi. I'm curious about the word breakfast. I know it's a compound word describing the action of one's first meal of the day, in which a 'fast' is broken.
> What is weird to me is that the past tense, according to MW dictionary, is "breakfasted."  The past tense of break is broke. Break is the verb, fast is the noun. Fast, obviously, is both a verb (as you can say, "I'm fasting") and a noun, but in the word breakfast it's not the verb. To me, breakfasted is clunky, but more so than "brokefast".
> You "lunched" with someone?
> You "suppered" or "dinnered" with someone?
> I know it's easier to say, "I had breakfast" but....
> ~Shawnee Moon, of the Thinks-Too-Much tribe 

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

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