"pit X against Y" past and past participle

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Sun Nov 2 16:15:22 UTC 2008

from the NYT 11/1/08, p. A10, beginning of "Law Enforcement and Civil
Rights Groups Divided Over California Ballot Measures" by Solomon Moore:

LOS ANGELES -- On Tuesday, California voters will consider three
ballot measures that propose wide-ranging changes to the state's
criminal justice system but have also have [sic: cutnpaste error] pit
law enforcement officials against civil rights advocates.

[this is from the print version.  the on-line version has the error
corrected and the non-standard verb form replaced: " ... but also pit
law enforcement officials against civil rights advocates."]

the original had this particular verb "pit" assimilated to the hit/bet/
put class, in which present (non-3sg), past, and past participle are
identical to one another and to the base form.  (as far as i know,
other verbs "pit" -- for instance, the one meaning 'remove  the pit
from' -- are entirely regular, with past and past participle
"pitted".)  none of the dictionaries i've looked at have the non-
standard past/past participle "pit", but you can google up a modest
number of relevant examples.

{"have pit * against"} gets 437 hits (with dupes removed), {"he pit
his"} 67.  but almost all the hits for the first are irrelevant
(google pulls up "have to pit * against").  here are some relevant
examples, apparently from native speakers:

The reason our nation is divided right now is because the politicos
have successfully pit the people against one another over
insignificant issues.

Huckabee would have actively pit the wage-payer against the wage-
earner in a fight to establish a true poverty in this nation. ...

I could have pit the Radeon 8500 against the other ATI cards in the
500MHz iBook or a 333MHz iMac, but that hardly seemed worthwhile.

And the insurance companies have pit the doctors against the lawyers
in the whole tort reform issue and laughed all the way to the bank. ...

And the insurance companies have pit the doctors against the lawyers
in the whole tort reform issue and laughed all the way to the bank. ...

A lot of debates in this country have pit the environment against the

The arguements have now pit Indian against Indian. Don't you
understand this logic?

most of the hits for "he pit his" are also irrelevant (lots of
misspelling of "put" as "pit", or scots "pit" 'put'), but here are a
few that look legitimate:

He had to be out in the field, testing his strength, pushing himself,
hearing the song of the Shadow Skill as he pit his mettle against new
opponents. ...
in- from-the-rain/

This included the incredible ‘Secret Wars’ in which he pit his
favourite MCs against his favourite comic book heroes, doing uncanny
impressions of the ...

I then imagined a rope of white light anchoring my fist to that
chimney and then he pit his strength against mine a second time.

As a sophomore in high school, he pit his Capri against an R-3 and
learned a little lesson. "It beat me pretty well," he said.

Mark, 36, of Preston, has just returned from an international sand
sculpting competition in Italy, where he pit his wits against the best
in the world on a ...

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

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