[Ads-l] spin-span-spun

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Aug 6 11:20:02 EDT 2020

I only know it from that rhetorical question,

When Adam delved and Eve span,
Who was then the gentleman?

I see on a quick dive that the couplet is associated with John Ball and the Peasants’ Revolt.  Who knew?


> On Aug 6, 2020, at 8:10 AM, Barretts Mail <mail.barretts at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
> Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix has at least three instances of “span” as the past tense of “to spin.”
> I have the 2003 First Canadian Edition.
> p. 715 in The Only One He Ever Feared
> … as the centaur’s arm, holding its bow, span off and landed with a crash on the floor...
> This occurs at least twice more. 
> The OED gives span and spun as equal past forms of the verb to spin. 1882 is the most recent citation for span.
> Lexico does not mention span (https://www.lexico.com/definition/spin <https://www.lexico.com/definition/spin>)
> Merriam-Webster does not mention span (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/spin <https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/spin>)
> Wiktionary says span is archaic (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/spin#Verb <https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/spin#Verb>)
> Word Hippo says span is archaic or nonstandard (https://www.wordhippo.com/what-is/the-past-tense-of/spin.html <https://www.wordhippo.com/what-is/the-past-tense-of/spin.html>)
> Benjamin Barrett (he/his/him)
> Formerly of Seattle, WA
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

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