Obscure knowledge

I know I can’t be the only one who has come across obscure grammer rules, vocabulary or spellings while teaching. I thought we could share our top finds in this thread. Or am I the only one with such pointless information burning a hole in my head?

My top discoveries:

busses - Apparently this is a valid spelling in the U.S. I always knew you Americans were crazy and this confirms it. :wink:

sneaked - I have learned that “sneak” follows the same rule as “hang” in the past tense. Of course everybody uses “snuck” and “hung” but “sneaked” and “hanged” are more proper.

Hanged refers to the method of capital punishment. Hung is the past tense of hang, if you’re not talking about death. i.e. I hung my coat on a hook. The lynch mob hanged the poster for his atrocious grammar.

Oops! Good point Maoman. I guess I wasn’t really specific enough with that example.

Hanged refers to the method of capital punishment. Hung is the past tense of hang, if you’re not talking about death. i.e. I hung my coat on a hook. The lynch mob hanged the poster for his atrocious grammar.[/quote]

But then I never heard anyone say ‘he was hanged, drawn and quartered.’ Maybe because he (poor fellow) wasn’t dead when they stopped hanging him?

I’ve seen the past tense of light written as “lighted” whereas I’ve always used “lit”. I thought it was a bit odd but it may just be an American usage.

Lighted as a simple past form seems to have been used by Yanks and non-Yanks alike:

[quote=“Richard Trevithick, (Cornish) inventor of the steam locomotive,”]Last Saturday we [color=red]lighted[/color] the fire in the Tram Wagon and worked it without the wheels to try the engine, and Monday we put it on the Tram Road. It worked very well and ran up hill and down with great ease, and very manageable. We have plenty of steam and power.[/quote]–letter to a friend (1804)

[quote="(Scotsman) James Kelman"]“Ah too long Jock, too long.” He gave a short laugh. “Still skint.” He struck a match off the floor and they [color=red]lighted[/color] the cigarettes. “Aye, if I’d been buying that Guinness in shares instead of pints I’d be worth a fortune and that’s a fact–the hell with it.”[/quote]–Busted Scotch (1997)

[quote="(American) Ralph Waldo Emerson"]We [color=red]lighted[/color] a newspaper & let it sink flapping & flaming down till it touched bottom, & was extinguished.[/quote]–letter to his wife (1850)

Apparently, the past participle of light is also variable, and its variations don’t seem to correlate with nationality:

[quote="(American) Ernest Hemingway"]“You do not understand. This is a clean and pleasant cafe. It is well [color=red]lighted[/color]. The light is very good and also, now, there are shadows of the leaves.”[/quote][url=http://home.eol.ca/~command/hem.htm]–“A Clean Well-Lighted Place”/url

[quote="(Irishman) William Butler Yeats"]‘Have no [color=red]lit[/color] candles in your room,’
That lovely lady said. . . .[/quote]–[url=http://www.web-books.com/Classics/Poetry/Yeats/New/ThreeBushes.htm]“The Three Bushes”/url

[quote=“But William Butler Yeats also”]I came on a great house in the middle of the night,
Its open [color=red]lighted[/color] doorway and its windows all alight. . . .[/quote]–“The Curse of Cromwell” (1936-1939)

[quote=“Then again, (Englishwoman) Virginia Woolf”]We all indulge in the strange, pleasant process called thinking, but when it comes to saying, even to some one opposite, what we think, then how little we are able to convey! The phantom is through the mind and out of the window before we can lay salt on its tail, or slowly sinking and returning to the profound darkness which it has [color=red]lit[/color] up momentarily with a wandering light.[/quote]–"Montaigne,"from The Common Reader (1925)

Post of the week! (with apologies to MT’s over in Taiwan politics)

Thanks! But right before I posted it I thought, “Gee, what happened? My post looks like a cry for help from a guy with obsessive-compulsive disorder.” Fortunately for me, though, I’m too lazy to stay obsessed for very long. :laughing:

But I’ve got competition (and I don’t mean competition in craziness), so I’d better go check out MT’s post in Taiwan Politics. . . .

Take care,

From my understanding, “lighted” is used to describe an object (e.g., a lighted pathway or candle) and “lit” is used as the past tense of the verb “to light” (we lit the candles). Does that ring true with others here?

But the thing is, you can also use “lit” in the former sense - a lit candle, a lit pathway, a lit firecracker, a lit cigarette, etc.

I’ve seen it used that way but was taught that it’s incorrect, like many common errors in regular everyday use.

EDIT: this seems to be an exception as both are listed as correct, interchangeable.

It still seems to me to be a matter of personal choice, whether simple past form or past participle, and whether in the sense of ignite or in the sense of illuminate:


. . .

light . . .
verb [I or T] [simple past, my note:] [color=red]lit [/color][color=green]or [/color][color=red]lighted[/color], [past participle, my note:] [color=red]lit[/color] [color=green]or[/color] [color=red]lighted[/color]
to start to burn or to make something start to burn:
to light a fire
I can’t get the cooker to light.
He [color=red]lit[/color] his fifth cigarette in half an hour.

lighted . . .
adjective [before noun]
burning or starting to burn:
a [color=red]lighted[/color] candle/match
a [color=red]lighted[/color] fuse[/quote]
Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary

It would seem all right with the people who wrote the above dictionary to use lighted to describe something which has been ignited.

. . .

Well I’m glad we cleared that one up!

While we’re on it, I encountered “lighted” in George Orwells “1984”. The copy I had seemed to have been “translated” into American English. Apart from messing with the artistic integrity of the work, it baffles me why they would even bother to do this. Orwell’s Oceania was centred around Britain and so British English seems the more appropriate idiom. I wouldn’t expect to read Steinbeck’s novels in British English, they are American stories, American English is more suitable.

Unless it’s also been “translated” into Australian English, or translated into American English and then put on the Internet in Australia, the original appears to use the word lighted twice:

[quote]The proprietor had just [color=red]lighted[/color] a hanging oil lamp which gave off an unclean but friendly smell.

. . .

A yellow ray from the sinking sun fell across the foot of the bed and [color=red]lighted[/color] up the fireplace, where the water in the pan was boiling fast.[/quote]–George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four (A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook)

Here are a few more British writers using the word lighted:

[quote]“I’ve had the stove lighted as I thought you’d be cold after your journey,” said Mrs. Carey.

It was a large black stove that stood in the hall and was only lighted if the weather was very bad and the Vicar had a cold. It was not lighted if Mrs. Carey had a cold.[/quote]–W. Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage

[quote]A tap at the pane, the quick sharp scratch
And blue spurt of a lighted match. . . .[/quote]–Robert Browning, “Meeting at Night”

Well I wondered about that. I’m pretty sure that my copy had been translated however as there were American spellings throughout.