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Author Topic: Shown, a story  (Read 5040 times)

David

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Shown, a story
« on: February 06, 2017, 05:05:01 PM »



I have been marking some exam papers and I can tell you that “hence” is alive and well in mathematics. Some of the questions were to show certain results. In the past candidates used to write the Latin QED after their result. This seems to have died out and “shown” is often written or, as I mark an international paper, “showed”. This is an understandable mistake.
 
The verb used to be weak so should have finished up with the past participle “showed” not the strong “shown”. In old English the verb was scēawian, meaning to see or look at, with past participle scēawod. In the transition to middle English the class 2 –od ending would have been replaced by the class 1 –ed ending. From about 1200 AD the meaning changed to present meanings. Then the spelling of the “sh” sound started to change from “sc” to “sch” and then to “sh” and “a” tended to replace “ea”. Then the “a” changed to “e” and “o”. In the late 14th century middle English story “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” we still get the past participle “schewed” meaning offered.
 
When did the strong version of the past participle start to be used? Presumably it happened under the influence of blown, flown, grown, mown and sown. Did you notice flown? That is the past participle of the strong verb to fly. The old English strong verb flōwan has become the weak modern English verb to flow with the past participle flowed.
 
The past participles “showed”, “shewed” and “shewn” did just manage to reach the 20th century although “shown” was far more common. I remember seeing some early 20th century mathematics exam papers where the candidates were told to shew. I am told that at that time “shew” was pronounced as “show”.
 
 

Bowerthane

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Re: Shown, a story
« Reply #1 on: February 09, 2017, 02:05:32 PM »
Thanks for that, David.  I’ve come across ‘shew’ as an alternative to ‘show’ in old books and the like.  I could have taken it for some naïve attempt at ultra-correctness, or an affectation of delicacy, only there’s also ‘shewbread’ in the King James Bible.

Sometimes in my proofreading work authors make naïve and hard-to-read attempts to represent ‘olde worlde’ English, which only tries readers’ patience, irks the eye and slows the pace. As a rule I give them a hint about the KISS principle, as I call it: Keep It Simple, Stupid.  Archaic affects are best kept vestigial so as to cue the reader’s imagination, to which the rest can be left.  A simple means to this end is to put hyphens back into words that have lost them, for instance ‘schoolboy’ and ‘overnight’ in Victorian English were printed ‘school-boy’ and ‘over-night’.  This makes clear that a passage is meant to come from an earlier age ( a letter a character is reading, say) yet still scans well.  Then in Jacobean and Stuart English, if memory serves, an initial capital was a common alternative to italicising a word and -est was used at the end of polysyllabic adjectives, and ‘quit’ in the modern American sense was once common in UK English ( surviving only in our legal expression ‘quit rent’), and so on.

I shall remember ‘shew’ as a further way of shewing this, thank you.

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The verb used to be weak so should have finished up with the past participle “showed” not the strong “shown”.
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I’m under the impression that vastly bucks the trend, over the centuries.  How common would you say a weak-to-strong change is?

‘Shined’ instead of ‘shone’ drives me nuts, and I’ve noticed ‘thrived’ seems to be taking over from both ‘throve’ and ‘thriven’, which I find sad.  I feel English loses colour and dynamism with this slither towards the same-old weak declension, and any other kind of levelling.





David

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Re: Shown, a story
« Reply #2 on: February 11, 2017, 12:40:28 PM »
I cannot think of a verb that has changed from being weak to being strong. Show has the strong past participle form “shown” but the weak past indicative form “showed”. In old English what defined the strong and weak verbs were the different endings in the past indicative and the past participle. In modern English we do not get changing endings in the past indicative.
 
Therefore what I look for in a weak verb in modern English is a “-t”, “-d” or “-ed” ending in all past forms. What I look for in a strong verb is an “-n” or “-en” in the past participle and a change in the stem vowel in the past. So “to show” has a foot in both camps. Then we get some weak verbs that change the stem-vowel in the past, “to sell” and “to buy” do that but they did that in old English too. In old English they were clearly weak verbs, although rather strange ones.
 
The “-t” ending was a middle English innovation but not that unexpected. “d”, “t” and “þ” have constantly been changing into one another in our language. Some verbs only partly made the change. We get burned/burnt, dreamed/dreamt, learned/learnt, spelled/spelt and spoiled/spoilt etc. Some other verbs remained as “-ed” in the spelling but changed to “-t” in the pronunciation, such as looked, talked and walked etc.
 
 

Jayson

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Re: Shown, a story
« Reply #3 on: February 12, 2017, 03:05:40 PM »
I remember seeing a notice on buses in the 1940s/50s:   Shew Your Tickets, Please.    So it's not that archaic.
Wessex Woman

Jayson

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Re: Shown, a story
« Reply #4 on: February 12, 2017, 03:10:47 PM »
---on second thoughts, the sign said 'All tickets must be shewn'.
Wessex Woman

David

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Re: Shown, a story
« Reply #5 on: February 13, 2017, 05:35:21 PM »
I have realised that some quite well behaved class 1 weak verbs in old English did have a “t” not a “d” in the past. This is because “ċd”, “pd”, “sd” and “td” changed to “t”
 
The normal passage of the past 3rd person singular through pre-old English is like (he) led which is
lādidǣ > lǣdidǣ > lædde
similarly for sent
sandidǣ > sændidǣ > sændde > sende.
Notice the “d” changed to “t” after old English. Leading up to old English the “dd” changed to “d”.
However for met, followed, kissed, pressed and mocked we have
mōētidǣ > mōēttǣ > mette
lāstidǣ > lǣstidǣ > lǣsttæ > lǣste
kyssidǣ > kyssdǣ > cyste
huspidǣ > hyspdæ > hyspte
Notice that kissed has reverted to the “-ed” ending but is still pronounced as a “t”.
« Last Edit: February 13, 2017, 05:40:51 PM by David »