|OK, so I had a LOT of sins to confess. Didn't realize it would take THIS long|
I always tend to smile inwardly when I hear the following adjuration in church: "Make your humble confession to Almighty God, meekly kneeling upon your knees."
"What the hell, oops I mean heck (I am in church after all) else could you kneel on?" think I irreverently.
Kneeling made headlines recently when, as a sign of protest against social injustice, football players Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid of the San Francisco 49ers dropped to their knees rather than standing during the pre-game singing of the American national anthem
But what would you say? "They kneeled"? or "They knelt"?
I would only say "knelt", and I assumed that this irregular past tense was something we had inherited from Anglo-Saxon, like a lot of our irregular tenses. Indeed my kneejerk (emphasis on the jerk) reaction on seeing "kneeled" was that it was some recent upstart and probably INCORRECT.
Brace yourself, o reader. I was WRONG. (I hate when I have to say that).
"Knelt" did not in fact crop up until the 17th century, before which time "kneeled" was the past tense. It followed in the footsteps of "feel", the past tense of which gradually shifted (or should I say "creeped"?) from "feeled" to "felt" between the Norman Conquest and Shakespeare's time. But the fact that "knelt" was later to the party than "felt" meant that "kneeled" came over to North America, where it has survived, whereas "feeled" died out of all varieties of English.
Subsequently, "knelt" also migrated to North America, where it is now considerably more common than "kneeled".
Over time, some verbs that started out as irregular have become regular (see, for example, this post about "reach") and the reverse has also happened, as we have seen with "kneel". We grow to accept whatever catches on. Some people rant about "dove" rather than "dived" as a past tense of "dive" (see this post) and "snuck" rather than "sneaked" as a past tense of "sneak", but they are just further examples of this time-honoured tradition.
It's time for back to school and... back to Tea and Wordlady! Full afternoon tea plus talk $50, 230 pm. Please let me know if you would sign up for any of the following, and which day of the week suits you best: Wednesday, Thursday or Friday.
1) Hebrew and Yiddish words in English
2) Why the English language is so weird
3) Things you never suspected about Canadian English
4) NEW!! Irish English
STARTS SEPT 20! My ever-popular Rollicking Story of the English Language course. Downtown Toronto. REGISTRATION NOW OPEN AND SPACE IS LIMITED. More info here: http://katherinebarber.blogspo
Would you enjoy talking about words with Wordlady over many, many glasses of wine? Why not check out the trip I'm organizing to Bordeaux and Toulouse in July 2017. SIGNUP DEADLINE SEPT 20. More info here: