Does Past Tense “Turnt” Have a Future?

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A reader, commenting on one of my posts about the -ed past ending, suggests that turnt for turned may have a future:

Where I live, more and more I’m hearing the word “turnt” used as a past tense version of “turned.” It’s a slang usage, obviously, and is used to describe food or drink that has spoiled, as in “that apple cider is turnt.” Would not be surprised to see this usage become so common as to make it into the dictionary, if it isn’t there yet.

How likely is turnt likely to replace or augment turned? Judging by my dictionaries and style guides, probably not any time soon.

Although some vocabulary and usage catch on quickly, established forms usually follow the five-step process described in Bryan Garner’s Modern English Usage.

Stage 1
A new form emerges, perhaps a dialect word or a misspelling. Most speakers regard the innovation as an out-and-out mistake.

Stage 2
The form spreads to a larger community of speakers. The innovation may be recorded in dictionaries and labeled “also heard,” “variant” or “nonstandard.”

Stage 3
The form becomes common, even among educated speakers, but is still avoided in careful speech or writing.

Stage 4
In Garner’s words:
“The form becomes virtually universal but is opposed on cogent grounds by a few linguistic stalwarts.” Garner himself avoids using Stage Four innovations.

Stage 5
The form is universally adopted (“except for a few eccentrics”). At this stage, the form is no longer noted as nonstandard in style guides and dictionaries.

For the present, the form turnt would seem to be at Stage One.

Petted and Texted
Although turned does not for the moment seem to be in danger, the past tense forms of pet and text do seem to be losing the -ed.

The standard past form of pet in the sense of “to stroke” is petted. My dictionaries still give petted as the only past tense. However, nonstandard pet as a past form has reached Stage 2 at least.

The abused dog did not like to be pet.—animal activist site.

I’ve Pet That Dog—title of a Twitter site run by a nine-year-old boy. He also uses the form pet instead of petted in his posts.

[A woman mauled by a tiger] told first responders she has pet the animals hundreds of times before. —TV news site (Lancaster, PA)

Using text as a verb may seem to be a digital-age innovation, but before text acquired the definition “to send a text message from one cell phone to another,” it meant “to inscribe, write, or print in capital letters,” and its past tense was texted.

Both the OED and Merriam-Webster give texted as the past form for the mobile phone usage. M-W acknowledges “tekst” as a “nonstandard” pronunciation of texted.

Nevertheless, the spelling text is cropping up as a past tense:

I have already text him once or twice over the past two months—romantic advice site

I text you yesterday about my LEDs not working on the driver side of my headlights—automotive site

Only time will tell if these nonstandard past forms of petted and texted will advance beyond Stage Two.

Related post: “>Verb Endings in -ed and -t

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